NEW ALBANY —
In 1965, a loaf of bread cost 21 cents, gas was 31 cents per gallon and the average yearly household income was $6,500.
It was also the year Urban “Urbie” Keithley began his career in education. And like most firsts, he will never forget those fifth-graders who walked into his classroom at Slate Run Elementary in 1965.
They have never forgotten him either.
On Wednesday night at Sam’s Food & Spirits in New Albany, many members of that class, along with Keithley, got together for a reunion and celebration. Not only did they share stories about their former teacher, but also to celebrate Keithley’s upcoming 70th birthday.
Keithley only spent one year at Slate Run, but he said he will never forget it for a number of reasons — it was his first class, he had 34 students, two sets of twins, and two students with the last name of Keithley who were not related to him.
“That class was so unique,” Keithley said. “They just stood out. Part of the reason they were my best class ever was they were so sharp. They just blew the IQ test out of the water.”
Keithley was so impressed with his first class that in February, he submitted a letter to the editor to the News and Tribune asking for members of the class to get in touch with him.
They did more than that.
Class member Kathy Copas read the letter and started organizing a reunion by reaching out to classmates through Facebook. Along with Marcie Keithley, the two received a great response and organized Wednesday’s reunion. There were 12 classmates along with Keithley who attended the event and enjoyed sharing stories.
“I didn’t expect this,” Keithley said of the party. “This is really great.”
“I think half of us had a crush on him,” said Marcie Keithley, a member of the class. “It’s pretty cool when your last name is the same as the teacher.”
After teaching for several years, Keithley got into administration before retiring in 1998. Slate Run was only 2 years old when he began his career in 1965.
“That was just an outstanding group,” he said. “They always responded well. I think I learned more that first year than they did.”
Copas said the interest and the turnout Wednesday was a “wonderful testament to Mr. Keithley.”
“Many of us still live here and cross paths,” Copas said. “Back in 1965, it was a tough time in our culture. But as a woman, I never felt any limitations in his class. I felt like I could be anything I wanted to be.”
Members of Keithley’s 1965 fifth-grade class included: Sally Huff, Sherri Payne, Steve Bare, Sam Faris, Tony Gibbons, Paula Stoner, Steve Uesseler, Carla Dolan, Karen Linton, Laurie Oldham, Nancy Trobaugh, Marcie Keithley, Denise Scott, Fran Hanson, Connie Willman, Mike Burp, Sharon Salmi, Kathy Copas, David Flanigan, Danny Flanigan, Glenn Norrington, Gary Ragsdale, Peggy Peers, Nancy Summers, Richard Overton, Patty McDermott, Debbie Bell, Teresa Fleming, Bobby James, David Mock, Cindy Conrad, Roxanne Keithley, Lu Anne Keithley and Lisa Fetz.