In the early 1960s in rural Pulaski, TN, when social and societal changes were grazing the horizon across the country, Martin College was standing tall and flourishing in the south as a two-year, co-ed institution.
At that time, women wore skirts and dresses, only allowed to wear pedal pushers in the evenings, and men charmed their way into hearts, one shared soda at a time. Faulty coke machines leaked when hit too hard by an angry fist, and freshman dressing as babies for “Kiddie Night” was a norm around campus. Panty raids and stolen shower curtains were common college pranks, much to the dismay of Hall Mother Mrs. Woodard, and meals were eaten “family style,” with everyone gathered together regardless of social campus status. The Martin Indians powered through rewarding basketball seasons while intramural sports proved very popular across campus.
Early 1960s Martin College, a time where innocence and comradery played hand-in-hand, was the setting for a friendship between fifteen young women—a friendship that would go on to stand the test of time for over fifty years and counting.
Whether by chance, or by a twist of fate, Ann-Ellen (Pigue) Ackley, Gwen Yeargan Adams, Faye (Bowling) Carter, Dorothy Sue Moore Dixon, Ruby Wells Fisher, Ellen (Estes) Gibson, Sissy Gourieux, Anita Harwell, Lynn Kieffer, Jan Rouch Knight, Faye Avril Layne, Henrietta Burnley McCroskey, Vivian Crick Prince, Rebecca Yeargan Schumann, and Peggy Williams Speich all ended up at Martin College as members of the 1963 and 1964 classes.
While the reasons vary, with some opting to attend because of the college being a faith-based college, others enrolling because of the college being close to home, and many making the choice because of friends or family who have attended or were currently attending the college, all fifteen women wound up at Martin College, unknowing at the time of the bond they would establish that would only strengthen for years to come.
“It was a unique time in our life,” said Ruby, class of 1963.
While working toward their two-year education, with downtime filled with kite flying on Reservoir Hill or moving into a new living space in the Dean’s house where signing in wasn’t required, these fifteen women were spending majority of their days together—their friendship growing stronger and tighter as the clock of their time at Martin College ticked on.
“One of the best parts about Martin was always knowing somebody had your back,” said Sissy, class of 1964. “It was that kind of closeness at Martin.”
Many friends often grow apart after college graduation because new cities and states beckon with different opportunities, and the unpredictability of the future took hold of these fifteen women. They started families and moved their way up to new job positions, yet they never forgot about one another.
In 2004, they began reconnecting, starting out with only one or two women and ending up with many meetings that housed all fifteen women. And now, with a strong bond that’s lasted over 50 years, many still meet for lunch every other month to catch up on the present, share fond stories and memories about their friends who have passed, and reminisce over their youth—their conversations often drifting back to their time at Martin College.
“Discounting my personal life with my children and my family, I would say my time at Martin was the best two years of my life,” said Lynn, class of 1964.
As if to emphasize their high opinions of Martin College, when recently asked if they would choose Martin if given the chance to go back in time and do the college experience all over again, every woman present answered with a resounding “yes” or “definitely.” For this group of women, Martin College, now four-year Martin Methodist College, was more than an education opportunity, even if they didn’t know it when they first enrolled.
“Martin was like a family,” said Henrietta, class of 1963. “It was like a home.”