They're coming home this weekend to a town they recall as Mayberry by the sea.
The Beaufort High School Class of 1954 will hold a reunion, 60 years after getting diplomas on the front lawn of a school overlooking the Beaufort River.
Together with the Class of 1955, they'll review the formative years of lives that have crisscrossed the globe, concluding that Beaufort was beautiful and they didn't know it at the time.
They sure knew it when the red brick high school building on Bay Street was demolished. But drum major Grady Thames grabbed some bricks before the home of the red-and-white Tidal Waves was wiped from the scene. Classmates attending an earlier reunion went home clutching their own brick.
Other things are harder to cling to. Koth's Grocery down the street sits empty, its silent walls almost mocking the laughs of teenage boys in tight T-shirts getting juiced up after school on sugar and girls.
"It's only held up by the memories," said June Parker Andrade of Beaufort, a member of the Class of 1955. "It's one of the places we love to drive by and remember."
They remember the Breeze theater downtown and the Greenlawn Drive-In Theater, both now dark. A Kmart stands about where the Shack drive-in was the place they had to be.
The girls remember getting introduced to snipe hunting by the boys. Once they figured out what it meant as they strolled beneath the moon on Hunting Island, they got to liking snipes as much as the boys.
They'll listen to '50s music during the main event Saturday night at Bermuda Bluff. Maybe they'll channel the hot "South of the Border" theme of their junior-senior prom.
The reunion starts tonight with a gathering at the Carolina Tavern in Port Royal. About 25 members of each class are expected, said one of the organizers, Barbara Kennedy of Beaufort.
Class officers in 1954 were Paula Lengnick, president; DuPre Jones, vice president; Louise Lubkin, secretary; and Marilyn Shelley, treasurer. Martha Ann Tyree was the valedictorian and Paul Fidler salutatorian.
Beaufort schools were segregated then. Across town at the Robert Smalls High School, commencement for the African-American teens of Beaufort, senior Fredrica Washington edged Jacquelin Evans and Leona Jackson for top academic honors.
Sixty years later, the students of Beaufort High remember a simpler time, when everyone knew one another. Of the 61 to graduate in 1955, 28 started out together at Beaufort Elementary School, class historian Keiffer Sanders reported in the Beaufortonian yearbook.
"It's more like a family than it is a class," June Andrade said.
This weekend, they'll cut the rug as best as they can, six full decades after roaring off to leave their mark upon the world.
Maybe someone will recall the words in the 1955 yearbook by class poet Nancy Smith:
Think not that these years, now ending,Will be only put aside as pleasantMemories of youth --But each moment of learning, laughter,And despair is an instrument playingA prelude to our lives --And as time goes on, we shall callAgain and again on these golden hoursTo add their glow to the shadows whichMust surely fall on us.We part now; do not discard or forgetFaces, things you have met --But take up your share, and say,"I have the beginning which shallLead me to the end."
Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.