Saturday morning we are up an at 'em for a 9ish departure for southwest Arkansas. We are headed to a reunion of people that attended school in the villages of Okay and Saratoga, Arkansas. The reunions were started sometime in the 80's and were held on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. For various reasons, I, Tom, have never been to an Okay-Saratoga Reunion. Since our travels were taking us near the vicinity on the appointed day, we decided to attend this year's reunion along with brother, Jim, sister, Sally, and our enthused spouses - Kathy, Jeanne, and Dwight.
Sally and Dwight load in the back-back of Jim's SUV -- you can sense Dwight's enthusiasm.
Jim chauffeured the whole day and did an excellent job.
Kathy and Jeanne decorate the middle seats.
Food naturally comes to the top of the list of things to do. Cracker Barrel won the consensus vote.... brunch and opportunity to shop.
Well fed we are ready to resume the trip.
Our first stop was at the ruins of what was formerly our home town, the village of Okay.
Okay was owned by the Ideal Cement Company to provide housing for employees. Our dad worked at Ideal for 40+ years. After Jim and I left home, the Company tired of maintaining the houses and told the inhabitants that "you can keep the house you have been renting but you must move it somewhere else". All the houses were either moved or torn down.
All that remains of the village of about 40 houses is the concrete streets and sidewalks.
We were able to find the site of the house where we grew up by counting the sidewalk turn-outs. Kind of sad archeology.
I'm following the sidewalk that led to the old Okay School. The school had grades 1 through 8 in 5 class rooms and a small lunch room.
It was an easy walk to school. After the village was removed, the school and, eventually, the cement plant were leveled. Our home town, school, cement plant, and quarry are now part of a hunting club.
All that is left is this small Baptist church.
I helped build this side addition as a block layers assistant (laborer).
On to Saratoga -- about 2 miles away from Okay. This sign had an addendum when we were growing up saying "Pop 52". Probably hasn't grown much.
After Jim and I graduated, the old high school and gym were torn down and new buildings were built for the consolidated, integrated school. Sally graduated from the new buildings.
The old high school had about 50 students in grades 10 through 12 in 5 rooms. We had a faculty of 4 and the same 4 did the jobs of Superintendent of Schools, Principal, and coach. We were too small for football, but the fighting Bulldogs competed mightyly in basketball and baseball with one try at the district track meet.
The "new" school building. Turns out that this may have been the last year that the school will operate. There may be another consolidation that would eliminate the school. Then we would be without a home town or a school.
It was good to see good old friends -- many of whom we hadn't seen for 50 or more years. McElroy Dillard was a hero of mine. A couple of years older, a good basketball player and an electrical engineer graduate of Louisiana Tech.
Jim and Jeanne hold a quilt that was being auctioned to raise funds for the reunion and the local cemetery. The picture in the top center is a depiction of the old high school building and our mom's name is listed below as one of the teachers.
Sara Sanders is our mother. Elise Garner was a close family friend and our unofficial godmother.
David Peebles(center) is a good friend and class mate. David called me last year and again this year to get me to the reunion. Thanks, David. David is a son of Mr. M. H. Peebles who was our Superintendent of Schools, my math and French teacher, and a Church of Christ pastor -- a great and busy man.
Francis Bell is a good friend. He refereed many basketball games in which Jim and I played. He was the best of the bunch. He is 94 years young!!!
Jim and Jeanne with Pat Schooley. Most of these people still call Jim and me "Jimmy" and "Tommy". Hard to get used to after all these years.
Tom with Amanda McJunkins.
Tom talking with Larry Peebles, (white t-shirt on far right) another son of M. H. Peebles and a semiretired physician. Larry MC'ed the reunion. To the far left is Gregory Dillinger, a childhood playmate that we haven't seen for about 56 years.
The reunion was also a good time to catch up with some of our Sanders cousins. All products of our Uncle Marshall and Aunt Nannie Mae from the left -- Bud, Helen, Kathy, and Nina.
Three of SHS STAR graduates!!!
Best friends. David Fricks and David Peebles. We had a lot of catching up to do and only scratched the surface. Maybe another trip is in order.
Jeanne and I bought these shirts a year ago when we were all together. We did not plan to dress alike, but when I saw Jeanne dressed in hers, I exclaimed: "I brought mine!" We all, Sally, Jeanne and I, bought shoes alike at the same time, and we all brought them, but somehow the triplet shoe thing didn't happen.
The twins went to church and took Communion to a friend of Jeanne's who is homebound.
This is Kitty, Jeanne's sister. She came by for a visit after church. She relocated to Hot Springs Village a few years ago.
This is Nancy Alm.....a friend and former "across the street" neighbor from Knoxville. She and husband, Chuck, left our Knoxville neighborhood when they retired and moved to Hot Springs Village....just around the corner from Jim and Jeanne!!!
Their only child, Carlee, did not want to make the move.....so she lived with us for the summer!!! During that summer, Carlee was not only the lifeguard at the neighborhood pool, but she also coached our winning swim team.....Kara and David both competed with the team. Many, many fond memories.
Tom and I went to Carlee and Will's wedding in Lafayette, LA. The wedding was only a month or so post Hurricane Katrina and all the local hotels were filled with homeless victims of that disaster. Nancy and Carlee had moments of panic that the wedding guests would have nowhere to stay. Fortunately, it was resolved and the outdoor wedding was picture perfect. Now Nancy has a grand dog, Josie. How lucky we were that they were visiting the same time we were.....lots of reunions!!!
After lunch, the guys napped, walked, and watched TV while we three go to Hot Springs to SHOP!!
One of the landmark hotels in Hot Springs...The Arlington.
Are you kidding? Who in the world would market such a way??!! It works!!
Red Velvet Cake, Sea Salt Caramel, and Carrot Cake.....Sister Sally, former math teacher, had to divide in to thirds for us!
The "fat bottomed girls" enjoyed every crumb!!! (Sorry, ladies!)
Found behind trees in center of town.....not too proud.....his home was not even "marked" although we did drive by it.
Hot Springs is famous for its.....hot springs!!! This and the following pictures are of the stately bath houses which line the main street along one side. Most of these are now venues for special events, retail stores.....only one remains in operation.
Back home, we finish our visit with our favorite things: eating and playing games!!! Thanks, Jim and Jeanne for hosting us and thanks, Sally and Dwight, for driving to meet us. It was wonderful!