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51-year-old yearbook finds way back home

By Deangelo McDaniel
dmcdaniel@decaturdaily.com 340-2469

Like a hidden treasure, Jane Sparkman's Austinville High yearbook rested undisturbed for more than 25 years.

She had given up hope that she would ever see it again, then a telephone call came from The Daily.

"I went to school there two years and graduated in 1956," Sparkman said. "I have a lot of fond memories of Austinville."

A lot of those memories are capsulized in the yearbook returned to her Wednesday morning.

"I thought I'd never see it again," Sparkman said.

The story of her separation from the yearbook started in the early 1980s when Sparkman, who worked more than 30 years at Austinville, loaned it to a former Daily reporter who was writing a historical story about Austinville.

After the newspaper published the article, Sparkman came to retrieve the yearbook.

"They told me the reporter no longer worked at the paper, and no one could find the yearbook," she recalled.

Time passed and hope of getting the yearbook faded.

Discovery

On Monday, a Daily secretary was cleaning out a cabinet and found the yearbook.

Sparkman's name was written in the book. So, a Daily reporter started looking for her. Horace Beggs was the first male listed in the senior class and his name was also in the telephone book.

The reporter learned that Beggs, who loved basketball and played for legendary coach Joe Jones, died in February.

His widow, the former Dorothy Sparkman, was in the senior class and knew how to contact the owner.

"She lives on Chapel Hill Road, and I know she'll be glad to get the book back," Dorothy Sparkman said.

Centennial of education

The yearbook, which celebrated the centennial of public education in Alabama, has a history of Austinville that Alice Louise Vickers wrote.

The school, according to the article, was named for V.L. Austin.

Aside from a gristmill and cotton gin he operated, there were only three or four houses in the area in 1873.

"The first school and church (in the Austin area) was a one-room log cabin," Vickers wrote.

Sadie Mae McCleskey prepared the 1956 senior class history.

The class enrolled in what she called the "old elementary school" in 1944 as 53 children.

Their class size increased by seven when Shirley Narmore, Flavous Johnson, Reba Bowling, Faye Lowery, Jack Mullican, Horace Beggs and Berlie Busbey enrolled in 1953.

Three years later with just 41 members, the seniors elected class officers: Floyd Stovall, treasurer; Jimmie Ann Plant, president; Joyce Roper, secretary; Thelma Christian, vice president and Dorothy Murphy, reporter.

As a gift to the school, the Austinville seniors decided to purchase a bus.

Sparkman said the school didn't need items like stage curtains.

She said the old bus the basketball team used usually broke down on road trips.

"Parents followed it everywhere, and they would usually pick up the players," she said.

The seniors raised $3,200 by selling magazines, raffling a used Model A Ford principal S.M. Dollar donated, and selling concessions in school and at basketball games.

"With Edwin Liverett as manager, we were quite successful in this business venture," McCleskey wrote in the senior history.

Concession sales were good because Jones had one of his most successful basketball teams in his distinguished coaching career.

Known as the Hornets and wearing their black and white uniforms, the 1955-56 basketball team won the Morgan County championship, District 8 championships and finished in fourth place at the state tournament.

Triple-digit scores

In the era before the three-point field goal, Jones' Hornets twice scored at least 100
points.

They defeated Trinity 100-49 on Jan. 7, 1956, and three days later posted a 108-53 decision over Ryan.

The team posted three wins over Decatur, including a 23-point decision over the Red Raiders in the first round of the county tournament.

Ironically, the team's biggest rival was tiny Mount Hope in western Lawrence County. Austinville won three of the teams' meetings during the 1955-56 season.

The most thrilling win came in the second round of the state tournament when Gaither Williams' basket gave the Hornets' a 52-49 decision in double overtime.

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