Back when Killeen had only one high school and the population was somewhere around 45,000 people, the old Red Lion disco over by Conder Park was a popular place for young people to hang out and dance.
Things had a tendency to get a little wild from time to time at the disco, including the occasional police raid for underage drinking, and one night when a teen-aged Sandy Oglesby and her friend Sheri Stutzman were there with their dates, the guys all of a sudden disappeared.
“They smoked, and so they went outside to smoke a cigarette,” Sandy explained. “Sheri and I waited inside, and we were sitting there drinking our Cokes, and they never came back, never came back …
“Me and Sheri were getting a little antsy, and these two GIs walked up and said, ‘Hey, would you two ladies like to dance?’ I said, ‘Oh, no, we have dates.’ Sheri goes, “Do you see ‘em? C’mon, girl, we’re dancing!”’
That was just one of many stories filling the air Saturday as members of the historic Killeen High School class of 1978 gathered at Sandy’s Lone Star Events in Nolanville for their 40th reunion. That year, 874 seniors received diplomas at Leo Buckley Stadium, the largest graduating class in the city’s history.
In 1979, Ellison High School opened its doors, and now there are four high schools here, with plans for a fifth.
This year’s reunion kicked off with a trip Friday night to watch the Killeen Kangaroos beat Harker Heights High 21-0 in football. Around midday Saturday, senior Kangaroos began gathering at Sandy’s for a night to “renew, reunite, restore, rekindle, revitalize,” that included drinking and dancing, a buffet dinner, and proclamation from the city mayor.
Tables were beginning to fill up by early afternoon, with a total crowd estimated to reach nearly 150 people. Along the early arrivals was reunion organizer Susan Faucett and Barbara Frederick Fitzgerald, both longtime teachers in the Killeen school district.
Both ladies said it seems strange to think that 40 years have passed since they were high school seniors. Sometimes, they said, it seems like only yesterday.
“I don’t feel a whole lot different,” Faucett said. “At the game last night, it was like we were right back there (in high school). Everybody was just so glad to see each other.”
Fitzgerald, a teacher since 1984, agreed.
“It was so nice to see people that you haven’t seen in 40 years. Some people, I recognized them, but I didn’t know their names. It was like, ‘I know you — what’s your name?’
“There was a guy behind me yesterday, and he said, ‘Hey, Barbara, what you doin’?’ And I was like, ‘I’m doing fine. Who are you?’
“It doesn’t seem that long ago. I think, ‘Forty years ago?’ And then I think, well, in those 40 years, I’ve had a career, kids, grandkids … so in one respect, it’s been like forever, and in another respect, when I see all these people, it’s like it was yesterday.”