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Beautiful Romance: small town planned big reunion

For 23 years residents of tiny Romance, Arkansas, have been meeting to celebrate their shared heritage. They meet in other cities for lack of a large enough meeting place of their own, sharing old photographs, memories, tales and keeping alive their love for the place a Kentucky school teacher named for its romance-inspiring atmosphere.

For the first time in its history, the “Romance Reunion” took place in Romance and event organizers took advantage of the opportunity to show visitors and residents around the town's unique geographic features.

The reunion was at the newly completed fellowship hall at the Romance Church of Christ. There were casual tours of the Romance waterfall and Romance bluffs. Collections of old newspaper articles, photographs and items of genealogical and historic value were on display. One woman brought a cart full of books which mention Romance.

After World War II, when automobiles became plentiful and people began moving to cities, the landscape of Romance changed. The reunion was begun by a group of Romance residents who wanted to keep the memory of their little village alive.

Romance was settled in the 1850s. When the town got a post office, settlers chose Romance because it aptly described the lush and majestic surroundings, and some of the most striking mountain vistas in all of Arkansas.

From a story by Philip Holsinger in the Searcy Daily Citizen, Searcy, Arkansas.

Lakewood community reunion
According to one local history, many African-Americans moved to Salisbury, North Carolina, in the early 1900s, drawn by jobs at Spencer Shops railroad repair facility. They settled in several communities, including one that came to be known as Lakewood -- though no one knows how the community got its name, as there was no nearby lake. Their reunion included an all-day picnic at the Harold B. Jarrett American Legion Post 342 followed by a “casino night” of fun and games.

From a story by Frank DeLoache in the Salisbury Post, Salibury, North Carolina.

Reunion recalls Norvelt's early days
Almost 100 second-generation descendants of the 1930s Norvelt Homestead in Pennsylvania gathered for their eighth annual reunion to catch up, reminisce and view a 67-year-old quilt, in a daisy pattern with the name of a Norvelt homesteader on each petal. The quilt originally was a going-away present in 1937 to David Day, the first government administrator of Westmoreland Homestead, later renamed Norvelt.

One of 92 model subsistence homesteads, Norvelt was built as a part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal homestead project from 1934 to 1937. Two hundred and fifty-four Cape Cod-style homes were built for those who had lost jobs, mostly because of the demise of surrounding coal mines. The homestead ran a cooperative farm, dairy barn, garment factory and general store.

“We had a lot of fun; we picked berries, played games, fished, played baseball. Kids today don't know how to have fun doing those things,” said Ed Cibulas, 76, whose family supervised Norvelt's government-owned chicken farm.

Families in Norvelt paid $12.65 to $14.33 rent a month for four-, five- or six-bedroom homes. Wages were often withheld for rent, which went toward a down payment when homesteaders were able to purchase their homes in 1946.

The sense of community created in Norvelt survives today, even for those who only visit for events such as the reunion.

From a story by Jenai L. Young in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

10th Albion, Michigan, reunion
The Albion, Michigan, Black Family Reunion celebrated its 10th gathering of former residents. The family with the most members to return receives the Albion Reunion Family Trophy annually.

The reunion included a youth symposium, basketball game featuring former Albion high school players, golf, domino and Bid Whiz tournaments, barbecue and baking competitions, Rock the Mic Talent Showcase and gospel music.

Actor Emmanuel Lewis -- best known for his starring role on the 1980s television series, Webster, and most recently, on the reality show The Surreal Life -- was a celebrity judge for the barbecue and baking contests.

From a story by Maggie Rossman in the Battle Creek Enquirer, Battle Creek, Michigan.

Town and company are gone, but lifelong memories thrive
When more than 500 former residents of the Bethlehem Steel Company-owned town of Sparrows Point, Maryland, gathered three years ago for a reunion, the town was gone but the company persevered. When nearly as many Pointers gathered more recently, even the company that provided generations a comfortable living was gone. The business and houses are gone but the bonds remain strong.

Many have fond memories of life in the company town. Sparrows Point High School Alumni Association had a booth stocked with popular school merchandise.   Photos and artifacts were on display at the Dundalk-Patapsco Neck Historical Society booth.

They brought out a copy of reunion organizer Elmer Hall's book, Diary of a Mill Town: Recollections of the Bungalows and Sparrows Point, Maryland, to look at old pictures. Hall said a lot of people at this gathering missed the first one and, unfortunately, many who attended the 2001 event have died.

