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The 2011 Sequoyah Alumni Reunion

    The  2011 Sequoyah Alumni Reunion was a fast 4 day weekend for Ruby and me. We drove up Thursday May 5th to catch the first performance of ďSequoyah Schools: A Musical History  The program began with a single voice singing "Orphan Child" in Cherokee, as a narrator told the story of how Sequoyah began as a Cherokee asylum, then became a Cherokee orphanage in the late 1800s.  Later as the story related the move to the present campus and the name changed from Cherokee Orphan Training School to Sequoyah Orphan Training School (1925) then to Sequoyah Vocational School (1945) and later to Sequoyah High School (1964), a slide show presented old photos of the campus and students from those eras. The change to Sequoyah Schools was made in 2007.

    As the history reached the war years of the 1940s, we heard ragtime, swing, jitterbug and other music popular at the time. We were a little anxious to  hear what they would select to represent our era, the 1950s. The students sang, danced and presented their versions of "At last" ~ "Jump, Jive and Wail" ~ "Stop! In The Name of Love", with a pretty good imitation of Elvis singing "Jailhouse Rock".

    As the program advanced through the decades, there was dancing, singing, strutting with costumes and hair styles to match the fashions of the day. They had to come up with some awful wigs to match the hairstyles of the 1970s.  We enjoyed groups and solo performances of songs like: "Leader of the Pack" ~ "Itís In His Kiss" ~ "The Devil in Disguise" ~ "My Girl" ~ "Do You Love Me?" A couple of  our favorites were a duet by look-a-likes of Sonny & Cher singing "I Got You Babe" and a great version of Michael Jackson's "Beat It!" with what looked like the entire cast. The program ended with a couple of rap songs from the 2000s.

    During costume changes we were entertained with a slide show of students, campus shots and  activities such as football, basketball, pageants, kings & queens, and many snapshots of what we now think of as "The Good Old Days." Even saw a photo of Ruby receiving her high school diploma from Supt. Diamond Roach in 1961.

    It was a very good show and it brought  back memories of when each class had to present a program to entertain the rest of the student  body. I remember as a grade schooler, music teacher, Portia Vaughn would spend weeks teaching us a dance routine or holiday songs to match the season when it was our time to present a program. 

    On Friday evening, we attend the Alumni Social & Auction. Ruby enjoyed  the musical so much that she sneaked out to watch the show again while I helped out with the auction and took photos of those who came to visit and enjoy an Indian taco.  The silent auction and cake walk / pie auction went well; everyone had a good time and the scholarship fund made some money.

    After the social we checked out the powwow in the girls gym. We were a little late but we did see a couple of the dance contest finals and a couple of social dances. Then it was back to the Tahlequah Motor Lodge restaurant for a little gossip with the group of alumni that somehow always ends up there for a late night snack.

    Up early, 8:30 A.M., hey, thatís early when you donít get to bed until 2 A.M. Out to the campus to make a quick tour to see what has changed since out last visit a year ago. Sorry to inform you that the old recreation hall is gone. Thatís the shop building for those from the 1950s. The good news is the students are getting a new building with 2 class rooms and library near the rec hall location. I remember someone telling me that in order to get a new building, they had to eliminate an old one. If thatís true, it may not bode well for the commissary or the special-edu. / art / laundry building.

    We had our picnic in the "Place Where They Play"; itís much nicer than the art classroom we had been using. If you havenít attended a reunion in awhile, come out and tour the campus then join us for lunch and stay for the annual business meeting. The picnic is ďPot LuckĒ but we donít need anything fancy, just bring something to share, even if itís Indian food. You know, red beans, cornbread or baloney & cheese (we love commodity cheese). If you eat too much, donít worry, you wonít have to move; the meeting is held in the same room as the picnic.

    The meeting was a little hectic  this year; we had to elect a new president and secretary.  Vice-president Roberta Springwater Gibson ascended into the presidentís office; Sgt-Arms Maxine Pumpkin Cypress was elected vice-president and Wauneta Sanders Duvall is the new secretary.  The Sgt-at-Arms position was left vacant. It was decided that the organization should examine the possibility of renting storage space locally for the S.A.A. goods that individuals have been storing in their homes. Maxine was also appointed the chairperson of the scholarship committee.

