Graduates from the Class of 1965 turn 65 this year, a mere 47 years after receiving their diplomas.

To celebrate this landmark, classmates from the McKinney High School Class of 1965 are holding a big birthday bash (in lieu of a 50th reunion) the weekend  of Oct. 26-27.

Planning of the celebration started when one local ’65 MHS grad, Carolyn Corbin of Melissa, bounced the idea off of several of her classmates.

The resulting planning session of a group of local classmates took place earlier this spring when the group chose Don Bourland and Paulette (Lawson) Chandler, both of McKinney, to chair the event committee, and Bettye Odle of Flower Mound to chair the Friday evening activities.

The committee and Corbin, who chaired the group’s last reunion (their 25th in 1990), then brought the event to the McKinney Convention & Visitors Bureau for help.

“They [MCVB] decided to treat us like a convention, providing us with goody bags and helping us select venues,” Corbin said. “They’ve been so helpful.”

Of the 180 members of the 1965 graduating class, 75 to 80 of them (130 confirmed attendees including spouses/dates) will be attending the celebration. Many of the classmates still live in Collin County and surrounding areas, but others will be traveling from Wisconsin, California, and Georgia.

“Technology made a huge difference in helping us find everyone,” Chandler said, adding that Ancestry.com and email became their research and hunting tools of choice.

Joining the 1965 MHS grads for the celebration will be five of their teachers, all of whom now have schools named for them within the McKinney Independent School District. Arthur McNeil (McNeil Elementary), Scott Johnson (Scott Johnson Middle School), Gary and Bobbye Jack Minshew (Minshew Elementary), and 97-year-old Mildred Bennett (Bennett Elementary) will be special guests of honor at the class’s Saturday evening event.

The group will start the weekend on the downtown square Friday night. On Saturday, classmates will meet for breakfast at Bill Smith’s Café before exploring town or spending time with friends. Saturday evening features a dinner-dance at McKinney’s Rock Creek Ranch.

The Times, They Were A’Changing

Classmates visiting McKinney’s downtown square Friday night who haven’t returned home in a number of years will see many changes since 1965, when McKinney’s population was just over 14,000, and the area was still the agricultural center of North Texas.

Many of the male students were active in Future Farmers of America (FFA), while the female students belonged to Future Homemakers of America (FHA) or took Secretarial Science classes. Boys and girls alike were quite active in their churches, the committee said, while many of the girls were also active members of the Horizon Club, a community service-oriented sorority.

But society, and the town this group of McKinney natives knew as kids, were on the cusp of major changes.

“We were the first class of Baby Boomers,” Corbin said. “We were so innocent, and it was such a turbulent time.”

The classmates spoke of being given the day off school during their junior year if they wanted to go to Dallas to see President John F. Kennedy’s motorcade. They recalled their feelings of shock and grief, too, when they received the news of his assassination so close to their hometown, and the national prejudice against Dallas that followed. 

These classmates witnessed another kind of prejudice at home in McKinney, too – segregation, which was alive and well in the early 60s. They talked of the “colored-only” water fountains and entrance to  the historic county courthouse, and the schools that separated white and black students in their hometown.

But that was changing, too. The MHS Class of 1965 was the first in town to include an African-American graduate, Betrice Bailey. Until that year, all black students in town attended McKinney’s Doty High School.

Sadly, the classmates explained, Bailey won’t be attending the reunion, as she is among the 33 former classmates who are known to have passed away.

Still Seeking Classmates

Any classmates not currently in contact with the committee but who would like to attend the weekend’s festivities may contact Paulette Lawson Chandler at jbeau@prodigy.net.

“We’ve had such fun working with this group, supporting them with whatever they needed,” said Dee-dee Guerra, Interim Executive Director of the MCVB. “That’s what we’re here for, to help people, no matter how big or small the group is, whether they live here or are visiting our community, to have a high-value experience while they’re in McKinney.”

Services offered at the MCVB are free of charge, whether for business or leisure groups or individuals. For more information or assistance in planning a meeting, party or other type of event, contact the MCVB at 214-544-1407 or info@visitmckinney.com.

 

 

About the author: Beth Shumate is Communications Manager at the McKinney Convention & Visitors Bureau.