Pariah Rocks Again at CCHS 70’s Reunion

Clarke County High School graduates from the 1970’s gathered for a multi-class reunion at the Boyce Fire Hall in Boyce, Virginia on Saturday. Nearly 400 graduates exchanged hugs, tears and laughter with long lost friends and danced to the tunes of Clarke County’s own “Pariah”, a band revived from the 70’s for the event.

“I remember the class trip to New York City” laughed CCHS graduate Jennifer Johnson who now lives and works in Winchester. “We had a blast! We were all so excited to go to the “Big City”. A lot of kids had never been out of Clarke County before. Seeing everyone again here tonight is really great. Even though a lot of us still live within a 30-mile radius it’s odd that we don’t take the time to see each other more often. I think that it’s hard with everyone working. But we all still feel like neighbors.”

More than 350 CCHS graduates from the 1970's gathered in Boyce, Virginia on Saturday - Photo Edward Leonard

1978 graduate Sam Card said that it was wonderful to be together with so many former classmates. Card said that one of the great aspects of CCHS in the 70’s were the teachers who contributed so much knowledge and guidance to the students.

“I think of our English teacher Alice Loobe” Card shouted above the rock music being blasted through the fire hall by a warm-up band in preparation for Pariah’s debut performance. “I used to talk to her about my experiences hiking the Appalachian Trail and she introduced me to reading Shakespeare. She was a demanding but kind teacher who brought the best out of her students.”

Ron Baker was a founding member of the local band Pariah - Photo Edward Leonard

In addition to reconnecting to long lost classmates and friends, for many of the reunion attendees the highlight of the event was the performance by Ron Baker’s band Pariah.

“How often does something this cool happen?” asked former graduate Sam Levi. Levi, who is now a plumber in Berryville, recounted memories of when Baker and his band made music at dances held in what was then known as the Legion Building but has since been converted to the Berryville Dollar Store. “One time we were all there and Ron’s amplifier broke. We all waited while he walked back to his brother’s house on Academy Street and picked up a different amplifier.”

“At the 30 year reunion we didn’t have entertainment so Ron Baker and another Pariah band member, Bill Rosenberry, decided that it would be fun to try and get the old band together in time for this reunion” said reunion organizer Hampton Thomas on Saturday.

CCHS 1978 graduate Sam Card gazes at photos of classmates - Photo Edward Leonard

Thomas said that he and his wife Susie took on the planning for the event while Baker and Rosenberry agreed to work on contacting Pariah’s former members to stage the band’s rebirth.

Although the death of Bill Rosenberry in early 2011 cast a pall on the planning, Baker still pushed ahead with the idea. Even though former band members Butch Price, Mike McClung and Jan White could not attend Pariah’s revival concert, Baker, who travelled from Tennessee for the reunion, was able to convince Wrennie Weir to make the trip from his home in Florida. Former Pariah member Bane Schill also joined his former band members to round out the musical trio.

Judging by the roar from the audience as Baker and Pariah took the stage the group may have to consider launching a nostalgia tour – at least through Clarke and Frederick counties.

“It’s really great to see them play again” said one reunion guest. “This brings back a lot of memories and memories are one thing that you can’t take away from a person.”

“There’s no way to describe how great this feels” said Pariah founder Ron Baker. “It’s like being in a brotherhood. It’s also a chance to show the younger kids that we can still get out there and do it.”

The 1970’s in Clarke County, like other places in the country, was a time of tremendous social change. Students and young people questioned many of the country’s traditions and authority structures with the goal of making the world a better place for future generations.

Graduates wore graduation photos along with name tags - Photo Edward Leonard

Many of Saturday’s reunion attendees recounted one memory of racial solidarity that still elicited pride nearly 40 years after it happened.

“Back in the 70’s was a little hard for our class of 1973 because that was the first time we ever had a black queen for the homecoming game and also a black band for the prom” said Berryville resident Dee Dee Liggins. “It happened because the black football players and the rest of us piled up in the office and the guys refused to play in the game until we got those things. That is only one story but to us it was great.”

Ronnie Huff, who today is an agricultural consultant in Berryville, was captain of the 1972 – 1973 football team.

Clarke football players (l-r) Bill Jackson, not named, Michael Carter, Ronnie Huff, Jack Pendleton - Photo Edward Leonard

“I don’t know that I would go so far as to say that we wouldn’t have played if the school hadn’t agreed to have a black band and black queen at the prom” Huff, who is white, said. “But we only had 25-30 players which was a pretty small team so we stuck together. It was a good group and we had no racial tension among us at all.”

Outside in the fire hall parking lot former graduates Bruce Tinsman and Ricky Thomas sat near each other and smoked cigarettes while recounting their former school days. Both quickly acknowledged being part of the request for adding a stronger African American component to the 1973 high school prom.

“It made me feel good to do” said Tinsman with a mischievious grin. “Back then my hair was so long that I had to move it in order to just sit down. We wanted to change the world. “

Nearby Ricky Thomas gave a laugh of agreement when he heard Tinsman’s description of long hair and new ideas.

“We were eighteen years old and it was our generation’s turn to be in charge” Thomas said. “We all felt like maybe that was our first chance to start changing things.”

Self described high school hippies (l-r) Ricky Thomas and Bruce Tinsman - Photo Edward Leonard

Class photos on display at the Boyce Fire Hall - Photo Edward Leonard

Comments

  1. Butch Price says:

    What a great article! I’m very sad I couldn’t be there last night to see my old band mates and CCHS friends. I have no doubt the band did well as they all are great musicians. Memories are numerous from those days and another reminder of how wonderful growing up in a small town in Berryville, VA and the Shenandoah Valley was to a kid. To Ronnie, Wrennie, Jan, Mike, Bane, and the memory of my friend Byrl all I can say is thanks for the good times and memories. Thanks to Hampton, Susie, and the Clarke Daily News for keeping those memories alive.

    Butch Price

  2. Jeff Rosenberry says:

    I like Butch am very sad I couldn’t be there Sat. evening.Sounds like something awesome happened in Boyce Va. last night.I know my brother was there in spirit because he and Ron had been talking about this for quite a while.I also know somewhere he has a big smile on his face to know that it finally happened.Thanks to everyone who helped make it happen and all the hard work put in by everybody.Hopefully someday it will all come alive again and the people who didn’t get the chance to enjoy it this time will be able too on the next “encore” show.Also thanks to CDN for the great article about it.

  3. Delisa Morrow Sturtz '73 says:

    Great article ! I’d like to thank Hampton & Susie and all hands that went into preperation for this “fabulous fanstic reuion” , noone realizes all the work that has to be done.Hats off and kudos. Outstanding reuion. I was so excited about the reuion I did a count down on FB. It was great to see so many classmates and such a big turn-out. .Girlfirends we went to football games,the tastee-freeze, had sleepovers,went skating rink. Old boyfriends,prom dates.It was great ,lot of memories . THANK-YOU to “Pariah” you guys also made it a sucess.

  4. Joe Dickie says:

    I would have done about anything to have been there. Thanks for report and much respect to the organizers and those who were there to celebrate good times past and present. Pariah = one of the greatest bands of all time 🙂