August 8th, 2012
Beacon High classes of 40s and 50s reunite
Jim Exum and Bill Pickens
FISHKILL - Many things have changed since the Beacon High School Class of 1954 graduated. One thing, however, has stayed the same.
“The togetherness of the people is still there,” said Jim Exum, a star football player for BHS and a 20-year military veteran, who completed tours in Vietnam.
Bill Pickens, who played basketball for BHS and enjoyed a career as a commercial banker, added, “The camaraderie is my biggest memory of my high school days,” as he looked at his classmates. “I go way back with these people, some to six years of age; it’s so nice to still see everyone all getting along so well and having a good time.”
Pickens and Exum’s classes, along with alumnus from all of the 1950s and 1940s classes, were able to revel in that spirit of friendship at Saturday’s Annual Reunion Picnic. Held this year at Fishkill’s East Hook Rod and Gun Club, the Picnic has been taking place every two years since 1999.
This year’s Picnic was coordinated by John DePew and Ed Davies. Both were very pleased with Saturday’s showing of about 150-160 BHS class members.
“It’s so nice to renew old acquaintances and memories,” said DePew, who was part of the Class of ‘54. “We are also very happy with the accommodations here at the Club and that there was such an integrated showing today.”
That mixture included three African Americans. In a time period where approximately seven African American’s out of 80 composed the BHS graduating classes, the statistic was pleasing to see. Pickens, who made the ride to the Picnic from Ridgewood, Virginia, never viewed race as an issue during his days at Beacon High School.
“Race was not emphasized here; everyone just really made it a point to get along,” reflected Pickens, who said he never felt inferior as an African American. “The world has changed so much since those days; it has just been so nice to be a part of people coming back to show fellowship.”
Exum also made his own lengthy commute in order to join in on the festivities of the eventful day.
“This is the first Picnic I have come to, and it has been a great turnout. I have seen people I haven’t seen in over 30 years, definitely needed the name tags they gave us,” chuckled Exum, who resides in Augusta, Georgia these days. “The area has changed so much; even with my GPS, I still had a hard time finding it here, but it was well worth it.”
The six hour event included a luncheon of hamburgers and hotdogs, along with all the trimmings. A DJ was on hand, spinning familiar tunes from the 50s time period. Sounds of the Beach Boys, Sam Cooke and Frankie Avalon resonated throughout the park. This year also featured the added treat of a first-ever pig roast, which was met with much approval by the attendees. Finally, a 50/50 produced a pot exceeding $700.
“We have a committee that meets monthly to put events together, including a Christmas gathering,” explained Depew. “It’s a lot of work to put something like this Picnic on, but definitely worth it when you see people enjoying themselves so much.”