Though nearly 60 years have passed since they were junior high schoolgirls at the old Athens Elementary School, a group of women clustered in what was once the cafeteria of the schoolhouse Saturday and reminisced like it was just last year.
Freda Martin Little jokingly complained that Brenda Close once tried to steal her boyfriend.
Linda McCord accused Carolyn Metcalf Moody of “squalling” on the first day of school.
And Metcalf Moody told of the trouble they caused a substitute teacher.
“We were a spunky class, weren’t we?” she said. “We had a lot of fun.”
And so they did on Saturday too, when about 100 people gathered for a reunion of class members who graduated from the high school and junior high between 1955 and 1965. One person in attendance graduated in 1954, Little said.
The school building on Athens Walnut Hill Road was constructed in 1928. It closed as a high school 30 years later but continued to operate as a combined elementary and junior high school until the mid-1960s, when the junior high closed, leaving only the elementary school.
The sadness those students felt can still be heard in their voices.
“They split us up. They sent part of us to Bryan Station and part of us to Lafayette,” said Sherry McConathy. ”They did it on which side of the road you lived on, and we didn’t see our friends for many years.”
Athens Elementary School closed in 2006 to make way for Athens-Chilesburg Elementary School.
The former students who gathered there Saturday said the small, tight-knit community made the school more like an extended family.
“It was a great place to grow up, Athens was,” said Jerry Martin.
He and his seven siblings grew up across the road from the school, and their parents were the custodians.
Their mother worked in the cafeteria as well, said his sister Freda Martin Little, who helped organize the reunion.
“My memory is much more than just going to school here,” she said. “Dad spent many a night here ... putting coal in the furnace so everything would be warm.”
She said the reunion Saturday was the first of its kind.
“It’s been great,” she said. “I had not seen these girls for 55 years.”
Former Lexington Mayor Scotty Baesler, who graduated in 1958, attended Athens High School.
All these years later, Baesler said he’s still resentful of the decision that year to close the school and send the high school students to Bryan Station.
“You shut down a school, you shut down a community,” he said Saturday. “It killed the community.”
Baesler said he was happy to be a part of the reunion, though so much time had passed he said it was hard for some classmates to recognize each other.
“I’m glad to see people enjoying ourselves,” he said.
Brenda Close, who grew up attending school at Athens and now lives in the Butler community in Northern Kentucky, said she and some girlfriends met for lunch at the Athens Lunchroom in the spring and decided it would be fun to have a reunion.
They spread the word via Facebook and were surprised at the response.
“We thought we’d get 30 or 40” people, she said.