'Lost Class' of 1959 (continued) (by Andrew Green, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)
"I wasn't extraordinarily active in terms of being one standing on the parapet,"he said. "The student leaders weren't trying to do much of anything except get the information out that people wanted the schools open."
Some students left home immediately, either for private schools or to live with relatives in other parts of the state and nation where they could attend public school. But many others hung on as long as they could.
The football teams from the three high schools continued to practice and play for entire season, using whatever players remained in the area. Students who had scattered across the state came home on Fridays and filled the stands.
It was homecoming every week.
"On weekends the football team played, and we did stuff for the team, rah, rah, rah, and we would cry and be sad at what we were missing" Matthews said.
For a while, a false normalcy existed. Students held dances and socialized, but gradually they and their parents realized the schools were not going to open that year.
Of Central's 535 seniors, 326 attended school in other districts or private schools in Arkansas, 20 went out of state, and 64 went to college early. Hall sent 132 of its 260 seniors to other Arkansas schools , 63 went out-of-state and 52 went to college.
About 85 percent of seniors from the all-white schools continued their education that year. The closure took a heavier toll on the all-black Horace Mann High School, where 45 percent of the seniors did not go to school at all.
Katherine Mitchell, now a member of the Little Rock School Board, was in the 10th grade at Horace Mann in 1958. She said she "was blessed" with the chance to move in with her aunt and attend tiny Lincoln High School near Hope. She went on to finish high school, attend college and eventually earn graduate degrees.
Many of her classmates were no so lucky. About 10 years after graduating from Horace Mann, Mitchell came back to Little Rock and taught adult education classes.
"When I moved back home, some of my former classmates were in adult education class," she said. "Some students didn't even go back to school, and this was 10 years later, more than 10 years later, and some students were just going to school to get their GEDs [General Education Development certificates]."
Picking up and going to a new schools was not easy, though.
Judy Ritgerod Rhodes woke up one morning that fall to her mother telling her to pack her things; her father would be home in three hours to take her to live with her grandparents in Missouri.
"I cried all the way and it rained," she said
Those who transferred to far-away schools recall the difficulties of adjusting
to new academics, new friends, and new climates.
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