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92-year old looks forward to reunion

September 07, 1999|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Elenora T. (Caution) Briggs started school in a one-room segregated elementary school behind what was then Mercersburg High School on the corner of Park and West Seminary Streets in 1914.

She went to the segregated black school from kindergarten through the seventh grade. She remembers carrying drinking water to the school from a neighbor's house, the coal being stored on the front porch for the pot-bellied stove and an organ in the corner of the room.

"It didn't make any sense. Why couldn't we start school with the others?" Briggs said.

Briggs and her classmates were sent to the integrated Mercersburg High School for grades 8-12, graduating in 1926.

At 92, she might be the oldest Mercersburg High School alumnus to attend a schoolwide reunion on Sept. 25 at the First United Methodist Church's Faith and Fellowship Center.

More than 600 invitations were sent out and 360 people, including students and spouses, have responded, said Jack Smith, class of 1944, chairman of the eight-member reunion committee.

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Anyone who attended the school was invited, Smith said. "They didn't have to graduate," he said.

The school's first graduating class was in 1923. The last class was 1954, the year the new James Buchanan High School opened north of town.

Members of junior, sophomore and freshmen classes who started high school in Mercersburg High and who finished in James Buchanan are invited to the reunion, Smith said.

The Mercersburg High building was demolished in 1980.

Smith said 11 teachers who taught in Mercersburg High School are expected at the reunion.

About half of the school's alumni still live in the area, Smith said. Many classes have been holding reunions over the years so alumni lists were current. It made it easier for Smith's committee to compile its invitation list. "We found almost all of them." he said.

Many former students have stayed in the area while some have moved far and wide, Smith said. Some will travel to the reunion from as far away as California and Mexico, he said.

He said the program will be simple. "We'll introduce the teachers and the classes," he said. Russell Straley, class of 1942 and a committee member, will act as emcee, Smith said.

Briggs said she doesn't know if any of her classmates will attend the reunion or if any are even left. "I haven't had any contact with them since the 50th reunion. That that was 30 years ago."

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