An alumna of the Class of 1980, Renee Brizendine Thompson, said it eloquently – “What a nostalgic day! Every time I go ‘home’ I appreciate where I grew up even more. Elkton, Kentucky: Rich dirt. Open spaces. Winding roads and rolling hills. Values instilled. Friends to share it all with. God Blessed. Today was Todd County Central High School’s 50th-Year Celebration. Never thought of it as historic, but now I guess it is!” Those words truly portray the sentiments heard so often this past Saturday, May 17, as the halls of TCCHS were opened to the 50 years of graduates, educators, and friends who have fond memories of a place so many are proud to call their ‘home.’
The TCCHS Alumni Association’s primary goal during the planning stages of the event focused on paying homage to the leaders of ‘yesteryear’ who provided the solid footing for the first year of TCCHS’s history, a year that included the opening of a new school facility along with the opening of the doors of Todd Central to all Todd Countians as integration of the former high schools in Todd County also transpired with the beginning of the 1963-1964 school year. That smooth transition to a new facility and to the new concept of integration in Todd County is credited by many to the strong management abilities of Henry C. Malone, superintendent of the Todd County School District during the planning stages and first years of TCCHS’s history; to the very positive leadership style of Robert N. Bush, first principal of TCCHS; and to the many educators who formed the first faculty of TC, many of those faculty members former educators at the high schools that merged into TC.
Mr. Henry Malone along with the first-year teachers who could attend the celebration on Saturday were recognized early in the afternoon program by Wayne Benningfield, current superintendent, and Phyllis Hardison Traughber, a member of the first graduating class and a former educator in the Todd County School District. Mr. Benningfield presented Mr. Malone, a resident of Guthrie, a copy of the 2014 TCCHS Rebel yearbook dedicated to him by the yearbook staff as a memento for his years of service in the formative years of TCCHS’s history. Mrs. Joe Nell Waters, Class of 1973 and former principal of TCCHS, also recognized each of the eleven former principals of TC during its first 50 years along with current principal Todd Marshall. Ann Bush Wolfe, daughter of Mr. Robert Bush, was also presented a certificate honoring her father as the first principal, a leader so many of his colleagues and former students recall as a very caring and capable person able to make appropriate decisions at a crucial time in the founding of a new school in a new era.
Judy Anderson Donnelly, Class of 1968, recalled in an email about Mr. Bush – “Few principals are respected and admired, much less remembered, fifty years later! Mr. Bush led quietly, sternly, or with great humor, depending upon the situation, and he was a great judge of when to let things go.” She added, “He loved his students and had a strange power of knowing what we were doing, even on weekends! I remember that students and teachers secretly donated money for his Christmas presents! One year he received a color TV and another year a recliner! Doesn’t that speak volumes? He was presented his gift at an assembly or pep rally, and he was led in blindfolded.”
A secondary goal of the alumni association on Saturday was to provide for the public an opportunity to ‘walk the halls’ of Todd Central to see the many updates that have transpired during its first 50 years – those changes include many that students of the early years had not witnessed – new lighting, new lockers, and energy-efficient windows; central heating and air; renovated restrooms; an expanded media center and cafeteria; and the many other facelifts that have occurred in recent years. Ann Wolfe and former teacher and principal Jim Young, along with many of the other visitors on Saturday, were extremely complimentary of the new state-of-the-art auditorium that opened in 2006. Anyone who has seen this facility will echo that reaction as the facility hosted the afternoon program that also showcased the musical talents of former students Euletta Harris Sweeney, Latrice Sweeney Ford, Amanda Sweeney Bassingthwaite, Anthony Hightower, Rocky Rager, Libby Sims Lancaster, Carol Sims Tapp, Amanda Sims Groves, Cedrick Leavell, Halie Sawyers, Class of 2015, and Roger Sweeney, another Todd Countian and a 1966 graduate of Muhlenberg Central who contributed his musical talents. Also adding to the afternoon program was Darrell Crawford, Class of 1993 and current pastor at Living Hope Baptist Church in Hopkinsville, who provided opening remarks along with the invocation. Mike Kenner, Class of 1975, former teacher, principal, and superintendent, ended the program with a benediction. In his remarks, he too voiced the strong foundation that TCCHS has provided for so many individuals who have exited TC’s doors.
Tours of the building included for many a walk down memory’s lane as the TCCHS media center became a ‘hodgepodge’ of memorabilia with displays for each decade grouped for all to see. Cherie Higgins Morris, Class of 1985, remarked that one of the favorite items for her decade was a picture of Ms. Marion Williams, TCCHS’s first librarian, riding a four-wheeler. Those who recall Ms. Williams would indeed smile to see her perched on a four-wheeler with former teacher, coach, and principal, Mr. Harold Ross, perched behind her. Obviously, many visitors were certain to remark that their decade’s collection rated much higher scores than the other four. The association expresses its thanks to Sharon Patterson Shemwell, Darlene Powell Groves, Cherie Higgins Morris, Brittany Withers Prather, Brittney Addison, Judy Anderson Donnelly, and Anna Jo Moore Parmley for their efforts organizing the collectables.
Kane Reed, six-year-old son of Dr. Dusty Griffin Reed, Class of 2000 and former vice-principal at North Todd Elementary, was excited to visit Todd Central for a ‘party,’ and his great-aunt, Cherie Higgins Morris, stated Kane was very pleased that ‘the party’ included cakes and punch in the cafeteria. Linda Stokes Fritz, Class of 1966 and vice-president of the alumni association, expressed her gratitude to Debbie Johnson, Susie Camp Greenfield, and Bettye Fowler for their willingness to tackle the preparation and donation of the cakes and punch along with Ms. Johnson’s willingness to create a beautifully decorated cafeteria. Mrs. Fritz also voiced the gratitude of the association to Mr. Wayne Benningfield, Larry Rager, the TCCHS PTSO, and the faculty and staff of TCCHS for their support of the association and the day’s celebration.
Ms. Fritz also stated, “The TCCHS Alumni Association is so very blessed that we were provided the backing necessary to host a day’s event to honor the first 50 years of TCCHS. When we asked someone to complete some task for the day, we were always greeted with a positive remark. Our efforts could not have succeeded without the enthusiasm and work of so many of our alumni, officers, friends, and alumni directors.” Sharon Mallory Wilson, Class of 1970, stated it beautifully, “Many thanks are due for the efforts put into the TCCHS 50th Anniversary Celebration. From the tour, to the refreshments, to the memorabilia, to the special music and program, and most especially to the opportunity to see former classmates and teachers – the day was enjoyed by all who attended. As Linda Stokes Fritz said during her remarks, ‘This was the only TCCHS 50th Anniversary. Kudos!’”