Class of 1966 remembers Marietta's Lemon Street High School

A lot has changed since 1966, when Aaron Cuthbert graduated from Marietta's Lemon Street High School, then the only black high school in Cobb County.

But one thing that hasn't changed is the class members' devotion to one another, as their 45-year reunion this weekend will mark the ninth time the class has gotten together.

"We are a very close-knit class," Cuthbert said. The class of ‘66 has been reuniting every five years since graduation, he said, and "I haven't missed one yet."

Lemon Street opened in 1896 and closed in 1967. "Kids used to come from all over," said class of ‘66 member James Bennett, comptroller and senior account executive of Three J's Products.

"Hard work and good behavior will take you anywhere you want to go," Bennett remembers his Lemon Street High teachers telling him, and he said he's applied that to his life ever since.

Bennett was voted senior class president, most talented and most athletic by his class. "Yeah I was all that in a bag chips," he said with a laugh as he looked at a high school picture taken of him with a girl.

Cuthbert remembers being a percussionist in the concert band as well as the Lemon Street Marching Hornets. At every football game, he said, the band was introduced as "the best band in the land."

"We always got superior ratings at all the band competitions," he said.

Married couple Parker Hill and Alfreda Coleman Hill were high school sweethearts at Lemon Street and still light up at the thought of their beloved alma mater.

"Lemon Street, Lemon Street, Lemon Street! When you say it, you have to smile," Alfreda Hill said. "Anyone who's been here [Marietta] for a long time knows about Lemon Street," she said.

"The city of Marietta always came to our [football] games, whites and blacks," Parker Hill said.

The Hills were both athletes in high school and have passed on their love of sports to their children and grandchildren. "I was a cheerleader, basketball player and in Homemakers of America," Alfreda Hill said. Her future husband played football and ran track.

Although the era of segregation is remembered with dismay, Parker Hill said that desegregation actually was a blow to the black community in terms of education with the loss of schools like Lemon Street. "Lemon Street graduates grew up to be doctors, lawyers, college professionals and retirees of corporate America," he said.

"Our teachers really nurtured us and worked hard to prepare us for what was to come," his wife added.

Teachers of the class of ‘66, which had 119 students, still come to reunions with the alums. Bennett, a retired teacher of 30 years in Gwinnett County Schools, said he tried to instill values in his students similar to what his teachers taught him.

The Hills and their classmates look forward to beginning a new period of their lives. "We're senior citizens now and we're leaving a legacy with our children and grandchildren," Parker Hill said. "We're all just enjoying life and buying time now."