Members of Tucumcari Historic Research Institute were treated by the presence of two favorite Quay County natives at our annual dinner Monday evening at the Elks Lodge.
Dr. David Stratton, Professor Emeritus of History at Washington State University was met by his high school English teacher, Mrs. Kathryn Stephenson who now lives in Edmond, Okla.
Just to see that teacher-student reunion was a major privilege for those of us who have known them for more years than we can count. A very special bond exists between teachers and students and is obviously a very lasting one as Dave had graduated from Tucumcari High School in 1945 and had been in her class several years before that. They have remained in touch through the years, and Mrs. Stephenson was determined to come home to hear her student perform as a professor. As she sat beside him, I could feel the pride she was feeling and could also feel the love he was showing for his favorite teacher.
To be able to spend the evening in the presence of an outstanding history professor was a major thrill to those of us who are interested in the past of our town and county. Dave shared some of the ideas he is incorporating into his book: “Tucumcari Tonight! Railroads and Route 66 in the Life of a Western Town.”
He will let us know when that volume will be available, and many of us are already in line because he certainly peaked our interest as he talked about his years in the town and the effects it had on him.
Both he and Mrs. Stephenson received standing ovations as the members of the organization welcomed them home. Dr. Stratton commented after his return to Pullman, Wash., that he and Kathryn had proven Thomas Wolfe wrong one more time about his idea that “,you can’t go home again.” Of course, we have known that was an error in judgment because many of us have come home again.
Dave also mentioned several times just how important his hometown has been to him throughout his life and what a pleasure it was to be invited to speak to our organization in Tucumcari.
As he and I bid each other farewell that evening, he commented that his recognition by our organization was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and that he felt very honored to have been ask to return home for the evening.. Kathryn had said almost the same words when she expressed her appreciation for having been invited to attend. She was as overwhelmed as was her student by the warm reception received from so many friends.
Two very happy natives collected priceless memories and shared their love of their home area with us that evening.
The tradition of warmth and love established by our pioneers was carried on that evening and could certainly be felt as people visited with each other. Just to watch the reactions as Dave spoke and to see the interest he was creating made those of us who have grown up here much aware of our heritage. His sense of humor added much to the program as he shared it with us. When we can have a “strictly first class” gathering, such as that was, we know that our pioneers would be quite proud of what still goes on in the area they settled so long ago.
Thank you, Dave and Kathryn for reminding us just how important our past really is and how important our friends are. You gave us a most special evening, and we can say openly that we love you!