J.J. Jones High School no longer exists, but the same can’t be said for the special memories made there — which former Jones students will share during an upcoming reunion.
It will be held on Aug. 30-Sept. 1, featuring a cookout, fashion show, dancing and other activities, and one special event in particular: an Aug. 31 ribbon cutting for a new J.J. Jones exhibit at Mount Airy Museum of Regional History.
J.J. Jones High served generations of black students locally from 1936 to 1966, when it ceased to exist due to integration and its students were moved to Mount Airy High School.
But its many alumni have remained a close-knit group, including holding bi-annual reunions, with the eighth one upcoming during the Labor Day weekend. About 150 people usually attend, coming from as far as Alaska, Florida and other states.
“Everybody seems like they’ve got a sense of accomplishment,” Eddie McDaniels of Mount Airy, one of the reunion organizers, said of the mood at those gatherings, “because everybody knows what we all went through.”
Along with being a J.J. Jones High student himself, McDaniels’ mother, Kathleen Mills, was a member of its first senior class in 1941 and his sister was among its last graduates in 1966.
This year’s festivities will begin on Aug. 30, with on-site registration at 4 p.m., followed by a 5 p.m. cookout at Jones Resource Center on Jones School Road, a community facility that utilizes the former educational institution. Barbecue, hot dogs and other items will be served.
A fashion/talent show, which has become a reunion fixture, is scheduled for 7 p.m. that day in the L.H. Jones Alumni Auditorium. The show will include men and women, both young and old, McDaniels said.
Activities will continue on Aug. 31 with a breakfast honoring J.J.Jones graduates who are 80 and older. It will be held at Mountain View Restaurant in Pilot Mountain at 8:45 a.m.
A gathering that day from noon to 2 p.m. on the third floor of the regional museum on North Main Street will include the ribbon cutting for the exhibit there dedicated to the rich history of J.J. Jones High School. It will include rotating displays of items donated to the museum by students, such as sports and majorette uniforms, varsity letters, yearbooks and others.
Those items have been gradually accumulated by the museum and housed there in anticipation of their unveiling during the J.J. Jones reunion.
A business meeting is scheduled for 12:15 p.m. on Aug. 31 in the museum’s second-floor conference room.
Later that day, registration and seating will begin at 6 p.m. for an evening banquet in the Jones auditorium. Songs will be performed by Karl Allen, Marie Nicholson and Eric Strickland. Recognition of “golden” class graduates from 1962 and 1963 also is planned during the evening along with other acknowledgements for supporters or former students. There also will be remarks from John Jessup, president of the J.J. Jones High School Alumni.
Music, dining and dancing begin at 7 p.m., featuring tunes from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.
The final day of the reunion will include a Sunday fellowship service at 10 a.m. in the auditorium. Evangelist Juanita Tatum will lead the service.
During the reunion activities on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, a local photographer will be available to take family, individual and fashion show pictures, with 20 percent of the proceeds to be donated to the J.J. Jones alumni group.
McDaniels said one pressing need for the group is the replacement of curtains in the auditorium which date to the 1950s. “We’ve already got some donations, so we’re heading in the right direction,” he said.
Advance registration tickets covering all reunion activities are available for $70 each, with the option of showing up and paying for events individually also available to attendees. Tickets and more information are available from any member of the J.J. Jones High Alumni Chapter.
McDaniels said the upcoming gathering will be a time of celebration and remembrance among the former students for their school that provided a lasting bond for those who passed through its doors.
“It seems like the Lord has been with us all the way.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.