Ten years ago I got a phone call from loquacious Kenny Young with an invite to attend the Savannah High School Class of 1962 reunion. Fast forward a decade and I am honored to be asked to join the attendees gathered again at Skidaway Island State Park on June 11.
Arriving just in time to get a group pic of the lively schoolmates and spouses, I look out over the crowd, and of course the first person I recognize is Kenny Young. The tall, former SHS quarterback is talking with reunion chair Harry Moore and “Mister Personality” Michael Dobbs.
A fan since day one of meeting Michael, the running joke when we see each other is my asking him, “Where is your wife?!” The former basketball star seems to draw attention to him wherever he goes.
Smiling when I see Michael’s petite wife Marlene in attendance, I follow Kenny over for an introduction to Mary Benniger Purcell. “Mary is getting ready for an eight-part series on [a streaming service]. It will be about her mother and Black Ankle Swamp,” shares Kenny.
Next up is the “BC Guy’’ Larry Thompson. The avid Georgia Bulldogs fan introduces me to his wife Suzanne who tells me, “I was a cheerleader at SHS, Larry played football for Benedictine and we met on a blind date for a birthday party. I didn’t like him when I met him but he grew on me.” 56 years later and it looks like true love!
After posing the retired registered nurse with Larry and Chatham County Sheriff John Wilcher, we pass by a hush puppy frying station where four young pups, Davis Evans, Bryce LeCates, Spencer Grafton and Dean Tindol happily strike a pose.
Inside the Skidaway Island meeting hall, Magnus Monson recognizes Ricky Tindol for all his efforts in organizing the reunion while high school sweethearts Terry and Melinda Burnsed watch from the back of the room. Dating through college and married 56 years, the Burnseds are snuggled up together beside retired insurance man Billy Smiley and his wife Jo-Anne.
While everyone is lined up outside for the Lowcountry boil prepared by John Tanner, I chat with the retired engineer about his high school memories. “I remember pep rallies against Benedictine where a coffin was marched around the gym by football players.” Good grief this had to be once fierce rivalry!
Sad that David Sipple really doesn’t want a photo taken, I trot over to meet eighth grade friends Janice Levine and Carol Williams. Part of the famous Williams Seafood family, Carol tells me “Back in ‘36 my grandfather was the Bull Bridge tender—he opened the bridge for boats. He and my grandmother lived on the bridge 24 hours a day so she would cook what he caught. This led to the beginning of Williams Seafood.”
Feeling sad the iconic Wilmington Island restaurant is long gone, I make a lap over to hug lovable Hubert C. Baker. The talented organist is the hardest working man in the funeral business, with 45 years at Baker McCullough Funeral Homes, and is one of Savannah’s favorite characters.
Next up, Steve Seymour stops by to give a recap of their high school football positions! I’m not sure how Steve remembers that he and David Sipple were guards, Billy Mordecai was tight end, Julian Smiley was tackle, Billy Burkhalter and Spanky Dent were half backs, Kenny Young was quarterback and Michael Dobbs managed them. Lucky for me, Steve is jacked up over the possibility of taking a group shot of his former teammates and heads off to corral them together.
After a group pic of the jovial jocks, I head over to watch a memorial video of the 150 classmates that have passed. “We have 503 graduates, and being able to recognize the classmates we lost while reconnecting with our lifelong friends is why this reunion is so well attended,” shares Kenny.
Since 1982, the Savannah High School Class of ‘62 has met every five years to celebrate, exchange health updates, share photos and repeat exaggerated stories of the past. Being a part of their tradition is an honor and I know I better get an invite in 2027 from you Ken Young!