Celebrating a school that unified a community

Eagleton Junior High alumni plan reunion for July 18

Planning the Eagleton Junior High Reunion are, from left, Robert Russell, Teresa Lane McNeil, Scott Davis, Lynn Keown Waters, Sue Thomas Martin and Harriett Estes Irwin.

Photo by Leslie Karnowski

Planning the Eagleton Junior High Reunion are, from left, Robert Russell, Teresa Lane McNeil, Scott Davis, Lynn Keown Waters, Sue Thomas Martin and Harriett Estes Irwin.

Showing their spirit while cheering on Eagleton Junior High’s teams are, from left, Linda Coulter, Claudia Hensley, Brenda Richardson, Wanda Maranville and Mary Coltharp. The cheerleader on the right was unidentified.

Showing their spirit while cheering on Eagleton Junior High’s teams are, from left, Linda Coulter, Claudia Hensley, Brenda Richardson, Wanda Maranville and Mary Coltharp. The cheerleader on the right was unidentified.

Photo with no caption

Scott Davis knows the look. He gets it every time he tells someone he is planning a reunion for his junior high school.

“When you talk about a junior high reunion, people look at you squirrelly,” he said while meeting with other members of the committee planning the event.

Yet, that is exactly what a core group of graduates from Eagleton Junior High is doing. And if it sounds strange, consider the fact that 500 people attended the first reunion five years ago. Planners this year are aiming for 1,000.

The reunion, for those who attended Eagleton from 1963 to 1980, will be 2 to 5 p.m. July 18 in the Eagleton Middle School Gym.

“We had around 500 five years ago but didn’t do a lot of promotions then,” committee member Robert Russell said. “We’re hoping for 700 to 1,000. We’re going to be spread out over two gyms, and each class will have a designated area where classmates can congregate.”

Russell said there would also be a short program primarily to recognize former principal Robert Maxey and do a very short memorial recognizing coach Paul Gilley and former Eagleton Elementary principal Sam Blevins.

Russell, a 1964 graduate of Eagleton Junior High, said the school was built for the junior high concept of seventh, eighth and ninth grade students. During the 17 years it was a junior high year, there was only one principal, Robert Maxey. He was at the reunion five years, and he will be honored at this event.

“The real focus of this year’s event is to have classes sit together and reconnect and just have a time of talking and fellowship,” Russell said. “Lots of our teachers will be there. When the junior high was set up, it was one of the first new schools in the county in many, many years. Many of our teachers were very young -- just out of college. We still have lots of teachers still around, and many spent did their whole careers at Eagleton (after it became a middle school) and haven’t been retired long.”

Teresa Lane McNeal, who graduated in 1967, said she’s helping with the event because she enjoys being with fellow alumni. “I do it because it’s fun,” she said. “This year I’ve gotten more contacts and heard many say they didn’t know about the last one, and they’re really excited about this one.”

Scott Davis, who graduated in 1969, said he has contacted people about high school reunions, and they weren’t interested. “I’ve contacted people about this reunion, and it has been overwhelming. It’s amazing, even the teachers are excited,” he said.

Lynn Keown Rogers graduated from Eagleton Junior High in 1974.

“It was so much fun five years ago we wanted to do it again,” she said.

While catching up and reliving their junior high days, those attending the reunion will also have an opportunity to help current students. Money raised or donated during the reunion will go toward building a concession stand at Eagleton Middle School, Rogers said.

Sue Thomas Martin finished the 9th grade in 1970. She said alumni are excited about the reunion. “When you tell people about the reunion, you talk about 40 minutes because it was so special for us,” she said. “It’s the gang -- we’re back to together where we all have a good time.”

Russell said even though the alumni span a lot of years, they still have an anchor that connects them. “That common experience is important to everybody, and you feel you know them even if you don’t,” he said.

Harriett Estes Irwin graduated Eagleton Junior High in 1963 and said the event will draw people back to their alma mater. “It brings lot of people back to together,” she said.

Irwin said that the planners for this reunion understand the tough economic times people are dealing with today. “With the economy the way it is, class reunions are expensive,” she said. “This one is free. All we are collecting is a donation.”

Russell said one of the unique things about Eagleton Junior High was the students attended there during a happy time and lived in an area where people liked one another. “Lots of people have gone on to a lot of success in life, and we look back on Eagleton Junior High as one of the big reasons,” he said.

Russell said the students were scattered after junior high because of where the school was located. Many went to Everett High, but others went to Alcoa or Maryville.

Davis said a lot of boys’ basketball players went to Alcoa and the girls went to Porter because it was a powerhouse in girls’ basketball, as was Everett High, he said.

Russell said his eighth grade year they had one of the best boys basketball team in the state. “Five of our players went to Alcoa, and they started on the state championship Alcoa team in 1967,” he said.

“When the junior high opened, it was our new place to go,” she said. “We walked from the elementary school to the junior high for the first day of class. It was special. It was our place.”

Davis praised the teachers and administrators at the school. “The administrators directed the teachers to be the inspiration we needed in our lives at that time, to grow up and be more and all that we could be,” he said.

Waters said Eagleton Junior High was different from other schools. “It was special,” she said. “There were no statuses. I’m very proud to say I graduated from Eagleton Junior High.”

Martin said the school was special because of all the friendships students made. “I’ve said many times, junior high was probably the best time of my life. All of us were together before you started driving,” she said. “My best friends are some of the friends I had in elementary and junior high.”

Martin said the teachers gave them lots of opportunities to do things lot of schools didn’t get to do. She said the school also excelled in athletics, which set the stage for future success. “In athletics, Eagleton was a great place to go before moving on to high school,” said Martin, who went on to play for the Lady Vols from 1973 to 1977.

Irwin said the teachers weren’t the only individuals who affected students’ lives. “We had a special custodian, Lon Thomas. He was friend to everyone there. Students would talk to him when they wouldn’t talk to teachers,” she said.

Irwin said Eagleton Junior High was part of a tight-knit community.

“If a family had a burnout, it was a community-wide thing,” she said. “It was a community where everybody took care of everybody.”

For more information on the reunion, visit their website at www.eagletonreunion.com or call Davis at 865-984-8814 or Irwin at 865-983-8896.

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Comments » 1

robertpatsy writes:

Lance Coleman and his staff did a fantastic job of catching the sense of who we Eagleton people are. We, the Blessed Generation, owe much of any success we have achieved to Eagleton Jr. High Principal, Mr. Robert Maxey, and his teachers along with our Eagleton Community.

We owe Lance, Sherri, and the Blount Today crew for a job well done. Thanks a million. We hope you can cover the Reunion on Sat, 18 July at EMS.

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