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Reunion lets classmates recall war, other times

Brookhaven was a much younger city when most of the boys atBrookhaven High School were called up to go fight in World War II,but the members of the classes affected by the war are seriousabout making up for the lost time.

“They all left at mid-term and they didn’t graduate with us,”said Helyn East, a graduate of the class of 1945. “We tried to stayin touch, and we prayed for them. As far as I remember though, wedidn’t lose anyone from BHS in the war.”

This weekend, several former BHS students from the war yearswere able to gather during the homecoming festivities andre-connect with old friends, as well as catch up on everythingthat’s happened since they saw each other last.

“It was about what we expected,” said Paul Jackson of Thursdaynight’s gathering at Rusty’s Family Restaurant, which drew about35-40 people. “A lot of our members have died. But we had a nicecrowd.”

The group then had a brown bag lunch at the Military MemorialMuseum at the old Depot Friday in downtown Brookhaven, where theylooked at memorabilia and spent more quality time together.

“We told a lot of stories that we’d told each other a hundredtimes before,” said Barbara Becker Bailey, to which Betty BowlesPage Evans replied, “A lot of them we have to make sure they don’tchange from year to year.”

The group talked about teachers and friends from years gone by,and fondly remembered a physical education teacher named CeliaBerry, who enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps.

“She came back in uniform and she looked so cute,” said Evans.”She was an officer, so she had the uniform that fit, and shelooked so cute in it.”

The women remembered that Berry’s representation made them allthink pretty hard about joining the armed forces themselves.

Jimmie McDowell said he remembered former class president JimmyCassidy, who saved his life when they were children.

“He saved me from drowning when we were 11,” McDowell said. “Ofcourse, I always said he finished his RC Cola and his Moon Piebefore he jumped in and saved me.”

And some of the remembrances were of the war itself.

“I was so glad when they gave up,” said Charles “Ploochie”Ratliff about Japan’s surrender. “We had our rifles and we all wentand shot them up in the air to celebrate. Then they took them awayfrom us.”

Ratliff also remembered when he and his wife Virginia won a tripto Japan 25 years after the war was over. He said Virginia hadasked some of the people they encountered, “Why were y’all so badduring the war?”

“They told us that they had to be, because the emperor would cuttheir heads off if they didn’t do what he said,” Ratliff said witha laugh. “They were real nice, and that surprised me.”

And those present said they would come to the yearly reunionsfor as long as they are physically able. As classmates die off, theremaining ones said they’re going to stay in touch to the end, nomatter how far off that is.

“The group is getting thinner and thinner,” Ratliff said. “ButI’m shooting to be 125.”