Sam Christine graduated from Aiken High School in 1954 – the first year of the school's current location.
His daughter, Donna Fanning, recalls the deteriorating band uniform she had to wear before graduating from Aiken High in 1979.
Rebecca Fanning, Donna's daughter, will graduate from AHS two weeks from now. She's ready for the next step, but admits to sadness about the old place and leaving her friends.
Following the school's awards ceremony on Friday, grandfather, daughter and granddaughter took some time to reminiscence over the school they have in common across 59 years. Donna's husband Mike also finished Aiken High in 1979. That was his only year there, and the couple didn't meet for another decade.
Like so many others, Christine moved to Aiken in 1953, when his father Dennis took an engineering position at the new Savannah River Plant. Sure enough, the family moved to the then-new Crosland Park, where as many as 400 homes were built. Aiken High enrolled not many more than 100 seniors that year.
“At least half of us were from other areas of the country,” said Christine. “We weren't too well-liked by the natives.”
He played basketball that year, bringing an unusually tall 6-6 height and a skinny 180 pounds. Now a 220-pounder, Christine enjoys the story of discovering the water fountains, which were elementary size. There's a photo of him on his knees, just trying to get a sip of water. And by the way, “We didn't have a parking lot then. Only one kid had a car.”
After three years in the Army, Christine enrolled at Clemson to pursue an engineering degree and met his wife Linda there. Much to his own surprise, he returned to Aiken and worked with SCE&G for the rest of his career.
Donna Fanning attended Schofield High for her first two years of high school, not long before South Aiken High School was built to relieve Aiken High's overcrowding. By the time she graduated in 1979, there were about 700 seniors.
“I loved the school pride,” Fanning said. “Everybody supported the football team, and we would go to the games for both football and basketball.”
“I later served as a substitute teacher at Aiken High for five months,” Fanning said. “I liked going into the teachers' lounge with my former teachers. They really did smoke in the lounge back then.”
She didn't come back to the school until attending an open house with Rebecca and felt a lot of nostalgia. Actually, Rebecca had never been there either – even though she was on the high school swim team as a Schofield Middle School student.
“I remember how scared I was during orientation,” Rebecca said. “But some underclassmen showed me around a lot and that helped.”
Rebecca has thoroughly enjoyed her four years at Aiken High and the swim team. She got involved with the yearbook, the Beta Club and the National Honor Society. And her mother said proudly that Rebecca is the current Miss Aiken High. She is headed to USC as a biochemistry major and plans to attend medical school.
“She's the brains of the family,” her grandfather said with a smile.
Aiken High hasn't changed much over the decades, although new construction over the next 20 years or so eventually replaced much of the campus. Christine and Fanning have commemorative bricks at Aiken High and Rebecca didn't hesitate Friday.
“This has been a real emotional week for me,” she said. “I want a brick, too.”
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