X OF 66- ALBANY HIGH SCHOOL
(A group of retired 75-year-old women who attended high school together and reconnected on their 60th birthday and travel together annually)
It’s funny how things from your past can come back suddenly in your memories. My family lived in Albany, Georgia and my brother and I graduated from Albany High School in 1966. My dad was the manager of Lykes Brothers meat packing plant in Albany and transferred to the main plant in Plant City, Florida in December after we graduated from high school. Although my brother returned to live in Albany after returning from Viet Nam in 1968 and I visited him there, I really lost most of my ties to Albany. Although I attended the 10th and 20th reunions, I had not been to anything AHS related since 1986!
I met my husband (of 54 years) as a freshman at Georgia Southern College (GSC) and we eventually settled in Huntsville, Alabama. Imagine my surprise one day in 2008, when I received an email from a high school classmate telling me about an upcoming 60th birthday cruise for the female AHS 1966 graduates! My mother had moved in with us a few years after my father passed and I remember walking into her room and telling her about the email. We both laughed at the thought that anyone from the class would even remember me! But after 3 of my classmates contacted me and encouraged me to come, I began to wonder if I should go.
A dear friend, Jane Waters Stoddard, began communicating and wonderful memories of our friendship in high school and college began to emerge. Jane was the reason that I chose to attend GSC, after she invited me to go on a school visit with her and her dad, who was an alumnus of the former Georgia Teachers College. After talking, Jane and I decided to go on the cruise and room together. We were both really nervous about seeing people who we had lost touch with, but we began to get excited about it.
The originators on the cruise planning group would send emails to everyone who had signed up and kept us updated as to who would be attending. Facebook was just becoming popular, and I began looking for classmates’ pages. As I found them, I was so interested in reading
about them and their families and memorizing what they looked like NOW. Jane and I began to talk almost daily about what to wear and not to wear and made plans to meet in Orlando. Jane would be flying down from Atlanta and my Huntsville airport had a direct flight to Orlando that year. I had diligently packed and was ready to go. My flight arrived earlier than expected due to a great tailwind, I guess, and I went to the luggage area and waited for Jane. I wondered if I would recognize her, as I hadn’t seen her since the 20th reunion, over 22 years before! Then I saw her! I was so excited and not surprised that she looked exactly like she had in high school! Her flight was a little late, but we caught the last shuttle to Port Canaveral from the airport. We were literally among the last 10 people to board the ship! We had already missed the planned meeting of our classmates, so we headed straight to the main dining room as we had missed lunch. We were walking through the crowded dining area, when I heard a familiar voice say “Well, just walk on by and don’t speak.” I looked down and saw Karen Carow Dees and Barbara Priscilla Roberts at a table. I hugged them and called them by name. We caught up for a minute and then moved on to get our plates. Jane turned to me and asked, “How did you know who they were?” I laughed and said, “I’ve been stalking them all on FB and recognized them”
Jane and I entering the ship!
At our 45th AHS reunion in 2011, we all decided to cruise again. We approached Jo Jo Smoak and she agreed to schedule it. We were all discussing where to go and which port, when suddenly Gay Lynn Williamson Adler said “Girls, it doesn’t matter what we do or where we go, as long as we are together.” And that became our motto. Patty Hughes Smith had donned our group the catchy name of “Chix of 66” and we are forever entertained by memories and a true love for each other.
We have been on 3 cruises, the third one to celebrate our 70th birthday year in 2018, and various land trips- one to Destin, FL., two to Orange Beach, Alabama, one to Isle of Palms, SC, and two to Pigeon Forge, TN. We are planning a trip to Panama City Beach this spring.
I was asked after the 2nd cruise to join the planning committee and be the communicator and treasurer. I joined Jo Jo Smoak, Mary Lu Armstrong, Betsy Bedsole Choate and Deborah Wills Watkins on the committee, and we have bonded and hopefully have planned great experiences for all. The committee has met to plan the events and meals for most trips.
