It was an event decades in the making.
More than 125 alumni of J.J. Jones High School have converged on their alma mater this weekend for this year’s eighth bi-annual reunion, a weekend that features a cookout, fashion and talent show, dancing and one special moment, today’s ribbon cutting for an exhibit on their school at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History.
Friday night’s cookout featured smiles, sometimes-raucous laughter and re-connections with old classmates, many of whom traveled from places like Atlanta, Ga., Virginia Beach and Pennsylvania to attend.
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.
For Gloria Reynolds Scott, class of 1962, every reunion is a chance to reconnect with her past.
“Why do I try to come every time I can?” She asked rhetorically. “It has become a tradition for me. It’s like a family reunion. Like coming home.
“Well, it is coming home,” Scott, who traveled from Virginia Beach to attend, said as she looked over the all-to-familiar building. “This school helped me become who I am. It instilled values and friendships in addition to education. Jones High School gave me a sense of direction and an opportunity to be something more than just a farmer.”
She became quiet.
“It also gave me my husband, who is now deceased,” Scott said.
That sense of family was a familiar theme throughout the evening.
Regina Brim, who was a member of the last class to graduate from the school in 1966, said the reunions are a chance to reconnect with the past.
“There are so many people here who I haven’t seen since graduation,” she said as she looked around the room full of people munching on barbecue and hot dogs. “I hope every year that someone from my class will come back, but it’s just wonderful to see alumni from this school back together again.
“It was like a family,” Brim added. “The teachers cared so much about us and wanted us to succeed. They were like my parents. This school was home for many of us. It’s part of who I am today.”
For many Jones alumni, the school was part of the African American community, and now is part of the Mount Airy community.
“In the 1960s, we were segregated, so this place was home for me,” said Rosa Tucker Opoulos, class of 1965.
She looked around.
“I remember this room used to be the library. There is a connection to the past here. It’s like our extended family has come home,” said Opoulos.
As the group was called to fix their plates a song came on the radio playing in the corner.
And the words “you’re going to make this place your home” emanated from the speakers as once again the J.J. Jones High School family came together.
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.