Nothing can be more rewarding than to meet with old friends after decades apart and rekindle the old friendships of days gone by.

The Chiefs and Chiefettes from the West Orange High School Class of 1963 decided that it was time to meet and visit 46 years after their graduation.

The only reunion for the class had been in 1983, 20 years after they had last joined as a full class. Some of those present at this reunion had not been there in 1983. Over the years the class had scattered to the four winds. There are classmates in Illinois, Nevada, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Starting with an e-mail list of about ten, the list grew to 41, with about 14 on the regular mail list. Around three months later, the group had 54 contacts; which formed the base for the reunion.

There were 84 graduates in the Class of 1963. Presently, 19 classmates are deceased.

By the time the group met Saturday, Aug. 22, at the Sunset Grove Country Club there were 37 in attendence. With spouses and friends, there were a total of 65 at the reunion.

John and Felesa Matthews Baker of Rosenberg made name tags for the group. “I’m glad they used our old pictures and big print. Now we can tell who each other is,” said Charles Prouse of Bridge City.

Rather than a “formal” program, the class elected to spend time visiting and catching up on the time they have been apart. It was a time to visit, have a meal together and enjoy each others company. The years just fell away as the memories came to the forefront.

June Hardy, who had taught English made a surprise appearance. Hardy exchanged hugs and stories and was as glad to see her former students as they were to see her. She had started her career teaching at West Orange High School and later moved to Little Cypress High School.

Bonnie Johnson was the only other former faculty member to attend. Johnson had been the typing teacher for many of the students. Johnson is retired and lives in Nacogdoches. She made the trip with Eddie Johnson, no relation, and Eddie’s wife Sharon, who is Bonnie’s sister.

“I taught typing for years, and then things started changing to computers. I had to readjust; I was left out in left field. I eventually taught Special Education before retiring,” said Bonnie.

West Orange High School only had graduating classes between the years of 1958 and 1977. In that period of time there was only one district championship won by the Chiefs. That was the team from the 1962 football season.  Five of the six surviving members of the team who were seniors that year were in attendance.

Tackle Wren Worthy lives in Jasper, near Lake Sam Rayburn. End Guy Collins lives in Orange, is retired and has a tractor business. Fullback Charles Prouse has just rebuilt his Bridge City home after Hurricane Ike. Halfback Charles Smith lives on Pleasure Island and since Ike has had his sailboat in the front yard. Halfback Johnny McFarlane lives in Southaven, Miss., and is a teacher in a bible college. Danny Green, who was a guard on the team, was unable to attend.

The two senior cheerleaders, Jo Cormier Schwienle and Janice Young Jimerson were in attendance. When the picture of the seniors from the team was taken, the cheerleaders proved they not only remember some moves, but are still able to make them. All they needed were their purple and white uniforms. They could still do a bit of cheering for their team.

Several former band members remembered the time the band played, “The Stripper” at a football game. The band director was ordered by Mildred Crawford, the superintendent of schools, to not play the song again. In spite of the song being on the hit charts, Crawford thought it was an inappropriate song to play.

The alumni who came the greatest distance to attend was Keith Hogan. Hogan attended West Orange Schools from elementary to high school, but before his senior year, his dad, the late Dr. C.H. Hogan, pastor at First Baptist Church in West Orange was called to another church, in another town.

The ties Keith feels toward his classmates are so strong he made the journey with his wife, Kim, from Maryville, Ill. to attend the reunion.

From all the hugs, handshakes, and the “I’m so glad to see you again” comments, one thing prevailed. Bonds from our youth are very strong and it is never too late to renew those old friendships. In this age of e-mail and other technology it is possible to start with a very small data base and build a very rewarding reunion.

The class which had been so out of touch for so many years came together again. The time apart was forgotten as the bonds of friendship were rebuilt.

Watch for these former Chiefs to build another wigwam next year and do it all over again.