We always try to consider costs and provide a fun experience for everyone. We have been on Dolphin cruises, evening cruises, a catamaran, beach trips in Cozumel and CoCo Cay, a Motown show, a country theater show, and low country boils and private chefs at our rental houses. Due to generous donations to our Chix fund, the committee always provides dinner for the night of the travel day and breakfast for the next morning. We all have wonderful Chix souvenirs that Deborah, with her husband Wayne’s help, has supplied for us such as personalized “Chix of 66” make up bags, tote bags, beach towels, cups, luggage tags, Chix apparel and lanyards. On our 70th birthday cruise, we all wore our lanyards and were well recognized on the trip. Every time we entered the ship’s elevator, someone would say “We met one on you at……….”
One of my fondest memories is the surprise bridal shower that the committee planned at the Isle of Palms house for our sweet JoJo when she became engaged. Betsy and Mary Lu planned the food and cake, I ordered the fascinator hats, and we wore vintage bridesmaids’ dresses that Deborah found to surprise her. The rest of the Chix tricked her into being seated in the dining area of our huge rental house and Deborah led us off the elevator singing “Going to the Chapel”. It was so much fun seeing her surprise!
Besides our annual trips, various Chix have met together at AHS Birthday Bashes, Grapevine Band parties in Macon and other venues, reunion parties at Gay Lynn Adler’s home, overnights and massages at Ross Bridge in Birmingham, and wonderful quarterly Chix lunches in Albany. These luncheons are planned by Karen Carow Dees and at the last one, some of us traveled from North Alabama, South Carolina, Florida and other parts of Georgia just to lunch together and visit for a couple of hours. We are a tight group, and although we have a core group of about 30 that come to every trip and stay connected, we are always welcoming to anyone from our class to join us at any time. When I took over as communicator, I promised myself that I would leave no one out and invite everyone to our gatherings, and I try my best to do that. When we plan a trip, I send an email to everyone that I have an email for and give them the date and details. I’ve spent hours researching for emails that I am missing. We are usually booked up within a week!
The hardest part of this is when someone from Albany that did not graduate in 1966 wants to join us. We had to make the rule that only 66 graduates participate. We had a large class of over 500 and it is hard enough to remember all of them. So, we are happy to be given the opportunity to connect with all of the others at the AHS Birthday Bashes which include all classes from 1960-1969.
On our first land trip to Destin, we rented 3 houses side by side. It was great but after staying all together in a large beach house in Orange Beach, Alabama on the next trip, we decided that that was the best scenario for our group. We love staying all in one large house where we can sit around in our pjs and talk after breakfast for hours! When choosing the house for our land trips, I look at the bedding arrangements and how the roommates will work out. A house might have 12 bedrooms and sleep 36, but top bunks are not ideal for us anymore, although I know some of the Chix could hop right up there! Over the years, most of us have paired up with a permanent roommate (Jane is always my “roomie” and the rest of the committee always pair up with each other), so this makes planning so much easier.
This year we all turned 75, but when we are together, we feel like we are 35- all we do is laugh and talk about memories and current activities with each other. There is genuine love and respect shown to all. I can honestly say that the “levels” we all remember from high school no longer exist with our group. Needless to say, the first cruise and reconnecting with everyone was so rewarding and has led to these many wonderful trips and experiences since that time. I m so appreciative of the hard work that the original group did for our first cruise, especially Becky Sanford Geer and Vicki McGarity Riles! I also feel completely blessed to have a husband, like so many other of us Chix, who is so supportive of my adventures with this group. Steve enjoys hearing about our antics! I have found this reconnection an uplifting part of my life and truly wish all women could have this connection.
I will end with this quote:
“We have three types of friends in life….
Friends for a reason, Friends for a season and Friends for a lifetime.” (Author unknown)
Chix of 66 are definitely friends for a lifetime.
Susan Powell Arnold
Chix of 66
11 PICTURES BELOW
First Destin trip
2nd cruise Deborah with a watermelon cut into the image of our high school mascot- the Indians.
70th birthday cruise
Ross Bridge Resort
70th birthday cruise
Isle of Palms, SC
2nd Destin trip
Pigeon Forge, TN
Isle of Palms, SC
Cozumel. -showing off our Chix towels and bags.