By Debbie Adams
The William Byrd High School Class of 1973 celebrated its 50-year class reunion during the
2023 Homecoming Weekend.
This year William Byrd will be marking its 100th anniversary; the Class of 1973 seniors say they
deserve “special recognition as the halfway point for the school.”
The weekend started off with a tour of the high school (now undergoing renovations) on the
morning of Oct. 13 for a trip down memory lane; followed by a pre-game tailgating party at the
football game that night with lots of mingling and storytelling; and then watching the game
between Byrd and longtime rival Lord Botetourt. (Byrd won 16-0.)
On Oct. 14, the Class of ’73 met at the Vinton History Museum, which is filled with memorabilia
and artifacts from the town and its schools, much of it donated by William Byrd alumni.
That night they held a “Reunion Celebration” at the Vinton Moose Lodge with dinner and music.
One of the organizers, Julie Ferguson Huckaby, said, “Tonight was just
perfect, in fact, just magical. We all had a wonderful time getting together.”
A special table was set up with photos of those in the Class of 1973 who have passed away.
Some alumni are local; some traveled across the country to attend. The three who came the
farthest were Steve Beer from Lincoln, Neb., Michele Myers Oakley from Rogers, Ark., and
Jeanne Reynolds Lowery from Alabama.
Beer won the prize for the classmate who traveled the very farthest to the reunion. He moved to
Nebraska soon after graduation and flew back for the class reunion – the first one he has
attended. He had not seen any of his former classmates in the intervening 50 years. His father
transferred to Nebraska when Beer was a senior at Byrd; he boarded in a Vinton home until he
graduated that spring. He is now retired from working as a computer programmer.
Michelle Myers Oakley still has quite a few Vinton connections and returns to Vinton fairly
frequently to visit family. She is the daughter of Sydney Myers, a Lifetime member of the Vinton
First Aid Crew, and sister to Gary Myers who escorted her to the event at the Vinton Moose
Lodge. After graduating from Byrd, she attended Virginia Tech and then earned her Master’s
degree from VCU. She taught school for 37 years – special education and middle school math
Jeanne Reynolds Lowery also has family in the Vinton area – her parents were Jimmy and Anita
Reynolds. Her mother came from Alabama. Lowery says both her parents loved the Vinton
History Museum and volunteered there, so it was one of her favorite parts of the reunion. She
attended Auburn University after graduating from William Byrd and then married a man from
Alabama. They have two daughters who also live there.
In all, Huckaby says about 50 alumni attended the reunion, plus their guests. She and reunion
committee members Sharon Law Meador, Rhonda Kendrick Agee (Homecoming Queen 1972),
Terrie Webber Bigler, Mary Lynn Thrasher Malone, Debbie Holloway Richardson, Linda Cox
Flippo, and Dreama Divers Hurt planned the event.
According to Huckaby, “The Class of 1973 was the first to attend the new William Byrd High
School all the way through. We started as freshmen when the school opened its doors for the first
She shared, “This reunion almost did not take place. Classmates resisted diving back into the
planning process. The class has not had a reunion in 30 years. It took a lot of talking to get the
committee on board. Now they cannot believe they waited so long. We have laughed and
reminisced about old times and how much things have changed since we attended William
During the reunion planning, Debbie Holloway Richardson brought up how hard the girls had to
fight to wear pants to school during the chilly winter months. Dresses were required for girls
back then. NO EXCEPTIONS! One day, all the girls were called to the auditorium to meet with
the administrators. Afterwards, a mini-revolt was led by a small group, and pants were soon
Some of the best memories involve Friday football games, watching the hometown boys on the
field and cheering them on. The cheers began during Friday afternoon pep rallies. Students
gathered in the gym to show support for the team. The roaring chants and applause erupted when
the players were introduced to the crowd. The cheerleaders showed their support as they led
cheers. These cheers continued Friday nights as the team played each week. Afterwards, you
could find a crowd at Lendy’s in Vinton, and then in later years at the Vinton Pizza Hut.
One committee member remembered, “Sometimes we would cruise Williamson Road to try to
find boys from other high schools.”
Many happy memories involved local dances. Huckaby says the “ladies have had a wonderful
time talking about the year that radio station WROV sponsored a contest for the ‘most spirited
school.’ Ten local high schools participated in the contest. The winner would receive a dance
held at their high school, with music provided by The Rogues, a well-known band. The high
school that sent in the most votes earned the coveted dance.
Committee members said that a vote signing party was held in the gym to try to win this dance.
Kids were laying on the floor everywhere busily signing cards. One member said that she
remembers filling out “hundreds” of cards. The “hard work” paid off. “After over three million
votes were sent in from the high schools, and William Byrd WON with 611,357 votes!”
During the summers, there would be a “hop” or dance on Friday nights. These dances took place
at what is now known as the Vinton Community Center. You could hear live music, played by
local bands, as you walked up to the center. Hopefully, you could dance the night away, but only
if the right boy tapped you on the shoulder and asked you to dance. There were many tears shed,
and a few broken hearts at the end of the night, if you did not get to dance with that cute fellow
that you had your eye on.
“Another funny memory showed up in the senior pictures … the hairstyles,” Huckaby said. “We
have gotten a big laugh out of the fact that our pictures all look exactly the same.”
Each committee member shared funny stories about former teachers. Terrie Webber Bigler said
she remembers taking driver’s training through the school. She said, “Coach Chambers was so
much fun as an instructor. He let us drive out to the Williamson Road McDonald’s, get a burger,
and return to the school.
“Many of these beloved teachers have passed away. Our principal was Robert Patterson, and the
assistant principal was Barney Craddock. These administrators are gone, but not forgotten.”