Some things get better with age. Members of the 1974 senior class who visited El Dorado for their 40th reunion saw evidence of many changes. They were encouraged that so many changes were for the better. It was an honor to see the progress made in our little south Arkansas town, despite economic challenges and a reduction in population. The community has a treasure in El Dorado Public Schools.
Those who attended the tour of El Dorado High School were amazed. Alva Reibe, one of our classmates, is now the principal and gave us an excellent walk through the campus. The high school we attended was built in the 60s. This 2012 campus reflects the changes that have occurred over the years. The campus is secure, yet beautiful and inviting, and packed with new technology.
As you arrive, there’s no doubt about where to enter. The entrance and lobby make you want to hang out and enjoy fellowship with others. This was also a good place to enjoy some Spud-nuts. If you’re not from El Dorado, you might not understand the significance of these little treats.
The tour took us down several hallways. I commented that it was like a mall, with wide, open hallways, and windows into classrooms. Alva explained that administrators can stand at hallway intersections between classes and cover all hallways to see that transitions are smooth and safe. They are also able to observe teachers watching transitions between classes.
Many of us were excited to see new Fine Arts facilities. The band room was large and beautiful, with several smaller rehearsal areas. The theater was a great improvement over the little theater we remembered from our campus.
The new gym has seating on all sides which is a change from the one-sided seating we remembered from our campus. The gym featured large wooden beams and natural light, a testimony to the importance of the lumber industry in the El Dorado area.
A short program at the South Arkansas Arboretum was held to remember classmates who have died over the years. Of our class of 400-plus, about 60 had died. Beth Waldrop, classmate and now methodist minister, facilitated a short service assisted by classmates who sang, read poetry, and place small stones with classmates’ names at the fountain. It was a moving time of remembrance and thankfulness.
When Great Trees Fall by Maya Angelou’s
Reading by Sheila Primm
When great trees fall, rocks on distant hills shudder, Lions hunker down in tall grasses, and even elephants lumber after safety.
When great trees fall in forests, small things recoil into silence, their senses eroded beyond fear When great souls die, the air around us becomes light, rare, sterile. We breathe, briefly. Our eyes, briefly, see with a hurtful clarity. Our memory, suddenly sharpened, examines, gnaws on kind words unsaid, promised walks never taken. Great souls die and our reality, bound to them, takes leave of us.
Our souls, dependent upon their nurture, now shrink, wizened. Our minds, formed and informed by their radiance, fall away. We are not so much maddened as reduced to the unutterable ignorance of dark, cold caves.
And when great souls die, after a period peace blooms, lowly and always irregularly. Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration. Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us. They existed. They existed. We can be. Be, and be better. For they existed.
A highlight for me personally was hearing Rusty Meadows sing a little chorus he wrote related to the work he does in family counseling. He was hesitant about singing, but we were glad he did. Sometimes the strength of a song isn’t so much in the music as it is in the life behind the music.
As the placing of stones concluded, Don Parks filled the air with a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace. We left thankful for renewed friendships, and thankful for our journeys thus far. Our paths often look crooked and confusing as we travel, but when we pause to glance back, the way seems to make sense. It sometimes seems to be exactly the path we should have taken.
I wish all the best to the class of ’74 and look forward to seeing you in five years.
Link to the script for the memorial program: EHS 40th Reunion Memorial Service-script