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Students share memories of former Huntington East instructor

Jul. 14, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Remember when Darrell Stickler got his milkshake sloshed all over him when Joe Drummond peeled out after a stoplight changed?

Or when Nancy Jolley squeezed nine people into her Volkswagen beetle?

Or the flying rubber band that landed in a most hazardous spot?

Precious memories like these keep bubbling to the surface when Janice Chandler Gold's former music students rehearse for one last concert together.

More than 175 aging choristers from several states, with hair turning gray (or turning loose), all of whom took Gold's A Cappella Choir class at Huntington East High School between the fall of 1958 and the spring of 1983, will present a free nostalgic concert titled "Here We Come!" under her direction in Huntington High School's main auditorium at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3.

Jolley -- now Nancy Ross of Huntington -- was among nine members of the class of 1962 Gold selected to participate in All-State Chorus in Charleston.

"Janice and I had the only cars," Ross remembers. "And after we drove everyone from the hotel to a rehearsal at Municipal Auditorium, Janice had to go to a music educators' meeting."

Ross had to take herself and eight other students back to their hotel in her beetle. She put Phil Simpson up front with her. She assigned three other boys to the back seat, with three girls sitting on their laps and sticking their heads through a sun roof.

"If we hadn't had that sun roof, we never would have made it," she says.

And then there was David Gwinn, a member of the school's tennis team as well as a choir member.

"He sat behind the back seat," Ross says. "There wasn't room enough back there for my pocketbook. I was afraid he'd never walk again, much less play tennis.

Fast forward a year.

Stickler, a member of the class of 1963, has spent a lifetime singing in gospel quartets and serving as music director and business administrator for churches in several states. He's retired now and living in Proctorville.

In spring 1963, he sang bass for East's Scotsmen Quartet, which had entered the West Virginia Centennial Barbershop Quartet Contest at the Camden Hotel in Weston, W.Va. The boys walked away with the high school division trophy, but the "milkshake incident" is what stands out most in their memories.

"I was a mess, but I wasn't angry," Stickler says, despite the fact he had to change clothes in a hurry before the performance. "I thought it was funny."

His colleagues did, too. They still laugh when they think about it.

And then there's that rubber band fight that occurred several years later between the tenors and basses during a critical practice in East's "Little Theater."

Elizabeth Laura Appell, now Elizabeth Sheets, tells the story.

"The choir was sitting on risers arranged in a semicircle," Sheets recalls. "The boys were shooting a large rubber band at each other every once in a while. When one guy fired, the rubber band landed right on her music, on the music stand, while she was directing."

Everyone held their breath.

"It was like, 'Oh my gosh,'" Sheets says. "She ran a pretty tight ship, you know."

But Gold ignored the errant missile.

"She kept right on going, much to everyone's relief," Sheets says. "It didn't fluster her one bit."

The aging director and singers have been planning and rehearsing their comeback performance for months. Many of the alumni -- some of whom haven't seen each other since graduation -- will enjoy a "meet 'n' greet" the night before the concert. Out-of-towners and the local grads will rehearse together for the first time for three hours the next morning.

The concert audience will hear, among other things, such notable compositions as "The Hallelujah Chorus," "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," selections from "The Music Man," "Bye-Bye Birdie" and "Oklahoma," and the school's Alma Mater.

It's something that Gold has wanted to do for a long time.

"Through the years, I've directed several groups," Gold says. "The choir and the Lads 'n' Lassies for 25 years, Renaissance for 17 years, Gold 'n' Girls for eight years, and the Woodland Warblers for 14 years."

The Warblers did a Christmas show and a spring show every year.

"After all that was over, I wanted to do one more concert with my former students at Huntington East," she says. "So, 'Here We Come!"