On May 26, 1967, 97 students graduated from Muleshoe High School. On September 15-16, 45 of those students became the class of ‘67 once again for their 50th class reunion.


                                                                                                                                    Photo courtesy of Ricky Richerson

I was present at one of their final committee meetings where they admired and organized name tags, discussed last minute details, and pretty much had an enthusiastic, loud, mini-reunion just anticipating the weekend to come. Bruce Purdy, Gayle Seagroves Richerson, Gail Locker Bruns, Melvin Morris, Kay Kittrell Gray, Jerry Redwine, Mart Long, Donna Reed Redwine, Marsha Blackman Douglas and their spouses Cindy Purdy, Vicki Morris,and  David Gray, were the driving force to set the reunion in motion. They discovered they had lost 21 classmates who had passed on (they learned of two more after the reunion was over), but were able to contact about 60-70 members of the class who were all over the country, and in the end had 45 who signed up to attend, making for a really good turn-out.


The weekend of September 15 was homecoming, the appropriate time for a class reunion, so things started off Friday night with the junior class pre-game meal of hamburgers before the game against Brownfield. A section of tables was reserved and marked with big gold balloons in the shape of 5 and 0 for those who chose to get things started that night, as all activities were optional. The meal was well-attended.


                                                                                                                                     Photo courtesy of Ricky Richerson

At some point during the reunion activities, the reunion t-shirt designed by Bruce Purdy was worn by just about everyone. Well, maybe not spouses who graduated elsewhere, but pretty much everyone else, like Jerry Redwine here.


Photo courtesy of Ricky Richeson

Bob Graves, coach and teacher to this class, visited with his former students at the pre-game meal as well as the dinner Saturday night.


Photo courtesy of Ricky Richerson

After the pre-game meal, the party moved to the football stadium. Not sure how much football was watched; we were sitting in the section across from the group in the stands, and the chatter never stopped.


Photo courtesy of Ricky Richerson

Bright and early Saturday morning everyone gathered for donuts and more visiting at the Bailey County meeting room, after which the plan was to take a group picture at the Mule Memorial, which didn’t happen because they were all too busy catching up on each other’s lives and didn’t want to leave.


Photo courtesy of Ricky Richerson

Turns out some classmates did go to Ol’ Pete for the picture and missed the gabfest going on over the donuts. But later two different group pictures were staged with the hope that everyone made it to one or the other of those attempts.


Photo courtesy of Ricky Richerson


Photo courtesy of Ricky Richerson

The next scheduled event that morning was the tour of the high school, which looks nothing like the school they attended as students. John Gulley, who went through school with this class but a year behind them in the class of ‘68, led the tour.


Photo courtesy of Ricky Richerson

After lunch on their own, classmates met at the Muleshoe Heritage Center where lemonade and snacks provided by Gina Wilkerson and the Heritage Foundation were a welcome respite from the heat and the busyness of the day. The office was a nice place to visit and nobody wanted to leave, so more visiting ensued before taking a tour of the buildings, many of them recent additions like the Yellow Jacket, which I am sure revived more stories to reminisce and laugh about.


                                                                                                                               Photo courtesy of Ricky Richerson

Putt-Putt Golf was to be the next offering, but by this time the weather was hotter and many people were ready for a break to rest up for the night’s dinner and after-party at the Purdy’s, so even though the course was available, I fear it was overlooked. And that’s okay; they were having a good time without it.

Everyone regrouped at the Bailey County meeting room at 6:00 for the meal catered by Leal’s, another part of Muleshoe near and dear to everyone’s heart. Bill and I were invited as guests and we knew many of the people there, especially Bill, so we visited too. But the fun part was watching people trying to figure out which classmates we had been to them since we had no name tags. We got tickled when Brenda Tanner Weimer finally came up to Bill and said he must be Ransom Jones. She was a little embarrassed, but it was fun.


