By Linda Cawthon, Contributor
The 2016 Salado Reunion reunion marks the 80th anniversary of a 1926 gathering held at the big bubbling spring of the Salado Creek, east of the Main Street Bridge.
The Salado Reunion will be held June 11 at the Salado Intermediate School, 550 Thomas Arnold Rd. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m.; reunion ends at 3:30 p.m. A catered lunch will be served. Any questions, call Sherry at 254-760-0663 or Linda at 254-721-3095.
The first Salado Reunion was a “welcome home” party given in honor of John Shanklin and Mrs. Felda Davis Shanklin, as they returned from a several years’ stay in Mexico. Their friends decided an all day picnic would be an appropriate way to welcome them back. It proved to be such an enjoyable gathering that they decided to meet again the following year.
Although there had been earlier reunions of students of the Salado College and Thomas Arnold High School in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, it is this 1926 event which seems to be the most likely origin of the present day reunion tradition.
The following year, 1927, they met again as agreed at the “Old Salado Grove” campground and park on the south side of the creek near the Big Spring. A vote was taken, and it was decided to hold yearly reunions. The 1928 meeting was held at a Spring located on the Robertson’s Plantation property, just west of town on the Salado Creek. Here the Salado Reunion Association is said to have been organized, and the reunion has been held annually ever since, with the exception of the war years of 1942 through 1945.
In earlier days, the reunion was called “The Old Settlers’ Reunion” and was a meeting time for early families of Salado, their descendants, and alumni of the Salado College and Thomas Arnold High School. As the years passed, the name changed from the “Old Settlers’ Reunion” to the “Salado Reunion and Homecoming,” and now is often just referred to as the “Salado Reunion.”
All of the reunions before 2000 were pot-luck gatherings, with tables loaded with an abundance and a variety of home-baked and home-prepared main dishes, side dishes, and desserts. (We have sacrificed the variety of those earlier meals for the simplicity and convenience of the catered meals of today’s reunions)
The reunion attendance has varied widely through the years. In a newspaper article about the 1958 reunion, it was noted that there were about 400 in attendance. That number had dropped to about 200 by 1967, and down to 104 registered guests by 1973. The numbers stayed at about 100-200 throughout the 70’s.
A new emphasis was put on the fact that the reunion wasn’t just for Salado alumni, but for new residents as well, and for anyone with an interest in Salado. Despite this new emphasis, the numbers remained about the same through the ‘80’s and the 90’s. At the 1999 reunion, there were only about 100 guests registered. As the numbers seemed to be declining, rather than increasing, a new approach was suggested beginning with the year 2000. Each past graduating class was to have a contact person who would send invitations to his/her former class members. With this change, the 2000 reunion had more than 220 guests registered. The attendance in the past decade has been averaging 200 or more.