2023 Champion School Reunion

Nineteenth century labor activists pushed for a federal holiday to recognize the many contributions workers have made to American strength, prosperity, and well-being. The eight hour workday, child labor laws and other workers’ rights also came about from the zeal of those activists—trade and labor organizations. Labor Day is a good time to think about the advancements that have been made and some that could be made yet.

Photographs of the Champion School Reunion from September 3, 2016, show 29 former students gathered under the big walnut trees in the school yard. A beautiful, if warm, day gave them the opportunity to reminisce and to catch up with all the new grand- and great-grandchildren, health issues and hopes for the future. This year, five of them returned to their old stomping grounds, though several others would have come, but for various reasons, had to miss the gathering. Still, with family and new and old friends, a couple of dozen folks milled about the Historic Emporium, enjoying a lovely potluck spread and the retelling of Champion tales. The man who bought Vasel and Ruby Proctor’s old place had a chance to meet their daughter, Barbara, who grew up there. They had lots to talk about. Barbara and Darrell came down from Norwood for the festivities and hopefully will be back often. Bill Phillips brought his mother, Eva Lois (Tiny) Henson Phillips, over from Nashville. She and Jody Lorett were girlhood friends long before Jody became Mrs. Royce Henson. Connie Brown brought her dad Robert and uncle Lee Brown for the occasion. They were both students at Champion. Darrell Hutchison also studied there. He said they were having about the best tomato harvest they have had over there in Ava. Kaitlyn McConnell paused for a spell on her way to Vera Cruz. She will tell you Champion is one of her favorite spots in the Ozarks.

The internet was filled to nearly clogged early last week with good happy birthday wishes for Steve Moody. He is not only the President of a bank, but President of the Skyline School Board and the master of ceremonies for the Vanzant Picnic, where he was seen with his foot in a cast. He may be found right in the middle of any good work in the area. He helped Rowdy Woods, an illustrious Skyline graduate, celebrate his 18th birthday about that same time. He did that by responding “Thank you” to “Happy birthday, young man.” Youth is subjective in some cases—charming young men in both cases. Other lovely folks celebrating birthdays are Betty Thomas, who kept the Pioneer Descendants Gathering going for many years, and for Larry Wrinkles, a Champion who used to trade fish to Ed Henson, at the store, for candy—so the story goes. Champion granddaughter Phoebe Ward has the 3rd for her big day. This year Vernon and Dailey Upshaw celebrate their birthdays on Labor Day. Skyline School students with birthdays the first week in September are kindergartener, Luke Hall, on the 2nd; fourth grader, Serenity Merryman, on the 3rd; first grader, Brayden D. Ellingsworth, on the 5th; and fourth grader, Ely Young, on the 8th. Happy days all around!

A startling bright light in the rear view mirror alarmed an Old Champion on the way home from the Vanzant Jam. It was the great glowing moon and not a big “semi-double-clutching-e-flat-trailer-truck” suddenly hard on her heels. A turn onto the dirt road gave an opportunity to pause on a high spot to enjoy the sight and to reflect on the beauty of this part of the world. We love our gentle rolling and steep hills, our deep and sweeping valleys, our trees and streams, and our wonderful distant vistas. We have, so far, been spared the disastrous weather that other parts of the country have suffered. For that and many other reasons we are grateful in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!