Each year when the Pleasant Hill Academy-Pleasant Hill High School Alumni Association holds its annual reunion in July, there are fewer and fewer of those who attended the academy, which closed in 1947. 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1962 Pleasant Hill High School class — last one graduating in Pleasant Hill. Although it has been 65 years since the academy closed and 50 years since the last graduating class of the Pleasant Hill High School, there have been 116 reunions.
Dedicated academy alumni were meeting to reminisce about “the good old school days” during its 128-year history soon after the first graduating class left the campus. Although the high school was not a boarding school, Roberts and Hopkins Halls were in use for lodging and classrooms for 10 more years after the academy closed. Many of the academy teachers remained to teach at the high school.
On Saturday evening, Bruce Little from Gallatin, TN, led the 50th anniversary honorees with his remembrances from the '60s. Born in Pleasant Hill, he was a Dr. Margaret Stewart baby. His family appreciated the good education and excellent medical attention available in Pleasant Hill. It was a community that pulled together, where teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians and neighbors all kept an eye on the students, making sure they behaved and received the best training possible.
Sports were very important to both boys and girls, helping them to learn cooperation and competition in a healthy way. Even when Little described the paddling that some of them received in front of their peers rather than write a 500-word composition, it was with the knowledge that “it was for their own good.” They weren’t allowed to have dances, so their senior prom was considered “folk games” with a western-style theme.
Sam Easterly from Sterling Heights, MI, said he wasn’t as good as a student as Bruce, but sure remembers the basketball games, bonfires, practical jokes (like the firecracker in the stove), the great teachers and trips. Having sliced his finger with a hatchet in shop, he got to ride in Mr. Purcell’s white convertible into Crossville to get it stitched. Evidently the trip to Daytona Beach, FL, was a fond memory for all of the 1962 graduates, as many of them had never seen the ocean or so much sand before.
Easterly claimed, “I really didn’t take school or life seriously and I still don't.”
Monteen Cox from Lawrenceville, GA, remembers that although some of the cars traveling to Florida were stopped for speeding, her car was stopped for going too slow.
Opal Lewis Hill from San Angelo, TX, wasn’t so sure about the rewards of that paddling, which she had never experienced before. She remembers more about grade school than high school. She never has forgotten her first-grade teacher Mrs. Little taking the whole class to Smith’s store on Browntown Rd. for ice cream on Bruce’s birthday. Mr. Cole (President Iris Cole Miracle’s father) was a strict teacher who made them learn Bible verses and gave homework every single day. She thought it was interesting that she took the same bus in first grade as she did as a senior in high school. Hill came the farthest distance for the reunion.
Those who were transferred to the new high school in Crossville when Pleasant Hill became an elementary school in 1962 said that school never was the same. There was something special about going to High School in Pleasant Hill.
On Sunday, the Alumni Association provided chicken and ham, while everyone else brought a dish to share. The 1962 graduates were again recognized and a roll call determined all classes represented. There were 141 alumni and friends who attended the two-day reunion. The oldest graduate was Helen Chastain Jernigan, who graduated from the academy in 1943. The
alumni who passed away this past year were memorialized and an election of
officers for the coming year took place.
The musical group, Liz and Tim (Liz McGreachy and Tim Marema of Norris) sang a mix of Appalachian music, spirituals and old favorites. Kat Starr from Cookeville also performed. Many of the alumni visited Pioneer Hall Museum (the only remaining Academy building) afterwards to reminisce about the scenes depicted there in photographs and the rooms specially outfitted to represent the way the academy looked in its heyday. Several visited the Old Pleasant Hill Cemetery, which has been undergoing a facelift thanks to a special committee appointed by the Pleasant Hill Town Council.