Gayle Seagroves Richerson put together a nice slide show of pictures from yearbooks documenting the class’s activities which ran during the dinner. Yearbooks, framed photographs, scrapbooks, and other memorabilia were on display to stir memories as well.


                                                                                                                              Photo courtesy of Ricky Richerson

Jeannie King used her cheerleader voice and led the group in thanking all those classmates who put together the reunion, Gayle Seagraves Richerson made some announcements, Jerry Redwine spoke a few words, and Joe Puente gave the blessing. A moment of silence was taken in memory of those who had passed on. Later Verlyon Scoggin and Ransom Jones both gave impromptu speeches about growing up in Muleshoe, attending Muleshoe schools, the support they received from the people in the community, and how blessed everyone in this group felt about what a difference their small town upbringing made in their lives. Murmurs of agreement and nods of approval were obvious all over the room. Later I heard much of that same sentiment repeated when I heard stories about how teachers, coaches, friends’ parents, churches, the town as a whole, contributed to the success and contentment in the lives of the class of ‘67 as adults making their way in the world.


                                                                                                                               Photo courtesy of Ricky Richerson


                                                                                                                                Photo courtesy of Ricky Richerson

Bob Graves stood to share how much he had enjoyed working with this group starting in junior high and just got down-right emotional talking about it, which I thought was a nice compliment to the class of ‘67.

Gayle asked if everyone remembered their chosen class song and started to sing, which caused a few giggles as humming the tune led to aha! moments as they started to remember the words, and by the end most were chiming in to finish “You’ll Never Walk Alone;” pretty impressive, I thought.

When the dinner was over, Bruce Purdy reminded everyone they were all invited to the after dinner get-together at his house. Everyone pitched in cleaning the tables and putting things back in order and then made their way to the Purdy’s home to continue the evening.

Not all chose to continue to the evening, but most did, and Bruce said there were a few who attended none of the other activities but showed up at the house for that part of the reunion! And they did have fun. It was my job to visit with anyone who wanted to share a story or two about their days in school or their lives afterwards and I would then share those stories with you. A few people did, but what became very apparent was that  they really didn’t have time for me because they were having so much fun talking to each other!

And why wouldn’t they be busy reliving old memories and funny stories? Here were people who might not have seen each other for the last twenty years after their 30th reunion, or even longer, people who had moved away and traveled all the way back to town for the chance to reconnect with people they went to school with starting in the first grade. Besides those still living in the Muleshoe area, classmates came from all over Texas, plus New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and three went to the trouble to travel over 1,000 miles for the chance to reconnect with friends: Faye Mullins Burkhart from Nevada; Dean Seiber from Iowa, and Wetona Kincanon Walchner, who just happened to be class valedictorian,  traveled the farthest coming from Ohio.


I was impressed with the number of extra-curricular activities these people participated in while in high school. Browsing through the 1967 annual I saw pictures of a rodeo team, small choir groups, all kinds of different small specialty bands, fine arts groups, Spanish Club, an arts and crafts club, Honor Society,  not to mention the usual high school groups like speech and debate, one-act plays, DECA, FFA, FHA, and all the sports teams. What really impressed me was the fact that this little small town school actually put on musicals! When I asked about this, Marsha Blackman Douglas and Tom Jones were more than happy to tell me all about these first-rate musical productions, but as one detail or memory led to another and then another, they all but forgot I was there and had a great time reliving the whole experience with each other. It seems Muleshoe High School experienced the perfect storm that brought together the perfect dedicated teachers at the perfect time with perhaps the perfect bunch of kids to pull off productions of The Music Man, The King and I, and The Sound of Music. Kathy Phillips was the first band director who set the stage for these productions, followed by band directors Bill Bradley and Bob Breckinridge, choir director Leasel Richardson, drama and speech teacher Kerry Moore-yes, our same Kerry Moore!- and art teacher Elizabeth Black who helped with props and scenery. And don’t forget all the mothers who made costumes. Everyone participated, even burly football players weren’t afraid to dress up in costume and take part. Other dramas were mentioned, like Hamlet and Becket, but it was the musicals that made the lasting impression. After this group graduated and scattered, teachers moved and changed, and the musicals just sort of faded away. But what fond memories they left behind.


