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When movies cost 10 cents...

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Bedford High graduates gather to remember, catch up

By John Barnhart

girls. The girls’ door was on the east side and the boys’ was on the west.

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    Everybody walked to school in Bedford. Pizzati said that winters were much colder and snowier than they are now.

    “In the wintertime, I would get to school and my feet were frozen,” she recalled.

    The other children also got to school with cold feet. Pizzati said they would all go to a big heat register in the hall to get their feet warm.

    Back when Pizzati went to high school, some cars had rumble seats. This was an upholstered exterior seat located where the trunk of a modern car is. The seat’s back was on the underside of the hinged lid and the seat could accommodate a couple of people, out in the wind and elements. Pizzati recalled them and said that they didn’t provide the most pleasant of rides with the wind blowing your hair in all directions.

    The Bedford High School graduating class consisted of 32 students.

    “We only had 32 graduated,” said Pizzati. “Can you imagine that?”

    A couple of years after graduation, Mike Reynolds went on to establish, with two other young men, People’s Furniture. The store was originally owned by an outfit out of Lynchburg and the young men were running it. They felt that, as they were doing all the work, they should get the profits and were able to buy the place. That was in the middle of the Depression, and the store is still there.

    Going to high school in the Depression wasn’t depressing.

    “High school was fun,” recalled Eleanor May, who graduated in 1939.

    “I knew you could go to the theater for 10 cents, go ... and stay all day,” she said.

    That was on Saturdays. Theaters screened “serials,” movies that were shown as episodes.

    “I worked in my junior and senior year in the dime store [J. J. Newberry, on North Bridge Street] to make extra money,” said Helen Tankersley, Class of 1936.

    She made 50 cents a day and noted that a bag of popcorn in a theater cost 5 cents.

    Tankersley behaved herself. She had to. Her father, Frank Hubbard, was a policeman.

    “He knew everything that was going on in Bedford,” she said.

    Bedford was a small town back then, much smaller than it is now, so most people knew everything that was going on.

    “Everybody knew, yesterday, what you were going to do tomorrow,” Tankersley commented.

    She played basketball and was also a cheerleader in high school.

    “It was fun. Hard work, but fun,” recalled Grace Johnson, Class of 1939.

    “In those days, we didn’t have any money,” she added.

    Charlie Reynolds, Class of 1939, noted that didn’t bother them as teens. He said they didn’t know they were poor until the Democrats told them they were poor. Charlie and Mike Reynolds, by the way, are brothers.

    “He’s my older brother,” said Charlie Reynolds, with emphasis on the word “older.”

    High school was different in those days.

    “They kept you after school for chewing gum,” recalled Tankersley, with Reynolds noting that you also faced disciplinary action from your parents when you got home. And, don’t even think about smoking at school.

    Nevertheless, they appreciated their principal, Joel Borden. Tankersley said that Borden was strict, but he was also fun.

    “He was a disciplinarian,” she recalled. “There was no foolishness going on when he was there.”

    There were also serious discussions in class. Reynolds remembered one class that included discussions of current affairs. His senior year was a time when the war clouds were gathering in Europe and most people felt that the United States had no business getting involved.

    “What was going on in Europe was their problem, not ours,” he recalled.

    The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor changed everybody’s mind, Reynolds said,

    “Overnight it [the attack] just changed it,” he said.

    Once the United States was in the war, everybody was involved. People didn’t complain about rationing, they just did what needed to be done. Now, he notes, only the troops are fighting.

    In spite of the Depression, there were jobs to be had. Coleman Musgrove, Class of 1933, said his first job was at Heller’s Drug Store.

    “I was a soda jerk,” said Coleman who added that he worked all through the Depression.

    Heller’s later became Green’s and was located in the building that now houses Ivy Bridge Cafe and the Okuley Group. It had a soda fountain that served treats such as soft drinks, milkshakes, banana splits and sandwiches. He bought his first car, a Model A Ford, around 1940.

    Johnson took shorthand and typing classes at night and got a job in the school board office. Later, during World War II, she worked in a federal office in Washington, D.C.

    Elizabeth Teass, Class of 1941, ended up working at Green’s Drug Store.

    “Mr. Green had the agency for Western Union in the drugstore,” she said.

    Her job was to operate the teletype machine. Telegrams came in from the Western Union office in Roanoke. Every morning, she would start up the machine and type, “Good morning. Go ahead. Bedford.” The normal reply would be “Good morning. Roanoke.”

    One July day in 1944 was different. She signed on with her usual “Good morning” greeting. Instead of the usual “Good morning” response, the Roanoke office replied “We have casualties.”

    “It was a shock,” Teass recalled. “I never thought of that coming in. From then on, they started coming in.”

    Teass said that Frank Thomas, who worked for Mr. Green making deliveries, delivered the telegrams in Bedford. The sheriff and Roy Israel, who operated a taxi service, delivered them in the county. To this day, she can hardly imagine what it must have been like for families to see these telegrams coming.

    “I think about those parents,” she said. “I knew a lot of the boys.”

    If Teass didn’t know them, she knew their families. She was in shock, but she had the responsibility to make sure they got delivered, and were kept confidential.

    “It was so sad,” she said.

    Tankersley recalls that time.

    “The day the telegrams started coming in, you could have heard a pin drop in Bedford. You could see men with tears in their eyes,” she said. Frank Draper was one of her high school classmates and she also knew most of the others.

    Allen Huddleston’s name could well have been on one of those telegrams but for an accident during training shortly before D-Day.

    “Robert Goode broke my ankle,” he said.

    Huddleston, one of the last remaining Bedford Boys, was in the hospital on D-Day. He rejoined the company the third week of August and was wounded on the last day of September, on the Dutch-German border. Shrapnel from a German 88mm shell hit his right shoulder, taking him out out of the war and leaving him with a 40 percent disability. Huddleston ultimately became a well known local photographer, operating a photography business for years.

    Ray Noell, Class of 1938, was also in Bedford’s National Guard Company. He was not with the unit on D-Day, however, because Captain Taylor Fellers, the company commander, had sent him to officer candidate school. Noell came ashore two days after D-Day, as a replacement for a platoon leader. Noell won the Silver Star for his action as a platoon leader in the hedgerow fighting.

    The Bedford High Class of 1941 lost their class president in the war. Edward Holdren was the tail gunner on a B-17 that was shot down on March 17, 1945. According to information provided by Doris Stanley, a member of the class, Holdren safely parachuted out and was executed by a German when he landed. The German, Heirich Franke, ended up being tried and hanged as a war criminal.

    Holdren, however wasn’t originally the class president. That was J. S. Meador. Stanley said that Meador wanted to play football one more year and handed in a blank exam at the end of the school year. As a result, he graduated in the Class of 1942, but the group from 1941 still include him.

    A number of these folks remain vigorous. Eileen Beckman, for example, still rides her horse and celebrated her 91st birthday by riding horseback.

    What keeps them going? Meador attributes his longevity to avoiding doctors, but determination could play a role.

    “Can’t is not in my vocabulary,” said Pizzati, who though wheel chair bound notes that she can still do a lot with her hands.