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Saturday, February 16, 2008

MHS Class of 1947

Larry and Gladys Hunter
Sixty Years Later
Reminiscing Minden High School Class of 1947
This year is my 30th high school reunion from Minden High 1977. But this story is not about my class but the one that was thirty years prior to my class. This is a story tribute story for the class of 1947. This story is written with help from my dear friend Mr. Ben Hunter.
Hunter’s Playhouse for many was not only a local hangout for the weekends but it became a life changing experience. Young couples were introduced and young loves would blossom and for many this would turnout to be their lifelong partners or lifelong friends. The time was mid 1940’s and Larry and Gladys Hunter wanted to supply the children of Minden and the surrounding area with good wholesome entertainment and a place to hangout on weekends. World War II was over and the whole country was now ready for things to take a turn for the better. The future graduating class of 1947 was young and full of ideas and sometimes lots of mischief.
Fun at the Hunter family home had been around since the 1930’s in one form or another with regular teen parties and activities in what was then called the “Little Playhouse”. Larry and Gladys loved children, with six children of their own teen parties were almost a necessity and a way of life for this family. In the post war years of WWII the idea of a better place for teen activities was born and a new building was soon erected that would forever be known as “Hunter’s Playhouse”. This small white building would soon come to be the place to go for young teens and pre-teens of Minden.
Maybe the Hunter family was way ahead of their time or maybe the thought of controlled activities for children were not only a way to keep and eye on their own children but a way to keep other kids safe and out of trouble. They had strict rules and you abided by them or you were escorted out. The sign on the door read NO IN & OUT! Once you got there you didn’t leave to go out to your car or hang out outside. You were chaperoned by one of the older Hunter family members or the Hunter parents. Music played softly on the Wurlitzer Juke Box, two slow and one fast was the rules on dancing and the juke box songs were strategically arranged just for this purpose. Everything was thought out to make your experience a fun and wholesome time. Parents didn’t have to worry if their kids were at Hunter’s Playhouse.
Pool tables and ping-pong were games of choice and with plenty of costume themed parties, birthday parties, and valentine parties there was always something fun and exciting happening. The little white house would forever hold a lifetime of memories for so many and still today those memories are as vivid as if they happened just yesterday. The real figure for how many lasting romances were born may never be known. Many are celebrating 60 plus years as man and wife. Friendships of a lifetime may even be far more than that.
Over the years many people have been asked, “What changed your life when you were growing up in small town Minden?” The answer for most that are 1940-1960’s graduates of Minden High will tell you that Hunter’s Playhouse changed their lives and the way they viewed life in general. So many successful individuals of this era say that this experience is what made them the people that they are today. Educators, lawyers, artist, surgeons, optometrist, preachers, doctors, judges, politicians, military officers, police chiefs, professional baseball, basketball, football players and many professionals came from this lot of Minden teens.
This year the Minden High Class of 1947 will celebrate their 60th reunion. Memories will be relived and tears will be shed at this reunion of classmates from long ago. Minden High has changed forever but for many it will forever be just a thought away to what many have called the “Good Ole Days”
One such individual wrote a poem that seemed to sum up much of what the class of 1947 experienced. The following is a poem by my friend, Ben Hunter.

“In Memory”

Our Class of ’47 lived through a time of fear;
While in Minden High School, World War II was here.

Loved ones went to fight the foe;
They were brave and knew they had to go.

Because of them, we had a great pride;
For those who did not return, we cried and cried.

World War II was hard to comprehend – why did it have to be?
So many loved ones never returned from across the sea.

The year of 1947 scattered us like leaves in the wind;
Challenges were taken and careers achieved in the end.

Then 1951 saw soon to be doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs
graduate from college with relief.

We learned through the years to make new friends, but keep the old.
New friends are like silver; old friends are gold.

Sixty years have passed and we old friends gather to remember,
especially our classmates who did not reach November.

Let us pause and have a roll call
for those we miss and love, one and all.

To those whom we hold so dear,
We dedicate or 60th year.

In retrospect I wonder what Larry and Gladys Hunter would have to say to this class of 1947. In my mind they might have said something along these lines:

To the Class of 1947
In 1946 we built you a playhouse to call your own. This class of 1947 was the first graduating class from the new “Hunter’s Playhouse”. We had many good times and we have now witnessed the fruit of my labors many times over.
Sixty years have passed since the day you received your caps and gowns. Many of you have left this earth and are only with us in spirit as we ourselves are today. So many changes in this world have come to pass but the one thing that never changes is the love and friendships that were formed from this small group of young people from so many years ago. We are proud of you not only as a group but as individuals. You far exceeded many expectations. But we knew that you had it in you to succeed. For many it only took a little discipline and prodding to get your true potential to unfold. We are glad that we got to witness this amazing thing called life in a place called Minden, Louisiana. We are also glad that we all came together to form a bond that will last for all of eternity. So until we meet again.
We are your friends,
Larry & Gladys Hunter

The Hunter family has always been a major contributor to the Minden area and especially in the field of giving back and helping children. Mr. Hunter a baseball fan was known for his work and dedication to helping young boys get started in baseball and semi-pro baseball. But that is another story and many are familiar with this aspect of the Hunter family. The other is their dedication to young and aspiring individuals with the Larry and Gladys Hunter Scholarship that is given to a worthy student every year to future their education. You can go on and on about the Hunter family and their philanthropic ways to better their community. Today that tradition lives on and the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Minden, Inc. is a regular supporter of many community events and Minden will be forever grateful to all that they do to support their community and better the lives of those that have known them past and present.
In 1997 Ben Hunter compiled a book with the help of many; submitted stories entitled “Memories of Hunter’s”. This year the family has agreed to donate the remainder of the books to help with funding for the Dorcheat Historical Association Museum project. This wonderful trip down memory lane is still available for $20.00 plus $5.00 shipping and handling. If you would like a copy please send your check made out to Dorcheat Historical Association & Museum, Inc. to P.O. Box 1094 Minden, La. 71058. You can also contact Schelley Brown at 318-423-0192 or iluvoldcars@yahoo.com to pick up your copy of “Memories of Hunter’s.”
If you were one of those lucky individuals that grew up with Hunter’s Playhouse as a backdrop for your life we would like to hear from you and hope that you will express to us how Hunter’s Playhouse changed and influenced your life. We know that so many have unique stories and so many want to tell them. We ask that you send them to Schelley Brown at iluvoldcars@yahoo.com.