DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – It’s been more than a century since the doors first opened on Cleburne’s Booker T. Washington High… the city’s once segregated school.  The building is long gone, but even in aging former students, the memories remain.

Zuma Kidd Bradley Cleaves was in the Class of 1937. “When I was coming to school here, I came in a horse and buggy,” she said laughing. At 94, her step is still spry and her memory sharp.

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The recollections she has of times at Booker T. Washington are happy ones. “Boys carrying your books, ya know.  That’s how you knew they liked you.  It was all happy memories.”

Cleaves and a handful of the school’s most senior surviving graduates gathered Thursday at the site of their former school.  It’s now a community and recreation center; but still carries the former school name.  For the alumni, it was part reunion, and also an opportunity to share the living history in their life stories.

Herbie Phillip Stone, Class of 1932, celebrated her 100th birthday in February.

Pauline Slaton Casmer, Class of 1938, still marvels at the changes in the world around her… saying living through segregation wasn’t as awful as it sounds. “We didn’t even think about it, because that’s just the way it was.  You had friends, both black and white. [Segregation] is just the way it was.”

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Still, Cleaves recalls the pride and dignity that the teachers worked to instill.  “We were told to ‘stand up straight’ and ‘hold our heads up’.” She also fondly remembers singing ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’, to begin the school day.  And she insists that the ‘good old days’ were just a beginning.

“It’s a new day.  It’s a new day.” And she added with a laugh, “I’m struggling like the devil to stay here to see what’s going to happen next.  It’s amazing.”

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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