Class of ’54
By David Meade
While area graduates of the “Class of 2014” are preparing for their upcoming graduation, another class of graduates, the “Class of 1954” are remembering theirs.
Sixty years ago, they were the first graduating class of a new school named Palmetto High School which opened in September 1953 for grades 7-12.
The new school was formed when Pelzer High School and Williamston High School consolidated in 1952 as the Pelzer-Williamston High School.
Surviving class members will hold their 60th reunion this Saturday, May 17 across the street from the original high school in the Freshman Academy at Palmetto High School, located on Hamilton St. in Williamston.
The reunion will begin at 12 noon and last to 4:40 p.m. There will be a flag presentation with participation of the PHSJROTC, music by members of the Palmetto High Band, a catered meal and lots of fun and remembering.
In 1952, members of the Class of ’54 attended the eleventh grade and their Junior-Senior Prom at the consolidated Pelzer-Williamston High School, which was in the current Williamston Town Hall Municipal Center building.
The original Palmetto High School, now the middle school, was being built during that time.
In 1953, the newly completed Pelzer-Williamston High School opened and included grades 7-12.
A contest was held to come up with a new name for the new school and a student at the time and later a teacher who taught generations of students, Dale Harper, suggested the name Palmetto High for the new school.
On May 31, 1954, the 80 students who graduated the 12th grade were the first class to graduate from Palmetto High School.
Of the 80 graduates, 49 are still living.
The class held five year reunions until 1979 and began holding a reunion each year since then. Last year it was held at the Monkey Park in Pelzer.
Barbara (Hawkins) Bradshaw of Cayce is one of the co-organizers.
“We are real proud of the school and the city,” Bradshaw said.
The first edition of the Palmetto Log for the 1954 school year included “unforgettable memories” of the first year at Palmetto High School.
The Palmetto High School Alma Mater was used as the theme to “present the prevailing spirit of the school” including photos and information on the classes.
Senior Class officers were Zeke Tolly, Treasurer, Jeanette Moore, Secretary; Louise Stone, Vice President and David Spearman, President.
The annual includes photos of Glee Clubs, JHA Home Economics club, Spanish Club, Future Farmers of America, Boys Chorus and the Beta Club.
There are football teams, boys and girls basketball teams, both A and B, and coaches. There are bus drivers and bus patrol, Majorettes and Drum Major and Cheerleaders.
Head Cheerleader was “Red” Waters, the only male on the seven member squad.
There is a photo of the Palmetto band and homecoming 1953 (Pat Elrod was homecoming queen) and other features. Miss Palmetto Log was Louise McGill.
A.B. Hair, Jr. was the Anderson District One Superintendent and T. C. Bruce was the Superintendent at Palmetto High School. Alfred Phibbs was the Senior High Principal and Buford Adams was the Junior High Principal.
There were senior superlatives and ads from local businesses and churches.
Does anyone remember Breazeale’s Store on the Belton-Williamston Highway, Dairy Queeen in Williamston, T. E. Jones & Sons Furnishings, Pattersons Market, Friersons Drug Store or Woody Simmons Auto Service?
Or maybe Wison’s Market or the Pelzer Department Store or the Williamston Gin & Lumber Company and many others.
The Palmetto High Class of 1954 Reunion Committee includes Ann Gambrell, Treasurer; Alvie Sue Kellet, Barbara Bradshaw (Reunion Chairman since 1979) and her daughter Venetia B. Sharpe, Barbara Wentsky and her daughter, Cindy W. Howell.
Also Ben Ford, Bill Harvey, Jim Davenport, Leon Pack, Floyd and Lib Rogers, Jack and Paula Sartain, Marion and Yvonne Nickles. Max Houston and Charles Rumsey also help each reunion.
A new Palmetto High School for grades 9-12 was built across the road from the original one in 1972. It will graduate approximately 214 this year.