    The March appointments of three new members to the Board of Directors was confirmed by the membership. They are: Forman Ross, Cleophas Simon and Tim Wilson. With  the present BOD chairperson, Polly Springwater Teehee and  director Lois Hogner Speaks, the Executive and Directors Boards are complete.

    Managed to sneak into the school building for a few pictures before it closed for the day; then rushed to the motel to get ready for the banquet.

    Ruby and I always pre-register so we donít have to wait in line to get good seats with a view of the dining room. I recommend that you register early if you can. If the line extends outside the door, it can get quite warm and sometimes wet.

    Started my annual ritual of meeting and greeting as I made my way around the dining room, taking photos of those already having a good time. The program started with the invocation by Rev. Little Beaver Wildcat, a Class of 1965 graduate and the presentation of the colors by the Seminole Color Guard.  Emcee, Stanley Speaks and S.A.A. president, Roberta Gibson began with drawings for door prizes giving the late arrivals a chance to get settled. Then the chow lines were opened. This year the meat choices were pork chops or Salisbury steak; dessert was a choice of yellow or chocolate cake.

    The new executive board members were introduced: President Roberta Springwater Gibson, V-President Maxine Pumpkin Cypress and Secretary Wauneta Sanders Duvall.  Pres. Gibson gave a short welcoming speech, then introduced Cherokee Principal Chief, Chad Smith who had some encouraging words on the future of Sequoyah. We were entertained by keyboard solos, performed by two Sequoyah students: Brayden Phillips and Charlotte Johnson.

    Next was the induction of a new Hall of Fame member: Anna Faye Wildcat Speaks. Anna, a Class of 1955 graduate, returned to Sequoyah as an instructor and taught from 1972 into the late 1980s. Congratulations, Anna.

    Seq. Supt. Rita Bunch updated us on some of the programs and listed some of the highlights for the year. Such as: six Gates Millennium Scholars, two Horatio Alger Scholars and two accepted to the Presidents Leadership Class at CSC. The six Gates scholars brings Sequoyahís total to 24, I think. Thatís GREAT for a school with an enrollment of 385 students and only 77 seniors this year. There are 21 tribes represented in the student body.

    Our many military veterans stood to be recognized; then the school faculty. Next came what we always look forward to: recognition of classes by decade.  When the 1950s were called we stood and as always, made a quick search for new faces, just in case someone sneaked in that we didnít recognize. Itís happened more than once that a stranger turned out to be an old friend. It must be our eyes, I know we havenít changed that much.

    There werenít many from the 1990s or 2000s. A few years ago, I realized that we too, did not return often until my 25th anniversary.  This years reunion makes it 26 out of  the last 27 for Ruby and me (We missed 2005 for medical reasons).

    The kitchen staff and the waiters came out to be thanked in the form of loud applause. Remember the waiters are students (alumni) and several of the kitchen staff are former students. When you attend the banquet, tipping is encouraged; theyíre volunteers and itís not duty like in the days when some of us were in school.

    A few announcements and the banquet was over. Now we had a few minutes to visit with the late arrivals, take a few more pictures and maybe ask that stranger his name.

    Ruby and I headed to the Sat. Night Social at the Tahlequah Motor Lodge club room. Found about 30 alumni in our age group and spent a couple of hours visiting and having a few snacks (We always seem to be eating ~ the reunion is a no diets zone). Others headed to Keys. Okla. for the alumni dance in the TenKiller Lodge. As usual we ended the evening visiting in the parking lot until well after midnight; then to bed after a long eventful day.

    Up kind of early, checked out and headed for breakfast in the school cafeteria. A dozen or more folks, already eating, greeted us as we made our way to the chow line. A few last hugs and hand-shakes and it was time to head back to Texas. Four days doesnít seem as long as it did when we were younger but with my photos and Rubyís memory, Iíll enjoy this reunion for awhile, at least until itís time for our annual picnic in Kenwood, Okla. (ItĎs the week-end after the Texas-OU football game in October).