Long History of Senior Trips for Arthur Students
By MARTY YEAKEL
The Arthur Lovington Atwood Hammond High School Class of 2022 will once again be taking a senior trip out east after a two-year hiatus. There is a long history of senior trips for those going to school in Arthur that dates back to the early 1950s. The AHS Class of 1951 took a day trip to Chicago and the Class of 1952 also went to Chicago on the train and spent the night according to Ellen Riley Dukeman, AHS ‘52.
Marilyn Watkins, whose husband Craig was in the Class of 1953, remembers that Craig’s class took the first ever Senior class trip organized by Superintendent/Principal, R.R. Wilson. Marilyn recalls, “They went to Niagara Falls where the girls stayed in one cabin and the boys in another. Pretty late the first night the boys were climbing out the window to go visit the girls when they were met by Mr. Wilson on the crosswalk. There were no more shenanigans on that trip!” A few years ago Deb Flavin, former Spanish teacher at ALAH found an article from the Decatur Daily Review dated May 12, 1953, regarding that trip. From the article: “Twenty-nine seniors of Arthur High School and their chaperones returned Sunday night from a four day trip to the East. The trip, by bus, was to Canada and Niagara Falls. The group left Thursday morning and was accompanied by R.R. Wilson, school superintendent, Mrs. Russell Lewey and Mrs William Hoffman.”
Senior trips to Washington, D.C. actually began with the Arthur High School Class of 1955. Idalene Browning Watkins, a member of that class, recalled a few years ago that this senior trip, “was wonderful, something I’ll never forget,” At that time she also said, “I just hope they appreciate what they’re getting to do,” she said. “I know I did.”
Although the trip began as one to Washington, D.C., over the years it has expanded. Some classes (beginning with 1970) have also gone to New York and/or Philadelphia. Many have made a stop at Gettysburg National Park and Battleground. For many years, there was always a stop at Luray Caverns in Virginia. There have sometimes been White House tours, baseball games, movie going, and the tour of DC at night, a favorite for many. This year’s class will be going to the National Zoo, taking a water taxi cruise to National Harbor, doing Segway Tours, going to some of the Smithsonian Museums, visiting many or most of the national monuments and memorials both during the day and also on the ever popular night tour of DC. A visit to George Washinton’s home, Mt. Vernon is also on tap. One of their last stops will be at Arlington National Cemetery. On the way home they will make a stop in Shanksville, Pennsylvania at the site of the Flight 93 Memorial which commemorates the tragic events of September 11, 2001.
When asked for some senior trip memories on the Arthur High School alumni page on facebook, here are some of the responses.
Billie Carman Long (AHS ‘66) stated: “I remember Denny Harmon and Mike Rutlege bringing their guitars and singing us all the way there and back!”
A couple of members from the Class of 1968 had different memories. Anita Howell Burnett jokes “what happened on the trip stays on the trip!” Nancy Atteberry Clark remembered a more sobering moment, of visiting John F. Kennedy’s grave and the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Nancy says, “I remember the hush that came over all of us.” On a bit of a side note, Marty Stock Yeakel (also ‘68) remembers that this was a tragic year in that “Martin Luther King was shot in Memphis in April of our senior year and Robert Kennedy was shot and died on the day we graduated from high school.”
Theresa Beachy Binion remembers that her class (AHS ‘69) “raised money by walking a field of picked corn and took that leftover corn to the elevator.” Lee Holmes, also ‘69 said, “We had to get out and push our bus off of the road somewhere outside of DC. Not sure what was wrong with it.”
From the AHS Class of 1970: Jeri Hood Marshall said, “I believe the Class of 70 was the first class to go to New York plus Washington DC. I still have the itinerary plus various mementos in a scrapbook besides photos. It definitely was an experience I will never forget.” Connie Trower Armer, “Great trip to New York and seeing the Rockettes and Washington D.C. all the memorial’s were awesome. Making memories with our classmates and teachers will always have a special place in my heart.”
Both Linda Conn Cearlock and Sandy Oye Snyder from the Class of 1973 remember having to use the Driver’s Education car because there were too many students to fit on the bus. “We all had to take turns riding in the car.” Sandy also said she remembers that it was not a good start to the trip as, “the bus broke down in Paris and I don’t remember how long it took before we got back on the road.”
“I still have the sterling silver Lady Liberty necklace that I bought in the gift shop at the Statue of Liberty while on our senior trip in 1975. This was the only souvenir that I purchased for myself while on the trip.” Dianne Fidler Wilcoxon, AHS Class of 1975.
Cheryl Rich, Class of 1978, “so much fun and definitely a blessing for us all to be that fortunate to have such a wonderful senior class trip!”
Brenda Daily Munds, AHS 1980 had this to say, “I Loved it! Class of ‘80! Arlington, Gettysburg, Small limited tour of the Whitehouse. Chinatown, Washington monuments lit up at night! I remember our Busdriver was really fun. We got pulled over and he got a speeding ticket!”
