May 10, 1944
The forty six (?) graduates of Franklinton High School had reached an important milestone in their life. To some, it meant the end of having to attend school. To some it meant a job and marriage. To some it meant college was next. But to all, it meant a giant step into a big new world.
Television had not yet made the scene so these graduates may not have been quite as sensitive to world events as are youth of today, but they were aware of World War II. Some of the class had been at the railroad depot four years earlier to see the local National Guard Unit depart for a year of Active Duty -- and remembered they were not back yet -- and that some would not be back.
Some of the class had been involved in drives for scrap iron collection, selling of savings stamps and bonds. And all knew of food, coffee, gasoline, and tire rationing. They knew the terms "black market," "hoarder," and "draft dodger." They were aware of the stories of German U-boats in the Gulf. They had heard and read of sabotage, spies, and the fifth column.
Most of the graduates were probably not up to date on just what the status of W.W. II was at that time -- as most Americans were not really up to date. They would not have known that the largest invasion army in history was then being formed to invade the European Continent and end the rule of Adolf Hitler.
These things and such thoughts were very far away as the grads assembled to march down the aisle to the "Coronation March" -- the traditional processional music at that time for FHS graduation. This music used for Royal Coronations for Kings and Queens of England made each Graduate feel six feet tall.
The commencement speaker was Judge Bob Jones and he directed his remarks to the class literally-that is, he did not speak to the audience with the class behind him on the stage. He turned and addressed the class with his advice on how to face the world ahead of them.
This class was a small one because some had gone into the Armed Forces and some had moved on. Alice Wood was already in college at Southeastern because she had taken summer work and moved ahead. Earle Brown was over at Milledgeville, Georgia to get a head start in his military and academic career. Had they been there, the presence of these two may have further complicated a problem earlier in the week, or may have resolved it. The four top students in class were within 1/10 of a point on grade average and the computations had to be made to several decimal places.
Result was Haley Carter, Valedictorian; Kerrin Varnado, Salutatorian; Boone Richardson, #3; and Jimmie Magee, #4. And all so close together that Mr. Hezzie Sylvest called them all in his office to explain the situation.
The cohesiveness of this class--and it did have a special quality of closeness-- had developed primarily during the last two years of high school. This feeling developed late with this class because of several factors. One was the shrinkage of the class during the last two years from normal attrition and the war effect. And they really only began to get acquainted well during their Junior Year. A relatively small number of this group had begun the first grade together in Franklinton. They came to FHS from places like Mt. Herman, Sunny Hill, Pine, Southwest, Enon, etc.
The event that had really pulled them together had occurred the preceeding year. As Juniors, this class had shattered precedents and sponsored one of the most successful Junior-Senior Proms in the history of FHS. They had rented a juke box, prepared the chicken banquet themselves, and didn't stop the dancing until 2:30 a.n. Really quite a ball.
- Boone Richardson