50 year reunion brings Manila classmates home

Wednesday, June 7, 2006
Classmates of the Manila Class of 1956 gathered for a 50 year reunion. Pictured are, from left: Back -- Tommy Hatcher, Jon Randle, Bennie Crews, Carol Morris, Wayne Shedd, Billy Horsley, Gene Baugher, Neal Oates, Perry Cude, Calvin Jackson, Linus Roach, Coach Deward Dopson, and Jimmy Veach. Middle -- George Sharon Fleeman, Donnie Croom, Tommy Bourland, Dixie Shasteen Travis, Frances Parks Bowman, Doris Hampton Holt, Fleeta Ann Boss, June Henson Motley, Velda Tatum Ervin, Elwanda Hodge Croney, Macky Joe Ashabranner. Seated -- Ruby Bray Sutton, Tapian Ellis Murray, Mary Lou Deason Williams, Delora Buchannan Dillon, Melba Cornish, Barbara Ballard Pierce, Shirley Brewer Nuckles, Corine Gray Hamilton, Janice Vassar Veach, Bonnie Hodges Wagner. Not pictured - Joan Beach Simpkins. (Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)

The Manila Class of 1956 celebrated their 50 year reunion on Friday night, May 26, at the Manila Depot. A large crowd of classmates gathered to catch up and reminisce about their school days at MHS. Those attending were from Florida, Texas, Missouri, Mississippi, California, Illinois, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, and different towns throughout Arkansas.

The Manila Class of 1956 had 51 graduates. They were one of the largest classes to come through MHS at that time. When the group started their freshman year, they had over 80 classmates.

In addition to the class members, the athletes who played ball with the members of the class of 1956 were invited to attend the reunion. Special guests included Coach Deward Dopson and his wife, Ann, of Atlanta, Ga. Coach Dopson coached baseball, basketball and track during his three years at Manila. They came to Manila for the 1955-56 school year and stayed through the 1957-58 school year. He led the MHS high school baseball team to a state championship in 1958. Tommy Hatcher presented an appreciation plaque to Coach Dopson.

"That's not what they used to say," Coach Dopson said. "I appreciate this. Manila High School means a lot to me and my wife, Ann. When we came to Manila we had an old car and a two year old boy. We did not have furniture. Roy Ashabranner said the home ec was getting new furniture and we could use the old furniture. This was my first coach/teaching job. Everyone was so helpful and good to us. Had it been anywhere else, I am not sure we could have survived."

Coach Dopson shared some of his memories of his days at MHS.

"You were all good kids, you worked hard and were respectful. You wanted to excel and had strong work ethics," he said.

Dopson attended Arkansas Tech University and played a little pro ball before coming to Manila. When he left Manila he went to Harrison High School. He later went to Tech where he coached college basketball. He was placed in the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1982. The family business took them to Atlanta, Ga., where he retired in 1997.

Mrs. Francys Faulkner, former teacher, was invited but was unable to attend. Classmates had a plaque for Mrs. Faulkner, also. Janice Vassar Veach said she will deliver the plaque to Mrs. Faulkner in Memphis and anyone wanting to accompany her was welcome. She read a letter to the Class of 1956 from Mrs. Faulkner, their senior class sponsor.

Excerpts from the letter:

Dear Class of '56:

How I would love to be with you tonight, but it was not meant to be.

You were my first seniors to sponsor and I learned so much from you. Hopefully you learned a little literature and a little more grammar in the classroom. On the trip you taught me to "play" and have a good time. Tommy used to ask me, "You liked us best, didn't you?" Well, I must admit first loves are special and never forgotten!

I have many memories of individual happenings and personalities. I could write a book, but not here.....

Hopefully most of you live in fine homes, drive big, gas guzzling automobiles and have hefty bank accounts. If so, I am very glad. However, your true success in life is measured by your depth of devotion to your family, your friends and your God!

My life is richer by having shared it with all of you.

Be happy!


Francys Faulkner

Officers of the Class of 1956 included Kenny Isaacs, president; Tommy Hatcher, vice president; Joan Beach, secretary; Bonnie Hodges, treasurer; Bobby Davis, historian; Tapian Ellis, reporter.

Elected as senior class favorites were Doris Hampton and Bobby Davis.

Kenny Isaacs and Joan Beach were named Mr. and Miss Citizenship 1956; Tapian Ellis was campus queen and Tommy Hatcher, campus king. Ted Brown was named senior Most Handsome 1956 and Tapian Ellis senior Most Beautiful; Senior Basketball Queen was Bonnie Hodges.

Several members of the group met on Saturday morning at the old Stahr Drug Store building to once again walk the streets of Manila before gathering at the old gymnasium and walking the halls of MHS again. Many of the classmates gathered at the Manila Community Center on Saturday night for the annual Manila Alumni Reunion.

A poster was displayed in memory of deceased classmates. Names included Charles Lovell, Kibel Holt, Lois Lutz, Marjorie Miller, David Conell, Kenny Isaacs, Cliff Lane, Max Wright, Bobby McCormick, Peggy Stubbs, Bobbie Dean Davis, Dean Wagner, Gene Cunningham, Peggy Boon, Lemoin Davidson, Cleo Jolliff, Freddie Veach, and Charlene Keeling.

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