East celebrates 50 years
By Kathy Chaffin
It was 50 years ago when Granite Quarry and Rockwell high schools consolidated to form East Rowan.
An artist rendering of the new high school appeared in the foreground of a photograph in the 1958-59 Rockwell High School yearbook. The photo features a male and female walking on a dirt road with books in their hands with the caption, “Into The Future,” underneath.
In the fall of 1959, East Rowan High School opened its doors to students even though construction wasn’t completed. Dawn Lowe, social studies teacher and department chairwoman at the school, said the band met in the cafeteria for the first part of the school year while the band room was being completed.
Part of the science wing, which now houses the library and guidance offices, was also still being constructed.
“They couldn’t even have lunch in the cafeteria on the second day,” Lowe says. Even though it’s uncertain what happened the first day, the first edition of the “Mustang Roundup” school newspaper reported that food service workers served lunch from the home economics classrooms on the second day because the cafeteria equipment wasn’t ready yet.
Longtime newspaper and yearbook adviser Ruth Gulledge, who taught English, kept a copy of all the newspapers and yearbooks published while she was there.
A story at the top of the front page of Edition No. 1, published on Sept. 25, 1959, reads: “Each day as we come to school we see something added or completed that is furthering the completion of East Rowan High School. There are the sounds of hammers banging, bulldozers scraping the school yards and workmen going in and out of the classes during all class periods.
“Sometimes the noise of the construction is disturbing and annoying, but this makes students realize even more that the hard work going into our new school means greater opportunities for us all.”
East Rowan will celebrate its golden anniversary this Friday as part of homecoming with festivities scheduled throughout the day and during the football game against West Iredell that night.
“We want this to be a huge, huge success,” says Lowe, who is coordinating “Celebrating 50 Years of Excellence” with other East Rowan faculty, students and alumni. “We want as many alumni as can to come back.”
The Class of 1989 will be holding its reunion in conjunction with the 50th anniversary celebration. “if there are other classes holding reunions,” she says, “they need to contact us so that we can recognize them at the football game.”
Among the special guests at the anniversary celebration and homecoming will be Joyce Jones Faulkner, East Rowan’s first homecoming queen. Faulkner, a member of the Class of 1961, was crowned 49 years ago as the school didn’t have a queen its first year.
Faulkner, now 67, is scheduled to ride around the football stadium in a Mustang owned by her cousin and former East Rowan teacher, Linda Merrell, and crown this year’s homecoming queen.
Retired as a principal in the Wake County Schools, Faulkner says she is looking forward to returning to her alma mater.
“Hopefully, there will be some members of my class who will be at the football game,” she says. “I’m looking forward to learning more about the school … It’ll be fun meeting the students of today.”
Having grown up in Faith, Faulkner moved with her family to Florida when she was in the eighth grade and returned to East Rowan her senior year. As for being chosen queen, “I don’t know if it was because I was the new girl in town or what it was,” she says. “I knew of lot of the people.”
She was also dating Lavon Page, the captain of the football team, who she later married. Though they are now divorced, they have a daughter together. Page, who is retired as a math professor at N.C. state University, also lives in the Raleigh area.
Faulkner has two sons with her present husband, Richard Faulkner.
Assistant Principal Rick Vanhoy, a 1976 graduate of East Rowan, says he’s excited about the school’s 50th anniversary. “Homecomings are special to begin with,” he says. “I always see folks from years back. Hopefully, a few other faces will show up, and we’ll get an opportunity to see a lot of old friends.”
Former principals are planning to attend the celebration along with former athletes.
Alumni cheerleaders are invited to come back and cheer for Friday night’s game. Those who wish to participate are asked to attend practices on Tuesday and Thursday from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Lowe says an alumni band will also be playing in the stands during the football game. They’re not planning to practice beforehand.
“They’re going to come and just like riding a bicycle,” she says, “they’re going to get on their instrument and play.”
Lowe says the activities will begin Monday for students when the East Rowan cheerleaders sponsor the first daily Spirit Day.
In preparation for the big event on Friday, the East Rowan Athletic Boosters are selling tickets for Port-A-Pit chicken for tailgating. (Call the school office at 704-279-5232 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday for tickets.)
Friday’s activities will begin during the school day with a Homecoming Pep Rally by the cheerleaders.
A 50th Anniversary Carnival, scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. on the football practice field, is expected to draw a huge crowd. Among the attractions with be inflatables and games for children; a Future Farmers of America fundraiser offering photos with a real Mustang; dunking booth; food booths; yearbooks; an Army National Guard climbing wall; and a Mustang World Car Show.
Entry fee for the car show is $20. Prizes will be awarded for Best in Show, Most Unique, Oldest Model and much more. Set-up begins at 4, and the show will be held from 5 to 7.
The Mustang World Car Show is being sponsored by the East Rowan National Honor Society, and proceeds will go toward scholarships.
Lugnut and the Street Team from Lowe’s Motor Speedway will also be at the show selling $20 tickets to the Oct. 16 Dollar General 300 and $30 tickets for the Oct. 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup Banking 500. The speedway has partnered with Rowan and five other area school systems as part of a Fund-Racing Program.
The SEER (Supporters of Education at East Rowan) group is sponsoring the program and will receive $10 for each ticket purchased to go toward new carpet for the library and auditorium.
Lowe says many of Friday’s activities are fundraisers to try to recoup money lost from state and local cuts to the school’s budget. “This money is going back to the students,” she says. “It’s our way of giving back to the community and saying ‘thank you’ for 50 years of support for East Rowan.”
Additional parking and a shuttle service if necessary will be provided on Friday, Lowe says.
She and Vanhoy are both proud of the support given to East Rowan. “I was fortunate enough to be able to play three sports here,” he says, “and there were packed stadiums every night.”
Vanhoy says East has its own, unique identity. “And people obviously take a lot of pride in it,” he says.
Lowe says it’s exciting to see alumni return to the school. “I think there’s a passion you have for your alma mater that you want to instill in the kids of tomorrow,” she says, “so that they can appreciate East Rowan like we do.”
East Rowan High School is located at 175 St. Luke’s Church Road. Call the school office at 704-279-5232 for more information about Friday’s 50th anniversary celebration and homecoming.Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249.