Volume 6 November 3, 2002 

RGNS Centennial Celebration
November 3, 2002

Come with me…..Close your eyes…..Visualize….

See our beautiful campus on a crisp autumn day.  Our ancestors are calling to us with the sound of bagpipes lifting from the valley.  Oh look! Here comes the Tallulah Falls train slowly across the valley floor.  A parade of children, winding up the hill, honoring the past and the future.  Scottish lasses dancing, a Native American Storyteller making you laugh and cry, toes tapping to blue grass music and border collies herding snow white sheep across a green hill.
Are you there?
Can you see it?
Listen and you will hear the sound of chimes across the valley, calling you home.

The Rabun Gap Centennial Celebration Party and Fall Open House were held on October 26, 2002.  After the wonderful time we enjoyed at the Centennial Kickoff in Atlanta, Hazel and I would not have missed this occasion for anything and with Charlie as our escort, we eagerly arrived on campus at 12:00 filled with anticipation of a great time.

We greeted Janie Owens as she scurried by and this is probably the only time all day that she stood still.  The festivities were scheduled to start at 1:00 so we had time to walk around and soak in the atmosphere and look for other alumni from the 50’s.

In the process of doing the Rabun Ramblings webpages, the four of us ( Dale, Randy, Harold, and I) have become close friends.  We don’t get to see each other very often but when we do….. Well the picture tells it all.  Can you hear the music?

We offer now for your pleasure, we hope, The Centennial Celebration at Rabun Gap on Oct. 26, 2002.


We were delighted to run across Don and Terre Kelly and Bill Kelly.  Two Kellys together got the day started with a bang.

I asked Bill to pose for me in this picture.  I call it “Two Rabun Gap Landmarks”.

Our timing was great as we happened upon Dess and Jackie Oliver just as they were headed down to the train station. They were going to start the festival by taking Dess’s Tallulah Falls Train out for a spin. Sure couldn’t miss seeing that!     

In the distance I heard the sound of bagpipes.  At the entrance to the school, down on 441, two Scottish bagpipers were playing.  The sound drifting up from the valley was hauntingly beautiful and made this Scotch Irish tear up with pride.

The students carried flags and walked down the hill from the A&T building and along 441 toward the Craft Shop and Train Station. I stood on the path between the boys and girls dorm to watch them and they were obviously having great fun.  The cars along 441 were stopped and I could hear them asking the students what they were doing.  They proudly rang out “We are celebrating our Centennial”.

When the students arrived at the train station, Dess and Jackie took the train in and out of the station – depicting the arrival of the Ritchies to the festival.
It was a special moment and brought back memories of watching the Tallulah Falls Railroad train pass everyday when I was a student.  The train, station, and museum that Dess has donated to the school are treasures, which we all can enjoy.

From the train station a horse drawn buggy brought the great grandchildren of Addie Corn and Andrew Ritchie to the school.

Following were RGNS students carrying flags representing the many countries the students came from.   Preceding the buggy were the two bagpipers who were playing as they came up the hill. This was truly a beautiful and stirring sight.

Most of our 50’s group had gathered in front of the old gym to watch the parade come up the hill.  Susan Odom and Gail and Harold Thurmond were chatting away.

Hazel stopped to chat with Wilma Kelly Hoilman and Odelle Kelly Hamby.  We enjoyed seeing them at the Kickoff Celebration in Atlanta and it was good to visit with them again.

Harold Thurmond caught up with Vernon Wright on the way to hear the opening address by Headmaster Zeigler.  Unfortunately Dottie had to work and could not be with Vernon.

At the gazebo, Greg Zeigler opened the day’s events with a welcome to all alumni, students and visitors. Greg honored the Ritchies by recognizing Terri C. Pendergrast and Ritchie Williams who represented their great grandparents.  The recurring theme of the Centennial Celebration has been to honor the Ritchies and to express appreciation to the leaders, educators and benefactors who have kept the dream alive; to preserve the values of “Work, Study, Worship” upon which the school was founded; and to look to the future and adapt to meet the challenges.   I believe that Greg Ziegler has “caught” the dream and the faculty and staff of Rabun Gap today, love the school just as our teachers and administrators in the 50’s did.

