By LANDON WOODROOF
Sarah Hicklen stands in front of the nearly 80-year-old photo and begins identifying her former classmates. One by one, she points them out, and states their first and last names, mostly without hesitation.
“I can’t believe I still know every one of these,” she said.
Beside her are two of her classmates from the earliest days of what is now called the Historic Nolensville School, Betty Williams Alzamora and Carolyn Hughes Battle. The three classmates were just some of the many alumni who came to the school on Sunday to relive memories and see familiar faces from the past at the first Historic Nolensville School reunion.
“The reunion idea was just to bring everybody and let us see each other before we’re all dead,” Alzamora said lightheartedly.
For a school that closed in 1972, there was a big turnout at the event. The historic school parking lot was completely full about half an hour after the event began. Alumni, and in many cases their family members, criss-crossed the school’s gymnasium and museum areas, greeting those who had also gotten their early educations here.
Three women who went to the school for first through eighth grade starting in around 1950 sat at a table swapping stories of the school.
Mae Young grew up on Sunset Road, one of five children. Her older brother Billy was also an alum in attendance. Beside her sat Pat Rains and Alice Pearl Smith Jones.
“My daddy helped build this gym,” Jones said. “I played basketball in this gym a bunch of times.”
Rains said she used to play basketball there, too.
Jones gestured behind her to the bleachers.
“My daddy would sit right up there, it makes me want to cry, he’d sit up there and holler,” she remembered. “If I made a goal, he’d holler really loud.”
The three talk of their old teachers: Ms. Osburn, Ms. Williams, Mr. Jaqueth, Mr. Hancock. And Ms. Pauline McArthur, a name that came up repeatedly with many different alumni, often in the context of her aptitude for using a ruler for reasons that had nothing to do with measurement.
“She was a good woman, but she was very strict,” Jones said.
“Do you remember, the only time I got reprimanded in school?” Rains asked Jones. “I sat behind you, and we had to get some construction paper. And I didn’t have any, and I punched you and we leaned down, and I asked you for that, and Ms. Pauline came by and hit me on the back of the hand with the ruler.”
“Yeah, she did that,” Jones said.
The women reflect on how different the community was back then, and how they wish schools today could be more like the one they were there to remember.
“The schools then are how I wish the schools now were like,” Jones said. “They had discipline. We knew what we could do and what we couldn’t do, and we knew to do it.”
“And everybody just about knew everybody,” Rains said.
“Everybody knew everybody,” Jones said.
“And it was kind of a family,” Rains said. “There were six of us girls in the same grade, and if I went home with her, everybody did at the same time. We didn’t have cliques or anything, everybody just went together.”
Deborah Christmon went to the school several decades later. She was there in 1972, the year it closed down.
“I think it’s nice,” she said of the event. “It’s good to see some people I haven’t seen in years.”
Christmon was sent to the school in the 1960s as a result of desegregation. She had previously attended a school on Rocky Ford Road for black students. She can recall what it was like to make that change at that time.
“At first it was a little rocky,” she said, “but then it got adjusted, and then it got better.”
She attributes the quick adjustment to the way Nolensville was at the time.
“A lot of people here in Nolensville were just like family,” she said, be they black or white.
Christmon was there for the end of the school. Billie Mosley Hamlett was there for the very beginning in 1937. She is now 94, and on Sunday wore a name tag identifying her as the school’s oldest living graduate.
“There wasn’t anything going on except in the schools,” Hamlett said of the 1930s-era Nolensville. She particularly remembers the school’s rivalry with Triune.
Her family lived on a dairy farm on Clovercroft Road back when dairy farms were abundant in town. That farm oftentimes invited school life to intrude on home life.
“The teachers boarded with us,” she said. “We had a big old house big enough for them. We had to behave even when we weren’t in school.”
Hamlett was happy to attend the reunion, and she looks forward to the possibility of attending more in the future.
“Oh, I would come to every one of them,” she said. “A lot of people my age are still living here. Well, they may not be 94, but they’re pretty close.”