Kent Alan Stock, AHS Class of 1982 wrote about the senior trip several times in his Town Talk column. From a 2018 TT: “I want to wish the Arthur Lovington Atwood Hammond Class of 2018 a FANTASTIC Senior Trip to Washington, DC which sets sail (okay they are going by bus as always) this Saturday. The kids get an added bonus this year as they have been approved for a White House tour!” He added, “The itinerary has changed over the years since it all started back in the mid 50’s but I am so happy this rite of passage still takes place. We went in 1982, to Washington, DC, Gettysburg and New York City plus Luray Caverns in Virginia where you can see Pluto’s Ghost SEVEN times throughout the tour! What a great time! I even got to meet my nephew Jason Yeakel and friends in 1991 and niece Kyra’s class in 1993. I remember getting on the Metro train downtown near where I worked and looking up that year. Hey, there is Jo Ellen Seaman, who was accompanying the class on their trip that year, and Kyra’s classmates. Out of all the trains running in DC throughout the day, I happen to actually get on the subway car with the people I am going to meet! No matter where you go or where you travel, have a great time Class of 2018! Perhaps you will run into a familiar face this year from Arthur, Lovington, Atwood or Hammond. We small town people get around!”
A thoughtful response from Steven Rush, AHS ‘94.”My memory isn’t great, I have flashes. I remember that it was the first time that I felt like an adult. The teachers and chaperones gave us rules and set expectations but they also treated us like adults.”
Hillary Burnett remembers, “the Class of ‘97 trip was fun. Mr. Wilson gave us the option of either going to the White House or a Baltimore Orioles game. Of course we chose the game. It was a lot of fun!” (note: this is not the same Mr. Wilson mentioned earlier but Travis Wilson who was principal/superintendent at Arthur for several years.)
One of the teachers at Arthur High School used the senior trip as a learning/teaching moment that made for a special memory for many. Jessica Watkins Vanausdoll from the Class of 2002 recalls that their trip to DC came, “about 8 months after 9/11. Visiting the Vietnam wall and Lincoln Memorial at night will always be a special memory. Our English teacher, Ann Wheeler, read “Letters Home from Vietnam,” with us before the trip. We each chose a soldier to write a letter to and left the letter at the Vietnam Wall at their name. She made our experience very meaningful and memorable.” Abigail Chapman Rodebaugh (AHS 2007) also mentioned Mrs. Wheeler and the letters she had them write so she must have done this with several classes.
Kristina Miller Shafer, also 2002, had this to say about the trip and how fortunate our seniors are to be able to do this. “So much fun and so special! Over the years I’ve shared stories and talked about the itinerary from our senior trip with so many people, and I always get the same response. Surprised and impressed. I just always assumed everyone had a senior trip, but that is most definitely not the case. And most of the ones who said they did, only did like day trips to Chicago. We are pretty lucky.”
Joseph Rohr, 2001, almost got left at Union Station in Philadelphia. “I was talking to some girl from Pennsylvania and Mr. Wilson had to come find me.”
Jenna Hill-Rich, AHS Class of 2004 said, “I believe our class was possibly the first to get to experience ground zero’s aftermath.”
And this from one of the many teachers who traveled with the seniors over the years. Michael Reynolds, industrial arts teacher: “Well after going on the trip 15 times as a faculty member I believe I could be a tour guide in Washington D.C. I have so many very fond memories of being honored to go with the seniors to Washington DC , Philadelphia and New York City. I will cherish those memories for the rest of my life.”
Some of the history of this trip was provided and prompted by Mary Huffman Martinez who graduated from ALAH in 2017. That year she was the high school correspondent for the News-Gazette which did a small feature on the fact that our seniors had been taking this trip (at that time uninterrupted) for over 60 years. Part of the article in the News-Gazette contained this information: “When it comes to senior trips, the Knights have no peers. Thanks to organized and efficient fundraising, the kids have traveled east every year since ‘55.” “Students begin raising money in junior high for the trip,” Principal Steffanie Seegmiller said. “It provides an even playing field so that everyone has the ability to attend.” Seegmiller, who went as an Arthur student, is chaperoning this year’s 55-person, two-bus excursion (covered in this week’s High School Confidential), which is scheduled to wrap up today at Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The six-day trek allows for plenty of sightseeing and bonding. Just ask anyone in town.” At that time this writer had this to say for the same piece, “I know I’m not alone when I say that I went in ‘68, my kids went in ‘91 and ‘93 and my first granddaughter will be going with the Class of 2020,” said Marty Yeakel of the Arthur Alumni Association. “There are many in town who can say the same thing.” Unfortunately, life happens and circumstances change and the Classes of 2020 and 2021 were unable to go on this trip and many will tell you it’s one of the biggest regrets for our kids these last two years. Getting to go on a trip like this with your classmates is an unforgettable experience. BUT, the Class of 2022 will resume the tradition and it will, hopefully continue for many years to come and many more generations will be able to say that several family members were able to make this trip with their classmates.
Which is why when that high school student approaches you to buy a raffle ticket, fruit, candy bars, baked goods, etc. remember that your money is going to support a very special tradition that has been in place for over 60 years. A trip to our nation’s capital is one that many may never get to experience if not for the determination of those in our schools who understand the importance of making never to be forgotten memories and maybe learning something at the same time. Friends and family back in our communities of Arthur Lovington Atwood and Hammond wish you all a fun trip, arriving back home safely with many great memories of your own to share with future travelers!