Hundreds gathered in Conway County this past weekend for a reunion to remember their days at what was once Plumerville Schools. The district shut down decades ago during integration. But the impact and memories are still very much alive in the heart of those former students.
"Lots of good memories," recalls former student Kenneth Wade. "Good memories and fun times that I had in the eight years I went here."
Organizers say they expected 400 to 500 people to show up for the Second Mt. Carmel Baptist Church Homecoming and Plumerville School Reunion. David Cox is the senior pastor at Mt. Carmel. He says the weekend's event is not only about reflection, but also about passing along the stories from days past to the younger generation. He says it will help them reflect on what society has achieved so far.
"It will strengthen the bridge between the past and the present, the traditional and the contemporary," Cox said. "It allows our young people the opportunity to hear reflections from those who have lived through those times of segregation and fewer opportunities."
Some of the former students spent their adult lives as educators themselves. Leola Rice Adams says she became passionate about education during her time at Plumerville Schools. Adams went on to teach students in Florida for 38 years.
"Our teachers were our Sunday School teachers," Adams remembers. "If you went to the grocery store, you saw your teacher. You went to church and your teacher was there."
Retired Army veteran and Conway High School teacher Charles Ausler, Jr. Spends much of the year teaching the younger generations the importance of a good education. He started a tutoring program inside the historic Plumerville School more than a decade ago. It started in 2001 for young men in the church who needed a little extra help. The program has now grown to include the entire community.
"Our church donates this building to the South Conway County School District for the outreach tutoring program," Ausler said. "We help K-12 with homework and prepare them for their benchmark exams."
Pastor Cox says he wants to see the reunion happen again and again to inspire future generations and allow older role models a time to reminiscence.
"We want to continue to ensure that the story is told," Cox says. "And not only that the story is told but that we continue to learn from the story as well."
Wade says as long as it happens, he will show up and enjoy the events. "I made a lot of lifetime friends and because of this school, my life has been quite successful," he said.
The education building that was once Plumerville School is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built by the Work Progress Administration in 1939.