Some days, the 50 years that have passed since we finished high school seems like a really long time ago; other days, it seems like yesterday. The time I spent in elementary, junior high, and high school in Ft. Smith has always provided the backdrop for my life, especially the adults who concerned themselves with me; the classmates who moved in and out of intimacy as we shifted between hopes and dreams and boyfriends; the physical places that always felt safe: my neighborhood, the homes of my friends, our schools (for me, Peabody, Ballman, junior high, high school), Creekmore Pool and Park, the sidewalks and trees of my walk home from high school. The past has always been present, for better or worse.
After high school I went to the University of Arkansas and earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in English. While still in college, I married Jim Hefley, and for 19 years was an IBM “trailing spouse,” making homes in Connecticut, Illinois, Little Rock, and finally in Topeka, KS. We also became parents of two daughters, Joan and Anne. After we were divorced in 1980, I put the writing skills that I learned in all my English classes, especially Miss Presson’s, to work as an editor in the public relations department of Menninger’s, then as director of public/community relations at the hospital in Lawrence, KS. In 1989, I married Jack McFadden—a former Marine officer with a Ph.D—and a native Californian who went to the Ivy League (Cornell) as an undergraduate. We both worked in Lawrence until 1997 until we moved to Baltimore. We have both retired, me most recently from teaching writing and literature in two small colleges in the area. Again, thank you Miss Presson. Jack is helping me “learn” retirement and we’re looking forward to some trips, lots of reading (some on the beach, I hope), and enjoying being with family and friends. So far, every day feels like Saturday.
We enjoy living here in Baltimore—lots to do and see. We live in a city “row house” built before the Civil War, within walking distance of opera and symphony houses, excellent restaurants, good theater, art films, museums, and other city thing, and we’re within 20 minutes of real farms and 30 minutes away from the Chesapeake Bay. The Atlantic Beaches are less than a half day driving, and so are the mountains. We’re close to our neighbors, literally and metaphorically. Even better, my brother, Bob, (FSHS Class of ’61) lives a couple of hours away.
Jack and I have four children between us, with one grandson (11 years old) and a granddaughter due in early September. Our young people live all over the country—two in or near Atlanta, one in Connecticut, and one in Los Angeles. Thank goodness for email and airplanes! They are all well and happy, which is what we hope for them, isn’t it? For those of you who knew my parents, my mother, widowed in 1980, lived here, near us and my brother and some of her grandchildren, for the last two years of her life and we all got to spend a great deal of time with her, talking about her life in Arkansas.
The upcoming Reunion has stirred up an avalanche of memories: classes and teachers, especially Miss Pride and Miss Massey, in addition to Miss Presson, and Mr. Farnsworth’s Daily Meditations that came over the intercom each morning during home room. And, in less exalted memories, I remember the dances and the boys I went with, the movies and the boys I held hands with, and the girls I giggled with at slumber parties and at other inappropriate times. It all seems so far away, until a 50th reunion brings a lot of it back. Those years were not all sprinkled with fairy dust; I also remember hurt feelings, unhappiness about the way I looked, feeling sad or embarrassed about one thing or another.
The backdrop that was Ft. Smith is a little tattered and stained after all these years, but it will always be there.
Judy "Taylor" McFadden - 2008