Football was a successful element of this class’s experiences, too, until the district changed and Muleshoe went from a 2A to a 3A school classification and had to play against much bigger schools. One game that stuck in the players’ minds was when they played Dumas who had been state champs and were ranked high in the state that year.  Few Dumas fans bothered to come to the game, thinking it was a no-brainer against the Mules, and their stands were basically empty. Then the Mules had them down 14-7 at the half, the Dumas fans rallied and showed back up, and they beat the Mules 21-14. But even in defeat, as the story was being told I could tell  those players still had fond memories reliving the games. That one and the fact that they had gone 9-1 in both seventh and eighth grade  when they lost to Dimmitt and they all swore that Coach Graves has never forgiven them for the loss!


Another story I enjoyed came from Rebecca Pedroza Guevara who shared with me that when she graduated not much thought or guidance about what she might do with her life had been offered. Until she happened to visit with DECA sponsor Fred Mardis, who encouraged and helped her attend West Texas State University, now West Texas A&M University, which opened a whole new world to her. After studies at WT, she went on to San Antonio and Austin where she eventually earned her degree as an RN. She is retired now but will always be grateful to Mr. Mardis for taking an interest in her and her future, another example of life in Muleshoe where people cared enough to get involved with the kids. She laughed and said it was also Mr. Mardis who introduced her to baked potatoes at one of the DECA conventions she attended with him.


I also heard about Bruce Purdy’s Evel Knievel impersonation in junior high when he, with the help of some buddies who held up the back tire on the motor scooter he was on that was a prop in the play they were rehearsing, put it down about the time he revved the motor and he shot off the stage and took out three seats in the front rows of the auditorium. And I know that Gayle Seagroves Richerson played the tuba in the band because she made a smart remark about how easy tubas were to play and band director Bradley proceeded to move her from trombone to tuba. She also said she won the marcher of the year award, not from skill but fear- a mistake made by a 6’2” student wearing a black uniform carrying a white fiberglass tuba would be seen by the whole world. I also found out that Tom Jones was a fragrance designer for candles for the likes of Elizabeth Arden, Pier 1, Victoria’s Secret, and is the person who came up with the idea of the citronella candle to repel mosquitoes. Berta Elizararaz Esparza shared with me the football game beat tag she still had-and wore to the dinner-from the day President Kennedy was shot, an unusual high school memento.


The class of ‘67 brimmed with potential and in the tradition of doctor, lawyer, Indian chief, successful careers and lives came out of this group of kids. Since the question What do you do? came up in most conversations, here are some of the people these kids grew up to be: doctor, optometrist, CPA, investment banker, bank loan officer, fireman, nurse, rancher, grocer, Airman, salesman, policeman, Army chaplain, preacher, insurance agent, teacher, engineer, mortician, funeral director, tortilla maker, agriculture-related salesman, pharmacist, real estate salesman, speech therapist, lobbyist, sheriff, coach, gas and oil businessman, farmer, school principal, school superintendent, school administrator, travel agent, optician, attorney, postman, cotton ginner, communications expert, construction worker, school bus driver, artist, candle maker and fragrance designer, full-time parent, just to name a few. In no way is this list complete, but the variety says it all-anything is possible- something else this class gleaned from their childhoods spent in Muleshoe.


                                                                                                                               Photo courtesy of Ricky Richerson

The party was still going strong when I left. By 11:30 most of the stories had been told, the next day held the promise of many miles to be traveled, and it was time to call it a night.  Based on the animated conversation and happy faces I witnessed as I left, I think it is safe to say the night, no, the entire reunion, was a rousing success.

I had a good time, and I wasn’t even in their class!

My thanks to Bruce Purdy, Gayle Richerson, the committee members, and all those willing to share their stories with me to write this story. Thank you to Ricky Richerson for sharing photographs with me.