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My Old School

Before Tech, there was Tunstall.

I am a graduate of Tunstall High School, a proud member of the Class of 1970. I attended back when Tunstall still numbered among its students a mix of rural and suburban. This was before development patterns caused in part by a general desire by many of the residents of the Danville area to escape both the city and its miserable school system caused the rolling hills throughout that part of Pittsylvania County known as the ‘Tunstall District’ to begin sprouting new houses instead of tobacco plants, at least until a collapsing local economy and the recession brought that activity to a screeching halt.

Today, Tunstall is almost totally a suburban school, what I am told by people who should know as the shining star of all local school systems. That makes a marked contrast from my day, when Tunstall was a ‘county’ school dwarfed by the ‘big brother,’ George Washington High School in Danville, back before the latter morphed into basically an inner-city school, with all of the attendant problems.

I was the second of the grandchildren of Gene and Janie Moorefield to enter the county school system. Our clan first began attending in 1956, and by the time the last of us had graduated in 1980 and the taxpayers of Pittsylvania County had absorbed the crushing financial blow of providing us all with a primary and secondary education without sliding into insolvency [it was touch and go for a while], Tunstall’s transition was well under way.

The times I have returned to my high school alma mater have been few, mostly involving those instances a few years ago when I was involved with the attractive young lady referred to in this space as the Teacher. I occasionally drive past the place and notice that additions, the most recent just completed, have made Tunstall a more imposing building than it was during my student days.

I imagine my education was more or less typical of everybody else’s that went to a rural high school in the Sixties. It was a fairly-interesting time. While I was to discover not long after my 1970 graduation that even the advanced classes in mathematics at Tunstall had not prepared me for that great creator of Virginia Tech political science majors known as Calculus, I suppose I received a decent education, certainly a bargain considering the per-student expenditures the county was making at the time.

The teacher I recall the most was a delightful lady by name of Ruth Bryant. She was an English teacher who taught me two separate years, grades 9 and 11. I can count myself and everybody else I know who has actually read all of the works of Shakespeare and enjoyed them on one hand. This was due in large part to Mrs. Bryant. She can also be credited, or blamed, depending on one’s perspective, for planting the seeds of this writing hobby I continue to indulge. I consider her the best teacher I have ever had at any level of education.

Like I imagine every other high school class that has ever graduated anywhere, Tunstall’s Class of 70 holds reunions. I attended the first couple, the 10th and 20th. They were interesting affairs, enabling me to discover which of my classmates were doing better than I and how attractive the many attractive young ladies in the class still were [many]. Both of those reunions were held during the summer months. Spending a Dead Zone Saturday night at a high school reunion seemed to me to be a reasonable way to spend time. Then, something happened.

Back in the 30’s, somebody in the class made the decision to discontinue holding our get-together during the summer and move them instead to football season. This momentous decision was obviously made without benefit of my input. My 20th reunion turned out to be the last I have attended.

Some might be aware that during the autumnal months I take a bit of an interest in the fortunes of the football team of my collegiate alma mater, Virginia Tech. This slightly-more-than-passing interest involves a major financial expense for tickets and the other assorted costs associated with traveling to close to all of the games home and away. I am also the guy who managed to make it through the last illness, death and subsequent November burial of my mother without missing a game. We had her in the ground in time for the nighttime televised kickoff  of Tech at Miami in 2006  [Dad died in August a couple of decades ago; like those running my reunions used to, he knew better than to mess with Tech football].

This year’s 40th class reunion is scheduled for this Saturday, October 23rd. Since the reunion time was set last winter around the same time that the ACC football schedule was announced, I have known for some time I wasn’t going. They could have waited a week and held it during Tech’s open date the next Saturday. I certainly understand that most members of my class do not plan their fall activities around the Tech football schedule, but, really, a lousy week?

The number of members of my class with whom I have regular dealings  now numbers 0. About the only Tunstall graduates I have much to do with these days are my brother and those cousins who also went to Tunstall. That includes the young lady closest to me in age, who, given my brother’s disinclination to cooperate, was the most reasonable approximation of a sister I have had. She also went to Tech, stayed in the NRV following graduation and also has football season tickets very close to mine in Lane. Needless to say, we see a lot of each other this time of year.

In fact, given that descendants of Cephus and Sally Alderson mostly attended Tunstall’s arch-rival Dan River [I was at Tunstall due to Dad’s desire to get as far away from the family’s Keeling farm as possible, a decision for which I remain grateful] and friendships with various people, including the Danville-area family who has now associated itself with the Clubhouse Tailgate [ Pie Lady, two words: Gimme Eat], I seem to have more regular dealings with Wildcats rather than Trojans. Such is life and college football.

Of course, there is the possibility of sinister motives involved in the reunion, that being the date was set specifically to make sure I wouldn’t be there. Perhaps I got drunker at the 20th than I remember. There is no surer way of eliminating any possibility of my attending a reunion than by holding it the same day as a Tech home game. But, I am assured by other class members that there were no evil intentions involved and the conflicting dates have no more intrigue associated than that they pay no attention to Tech’s football schedule. I do.

The Tunstall High School Class of 1970 will be holding its 40th class reunion this Saturday at the Tuscarora Country Club. Unfortunately, I won’t be there, instead attending the Duke-Virginia Tech game. I wish them all well. Just a suggestion, mind you, but if any of us are still among the quick when our 50th rolls around, perhaps we might want to hold it at some time other than football season.

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