Most of the activities were centered on the area between the Dining Hall, Natatorium and A&T building.  A large tent had been erected for our comfort with tables and chairs.  Very nice.

Jane Tanner Bridges, Fern Dodd Strickland, Hazel, Harold, Billy Joe and Gail were enjoying the activities and each other.

Hazel called me over to see Geneva Hopper (56) and Allene Justice Mitchell (56).  Allene said she would love to join us on the 50’s site.  It was very nice to see them after all these years.

I chanced upon Ann Hooper Welch (50) who was reading the Farm Family information.  She told me she grew up next to Beth, Carol and Dennis Dickerson in Wolffork Valley.

Several booths were set up near the Dining Hall.  Foxfire Foundation had a booth and also had set a quilt up on a frame and you could sit down and quilt for a while.

Susan took this opportunity to add a few stitches.  One of the teachers, Woody Malot, did a weaving demonstration on a loom that he and his wife had restored. There was a display of the Farm Family History and a display of pictures from the Archives.  Harold Thurmond attended the Farm Family gathering and I am going to let him tell you about it.

Harold Thurmond.

The Farm Family gathering at the Heritage Center was well attended.  Among those there were members of the Norman Coleman family, H.L. Fry family, Paul Williamson family, Edward Pitts family, Adams family, Foster family, Wilson family, Swanson family, Ransom Brown family, Claude Stiles family, Lake Stiles family, and the Clarence Thurmond family. The Edward and Dovie Pitts family (Farm Family 1950-1958) had six of the seven living children attend. The get-together at the Heritage Center lasted about 1½ hours. After a group photo was made those who so desired had lunch with the students and staff at the Addie Corn Ritchie dining hall.

A variety of Farm Family memorabilia was displayed on large boards at the Heritage Center and was moved to outside the dining hall at lunchtime. Pictures and articles relating to the Farm Family program and dating back to the 1920s brought back memories of old times and provoked the telling of many stories. I particularly enjoyed seeing Pauline and Lorene Brown who were our close school farm neighbors in the late 40s and early 50s. We reminisced about our fathers swapping out farm work and the old houses we lived in. The word “shacks” is more descriptive. Both houses had exposed studs and rafters inside. We laughed about the night a severe thunderstorm passed through about 11 PM and ripped off half the tin roof of the Browns’ house. They all walked up the hill to our house and spent the rest of the night sleeping on the floor. With five of us Thurmonds and ten Browns we had a full house. It was just shortly thereafter that the school began building new houses for both families.

My brother William and Fred Williamson stopped to chat. William who had broken his leg recently was on crutches and waited patiently for the Border Collies.  William is an interesting fellow and if you abide with him a while, he will tell you some great stories of growing up as a Farm Family child. Fred is probably best remembered for his feat of lifting an overturned tractor off Heyward Bryson. He did have the help of Lawton Brooks but at 5ft 3in, 120 lb., Lawton couldn’t lift much. As you can see Fred is still a bear of a man and in his early twenties he was a force to be reckoned with. 

Lane Stiles Londo (59) and Gene Pitts (61) reminiscing in front of the dining hall. Lane and Gene were both Farm Family children. Gene is the oldest of the eight children of Edward Pitts. Their family moved to NC in 1958. Gene now lives in Riverdale, GA. Lane is the youngest of the Lake Stiles family. She lives in Gainesville, FL where she works on the Univ. of Florida campus.

Thank you Harold.


Photos  2002 by Beverly Guthrie Lougher,  J. Harold Thurmond
and guest photographers Charlie Underwood and Susan Odom

Entire page copyright 2002 by Gappers.org

 Rabun Ramblings