The Class of 1949 reached out and touched the world.
That was evidenced recently when members of Murfreesboro’s Central High School Class of 1949 celebrated their milestone 65th reunion at Through the Grapevine Restaurant.
“As an international electric utility consultant, I was in Ukraine 10 years ago when the first (political) revolution was happening,” noted Joe Sloan. “I traveled to 48 countries during my career after starting my career back here at Middle Tennessee Membership Electric Cooperative.”
Sloan’s global journey took him to Pakistan 26 times.
“They wouldn’t grant me a work visa in Pakistan, so after working there less than 30 days each trip, I’d come back to the U.S.,” Sloan said. “Then, I’d pack and head back to Pakistan where I was an electricity consultant.”
In Central High’s “Post Script” Yearbook shared by present-day Smyrna resident/Central graduate Dorothy Jean Allen Barnett, these words were posted beside Sloan’s picture: “A friend to all … A leader to the same.”
Out of more than 100 graduates from 1949, more than 30 were in attendance at the recent reunion, including Leslie Sanders whose yearbook inscription reads: “Good nature and good sense are good companions.”
“What does a Tennessee hillbilly get up and say at a reunion like this?” Sanders asked at the invitation of Class of 1949 President John Douglass Hood, who was president each year (1946-47-48-49) as he and his classmates prepared to impact their community and world.
“I live at Huntsville where I began a career teaching our nation’s missile systems, including Red Stone,” Sanders shared.
“I helped teach how to operate big missile systems all over the world.”
Sanders’ classmates seemed especially attentive when he asked: “How many of you remember America’s Cuban Missile Crisis?”
“Well, that crisis (which happened during President John Kennedy’s administration) was our nation’s fault,” Sanders noted. “It didn’t come out in the news this way, but it was our fault because we had installed missiles all along Russia’s borders, some of which could have reached Moscow. Russia wanted missiles in Cuba, as a consequence.”
Including reunion host John Hood, all four Class of 1949 officers were in attendance, including vice president Jack Pearson, secretary Betty Hoover and treasurer William Taylor.
“It’s so good, even remarkable, that so many of us could gather and share here today,” noted Hood, whose broadcast career began at WGNS Radio during his high school days and made him a household name throughout Rutherford County before he helped recruit the Samsonite plant to Murfreesboro and before being elected as a Rutherford County state representative in the Tennessee Legislature in the 1990s.
Today, Hood is still serving the community as a goodwill ambassador/legislative liaison for MTSU.
“We appreciate John Hood organizing this reunion,” noted Dorothy Jean Barnett, who registered classmates at the door.
81-year-old Clayton Rutledge recalls “cow milking duties” back on the family farm early each day before attending classes at old Central High. In that era, Rutherford County was considered the dairy farming capital of Tennessee.
“I ended up milking cows for 20 years of my life,” noted Rutledge. “I was drafted into the Army after high school.”
Rutledge recalls “courting my wife (the former Carolyn Travis) for two years after we met in church.”
“We courted two years to let Carolyn get legally old enough to marry me,” noted Rutledge, whose older brother, Don Rutledge, became a world-acclaimed photographer.
“As high school boys, I’d get up at dawn to milk the cows,” Rutledge shared. “It wouldn’t be long before Don would show up at the barn with his camera to take pictures with an old World War II, vintage German-made camera that a relative brought back from Europe.”
Central High graduate Don Rutledge died in February, 2013, following a photography career that took him to more than 140 nations.
1949 Central High grad Tom Farmer shared about his 30-year career in the Tennessee National Guard, where he attained the rank of general.
“I also enjoyed a long career in my family’s Farmer’s Brothers insurance agency,” Farmer noted as each classmate stood and shared their life trails of experiences.