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Alumni remember Lyman Hall High after 65 years
Classmates gathered for their annual reunion
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Classmates Buck Cooper and Peggy Roper-Phillips look through a scrapbook of old high school photographs. The two were gathered Thursday with other Lyman Hall High School alumni at Rick’s Smokin’ Pig BBQ in Gainesville for their 65th reunion. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Peggy Roper-Phillips can remember her high school graduation like it was yesterday.

She and the 25 members of her graduating class accepted their diplomas with all of the youthful optimism that comes with reaching such an important milestone.

Fresh off the memories of senior prom, sharing milk shakes at the pharmacy lunch counter and walking to school in saddle shoes, the members of the class bid one another farewell.

That was on May 26, 1946. Thursday, 65 years to the day of their graduation, the former Lyman Hall High School classmates gathered for their annual reunion.

"I had no idea that 65 years later we'd be here," said Roper-Phillips, who now lives in Alabama.

"We started having reunions every 10 years, but now that we're older, we have one every year."

Although nearly a dozen classmates have died, attendance at the reunions continues to be strong.

Last year, 12 members of the 1946 class attended.

Unfortunately, various health problems kept four of those attendees away this year.

"We're very fortunate because a good percentage of us are still living," said Oakwood resident Jack Harper with a laugh.

The technology age may have come decades after their graduation, but in recent years, some of the classmates have taken advantage of it to keep in touch.

"I have a Facebook (account), but I don't know if anyone else does. A few of us have email, so we (message) each other all of the time," Roper-Phillips said.

Whereas many alumni choose to host reunions at their alma mater, Roper-Phillips' group can't do that. Their former school burned down in 1971.

"We meet wherever we can find space," Roper-Phillips said.

Thursday's reunion was held at Rick's Smokin' Pig BBQ on John Morrow Parkway in Gainesville.

"All of this used to be woods," Roper-Phillips said in reference to the plaza where the restaurant is located.

Even though they can't physically see their former school, which stood behind the current O'Charley's restaurant on Browns Bridge Road, the reunion's attendants remember distinctly how it looked.

"Lyman Hall was what you would call an old country school. It was a nice brick building, but it was a country school," Harper said. "The high school was on the back, the elementary school was in the same building and there was an auditorium between them."

Their school's foundation may have disappeared with time, but the classmates' relationships are just as strong as ever.

"We love each other just like we did when we were in school," Roper-Phillips said. "It's amazing the love that we've carried through the years."

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