The Beginning of the GAR

The “Birth of the ’50’s” or the Fifties, GAR (Golden Anniversary Reunions) has a very interesting history.

In 2000, I received a call from my “Ole Lady,” Carolyn Gross McDaniel begging and badgering me to meet her at Warren Wilson’s Homecoming in October. We had not been back for 45 years. Along with Carolyn’s badgering came a letter from class representative Dan Smith inviting and encouraging the class of ’55 to return for their 45th reunion. I in turn badgered and begged two other classmates, Margaret Joyce Austin ‘54 and Margaret Sawyer Bridges ‘55. We returned to watch a classmate, the now Rev. Dr. Oscar McCloud ‘56, receive the distinguished alumnus award.

And that’s how it starts: a phone call, notes, keeping in touch, emails, and returning to your roots at Warren Wilson College. In reminiscing, we owe a debt of gratitude to Dan Smith for coordinating a wonderful dinner gathering at an Inn in Black Mountain, where the class of 1955 gathered to celebrate their 45th anniversary. Thank you, Dan, for bringing us together and starting something that has continued since that year.

We had a fabulous time and vowed to return the next year. Unfortunately, we didn’t make our hotel reservation early enough to stay at the Holiday Inn. We were forced to stay down at the Motel 6, which was definitely not up to the same quality standards. As we closed the door to head to campus the door knob fell off, necessitating packing up and moving to another room.

Much to our surprise, other classmates were there as well. Jimmy Ning: his brother David was celebrating his 50th year after graduation from Warren Wilson. Nora and Jim Fleena and Bob and Carol Chambers were also present.

Not having any chars in the room we were all gathered on the beds. Everyone was wearing floral headpieces that I bought in Houston. We were all laughing and having a good time reminiscing and Jimmy Ning said, I know what, next year let’s have “One Big Golden Anniversary Reunion.” Thus was the birth of the GAR.

With the assistance of the Alumni Office, I started sending out letters to all 50’s alum. I made arrangements for a block of rooms at the Holiday Inn and planned for the now Annual GAR Banquet.

I also started a Hospitality Room which has been a tremendous success. As Peggy Burke ’56 said, “I have been coming to Homecoming every year and after everything official is finished I had no where to go. This is wonderful.”

We had a fun time. In fact, so much fun that the reception desk sent the secretary up to quiet us down. The complaint was “There are a bunch of young people up there having a party and making noise.” What a hoot, as we were all over 60!

The GAR has facilitated the re-bonding of a special era in history, the 1950’s at Warren Wilson. We keep up with each other’s lives, children, grandchildren, joys and sorrows. Many of us have become a support group for each other. As Jeanne Powell Gillespie stated, “Fran, we are like family.”

So from me and the 1950’s please return this Homecoming (the first weekend of October). Call a friend and pester them the way Carolyn pestered me! We have proven the old adage that there is strength in numbers. The $25,000 Jensen Scholarship joining the 50’s is also proof of that!

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