Class reunion rivalry

Douglass High School graduates reunite every three years.
Sunday, August 8, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:48 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

In the quiet Saturday morning, a sudden burst of drumbeats and rap music awoke the neighbors of Douglass High School as a colorful procession of cars, floats, horses and even a llama paraded around their district.

More than 300 Douglass graduates arrived in Columbia from across the country for the Black and White parade and ball.

This is the 16th reunion. The first was held 48 years ago, and one has been held every three years since. “This is the time when everybody comes together,” said Wynna Elbert, a member of the organizing committee who still makes Columbia her home. For Elbert, the reunion is a way to reaffirm their cultural heritage.

“Once black schools closed, kids went into the white schools and our culture dispersed into the white culture,” she said. “A lot of things that happened in Douglass weren’t continued in the new schools. When we moved into the schools, it made a real change in the participation, in the way we were looked at.”

Elbert is from the class of 1962 and by the time the parade was under way had already met with about 30 of her former classmates. One of them, Carl Canton, traveled from Harrisburg, Pa., to join the event. Canton said that although he tries to meet his friends every three years, he was seeing some of them for the first time since graduation.

“They really don’t recognize me,” he said. “I don’t look my age as being 61.”

The class of ’62 tries to keep informed and stay together even between reunions, Canton said. They often call one another and share the latest occurrences in their lives. “We’re a pretty close-knit class,” he said.

As old friendships rekindled at Douglass Park, so did old rivalries. Longtime rivals, the classes of 1962 and 1965, had another chance to tease each other. “We don’t have to see each other every year or every day, but we pick up from where we left,” said Raynelle Colbert, class of ’65, who lives in Tulsa, Okla. “People in other cities don’t have this kind of bond.”

Colbert and her closest girlfriends from the class of ’65 were together even before they attended Douglass. “We’ve had this kind of spirit ever since nursery school,” she said.

Linda Palmer, one of Colbert’s old pals and a 1965 classmate, remembers the old days with a smile. “I wish the kids nowadays could relive what we lived through as far as fun goes. They don’t know what’s fun,” Palmer said. For her, one of the reasons for the enduring spirit of Douglass graduates is that the school used to bring students together from all across town and foster a sense of community.

The 1962-1965 rivalry continued as organizers honored parade participants. The class of ’62 won first place for best-dressed class and for largest float, while the class of ’65 came in second in both categories. The reunion ball was scheduled for Saturday night.

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