“It's an aging group and we are losing people,” Hall said. “All these people reconnecting gives me chills. They're all here for the same reason: They came home again.”

Found in a story by Marge Neal in the Dundalk Eagle, Dundalk, Maryland.

Contests galore scheduled for reunion
“The Reunion Challenge,” at the Brownwood, Texas, reunion offered participants a chance to compete for fun prizes. Contests included the following.

  • Strong Arm Contest: an old-fashioned arm-wrestling match; right- and left-handed events in men's and women's brackets.
  • Arm-Chair Quarterback Contest: throw a football while relaxing in a recliner.
  • Tricycle Races: ride your old tricycle, race to victory.
  • Dare Factor: devour cuisine of the judges’ choice, if you dare.

Contestants registered before that day's events and space was limited. Some challenges were open to all and others were for designated groups (ladies only, men only, teenagers only, etc.). Prizes included concert tickets, cash, trophies or Brownwood Reunion t-shirts. All participants could also be randomly selected to spin the wheel for prizes.
From the Brownwood Bulletin, Brownwood, Texas.

Old Sterling reunion: Blast from the past
Old Sterling, Virginia, had fishing holes and a two-room school and is nearly gone, but not forgotten. Over 200 came to celebrate their childhood home.

Linda Minshew, Lucille Pilchuk and Mary Ellen Boyd worked on the reunion for two years. Time, they said, to get together and celebrate life instead of always meeting at funerals.

Finding the old residents was like working a crossword puzzle, said Minshew. Call one, get two more names, follow those down, learn of another retiree.

Old Sterling was founded in the 1860s as Guilford Station, a stop on the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad. What is now called Old Sterling, the rural community from 1930 to 1960, has disappeared under the onslaught of development. The America Online, Inc., campus was Tom Hummer's family farm.

The three reunion leaders greeted the crowd before the line started down the buffet tables and got down to some serious reminiscing.

“Have a good time, eat a lot of food and remember this day for a long time,” said Mary Ellen Boyd. “There's nothing much left of our Old Sterling.”

From a story by Shanon Sollinger in the Clarke Times Courier, Berryville,Virgnia.

Old barrier island community reunites

Norris Bowen was the very last person to be born on Hog Island in 1940, before erosion forced residents to move to the Eastern Shore's mainland. Devoted to preserving the memory of Hog Island, Bowen helped create and organize a homecoming at the Barrier Islands Center that gathered together remaining Hog Island natives and their many descendants.

The scene was of old friends reunited after many years living apart. They hugged and dined and they remembered their unique past. Funny, childhood recollections or observations about how time changed a once-simple lifestyle were everywhere.

Planned events were sparse to allow time for old friends to become reacquainted. Of course, no Eastern Shore reunion would be complete without abundant quantities of homemade food. This reunion was no different -- hamburgers, hot dogs, clam fritters and an entire barbecued pig were served.

People came to tell their stories and to feel proud of who they are. Hog Island represented a time and place long forgotten by today's society. People were self-contained, self-sufficient and took care of themselves.

From a story by Stephen Furness in the Tasley Eastern Shore News, Tasley, Virginia.

Tears of joy flow at Terlingua reunion
Many residents who lived in Terlingua, Texas, before the mine closed returned to see old friends, some driving from as far as California and Montana. It was billed as a reunion of anyone who was born, lived in or worked in the Big Bend before 1946. The event, sponsored by the Terlingua Preservation Association, was intended to create a better understanding of Terlingua’s history.

On Saturday, participants went to the Terlingua cemetery to help clean up and decorate the historic community cemetery. Participants were provided small quantities of cement, small limestone rocks or metal flowers and brought candles, paint and flowers to decorate gravesites. There was a bonfire and community potluck meal at the cemetery.

On Sunday morning, a Mass was celebrated at the Catholic Church by Father Rick, the first since 1964, according to Bill Ivey, the owner of the Terlingua Trading Post.

A film crew from the Documentary Alliance of Houston shot footage for a film called Terlingua: Past and Present. A reporter from National Public Radio interviewed reunion participants.

From stories by Roy Hamric and Tom Shuford in the Desert-Mountain Times, Alpine, Texas.

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