From the first class to the last, from the old school to the new, from the green and white teams they came. Filling the Cabaniss Fine Arts Center at The Altamont School were over 80 women. They ranged from ages 87 to 50 something and represented Brooke Hill classes of 1943 to 1977. Several had attended both the all girls’ school and finished in the coed high school as graduates of the early Altamont classes.
Amid the chatter was the rattle of charm bracelets with thespian, glee club, honor board, quill and scroll, annual staff, and other charms reflecting school activities of bygone days. Some wore Brooke Hill class rings.
Memories returned as they grouped around the memorabilia table. Jinksie Burnum flipped through her 1946 handbook and summarized, “The demerit system covered ‘bad behavior’ from chewing gum and smoking to tardiness and discourtesy. To remove demerits, we ‘walked the beat’ around the school driveway, standing erect, speaking to no one.”
Reaching for The Brooklet, Brooke Hill Girl Joanne Blyde recalled, “At the first commencement, the smartest eighth grader gave the address in Latin.” Chiming in were classmates, Deveaux Robinson, Anne Sherrill, and Eleanor Womack: “We were not allowed to go barefooted or wear blue jeans without special permission. We always wore skirts or dresses except to gym or for the Huckleberry Finn play and Spring Picnic.”
Besides an emphasis on English, history, and Latin, the girls enjoyed horseback riding, tennis tournaments, piano recitals, dramatic plays, singing, and community speakers. Earle Murray said her favorite day was when, “The whole school went ice skating on Edgewood Lake.”
The ‘49ers Brooke Hill Girl Joan Scott discussed college selections with Joan Thomas and Carol Lacy: “In the 1940s women’s colleges were first choices with Vassar, Hollins, and Newcomb as favorites. Some others were Smith, Wellesley, Sweet Briar, Goucher, and Stephens with graduate studies at UA and UGA.” The new school with small classes and individual instruction was right on the trustees’ target: offering girls superior preparation and entry into fine colleges.
Brooke Hill Girl Jeanette Hancock and Adrienne O’Brien focused on a framed picture searching for their 1951 classmates. Pat Byrne recalled working in the White House for decades with the First Ladies, “Whether the president was a democrat or republican, the job was much the same, no sleep, constant deadlines, and pulling events off with flair.” Distinguished alums Phoebe Robinson and Judge Caryl Privett pointed to the old BH teddy bear, which Caryl had retrieved from her attic.
Over half the alumnae purchased A History of Brooke Hill. Kathryn Porter held the buying record of 7 personalized copies. Some alumnae had read the 2002 publication. Betty Knight wanted page 53 corrected: “My class of 1959 was the first to graduate from the new school on Altamont Road.” Construction was incomplete then, and lower school classes were held at IPC. “Rain dripped through the roof that graduation day, and we used the Brooke Hill Cup to catch it,” recalled Carolyn Long.
Emily “Mimi” Wilson Tynes was celebrating at the reunion too. “I’ve been part of Brook Hill since the 1950s,” she said smiling. “I remember playing Ramsay in volleyball, and collecting Godshaux sugar bags for a free cotton candy machine for the father-daughter softball game. When our senior room became a classroom, we got the privilege of walking to the drugstore for lunch on Fridays.” Arriving at BH for lower school, Mimi was later selected Green Team Captain, student council president, and Brook Hill Girl. After graduating from Smith College, she returned to BH to teach math, to serve as alumnae president and on the Board of Trustees during the merger of BH and B.U.S. Continually connected to her alma mater, she was chosen a Brooke Hill Distinguished Alumnae in 2000.
Some of the 1960s alums at the book table were Margaret Grubb, Betty Donovan, Paula Sevier, Carla Simmons, Louise Britton, and Lynn Joseph. Terry Hamilton was telling antics on her sister, “She put a fire cracker in the radiator, and Headmistress Ordway was unconvinced it was perhaps a science experiment. Even though the event was defused, Dixon got to spend the rest of her senior year at Shades Valley HS.”
Looking like CA from whence she came, Polly Culp was visiting sister Sara Clemmer, who makes lovely jewelry and donates many pieces for Altamont auctions. Polly held the champagne bottle prize for long-distant alum. They were in the 1970s crowd with Angela Comfort, Bettie Cox, Mary Martin, Elizabeth Guffey, Jamie Lawrence, and Terri McClung.
Mary Hanson, the youngest alumna, squired around her mother, Jane Randolph, who taught French at BH. She joined Mme. Jeanne Classe’ for the tradition of singing the blessing in French. Mme. Classe’, Brooke Hill Endowed Teaching Chair, is the longest-tenured faculty member spanning 40 years in classrooms at both schools. The Head of Altamont Sarah Whiteside, with her able directors of alumni affairs, development, and marketing: 1999 Brooke Hill Girl Margaret Whiteside, Charlotte Russ, and Ashley Sargent, pleased the crowd with a fast-paced video, compared BH and Altamont traditions, and introduced the first Brooke Hill Girl, Marianne Smith Morgan.
At age 87, Marianne left her cane behind, walked to the podium, stood arrow straight, and with a deep breath and smile, shared stories of her 1943 classmates. As the first alumna to return to BH as faculty, her tales covered many years, “Being first is always important in a competitive environment, and I was privileged to be part of many of them.” In essence, her words became a thank you note, “The love and admiration for all that Brooke Hill stood for 70 years ago has not diminished, but has increased. My heart is full of appreciation and love for you all.”
Brooke Hill classmates stood, applauding her, the schools, and many fond memories.