The term “old friends” takes on new meaning when you meet six of seven women who became close friends 80 years ago as first graders at Hannibal's Stowell School.

The term “old friends” takes on new meaning when you meet six of seven women who became close friends 80 years ago as first graders at Hannibal's Stowell School.

All but one (who was ill) met in Hannibal on Oct. 7 and welcomed an opportunity to share their memories with Courier-Post readers.

They graduated from Hannibal High School in 1949. Two still live in Hannibal and the others return regularly, or the group meets elsewhere to travel together.

Jean Dryden Sims still lives on Fulton Avenue in Hannibal, she said, “the same street where I was born.”

Norma Adrian Herzog, who also remained in Hannibal, said “We have all had fulfilling lives.”
Marilyn Taylor Clark of Lake Saint Louis has kept busy as a volunteer.

Joan Shrewsberry Bastian lives in Danville, Ill.

Ann Archer Funkenbusch of Havana, Ill., owned a quilt shop for 15 years.

Gloria Hollis Broun, a registered nurse who later taught at St. Louis University, still lives in St. Louis.

Carolyn Calhoon Hirner of Overland Park, Kan., was not able to join them Oct. 7 because of illness.

Norma said she and Carolyn had been friends all their lives. Their mothers were close friends, and the daughters were born 10 days apart. They – along with two more of the group - lived on Park Avenue on Hannibal's South Side as children.

The seven friends have a total of 25 children, 42 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren. Four are still married and have been for more than 65 years.

As children, they walked to school and home for lunch. They called each other to walk together.

When they were young, they had bunking parties, and once all slept in one bed, where they had to roll over at the same time.

“When we were younger, we would stay up all night talking, and last night we were in bed at 8,” one said.

They were in elementary school during World War II, when children had scrap metal drives. Ann reported that in fifth or sixth grade, “Norma, Carolyn and I collected more scrap metal than the rest of the school together.”

They spent a lot of time outdoors. Once they were in the woods and Jean sprained her ankle. They made a sling for it to carry her home, but they dropped her in the mud.

Living on South Side, they went to Mark Twain Cave and played in the cave, when it was owned by Archie Cameron. They also went to Camp Oko-Tipi, where their friends had built a cabin.

Stowell was a junior high school at that time, and they remember traveling around town as a group, along with a group of guys, but no one was dating. “We were all just friends,” they said.

In 1993 when Ann's older brother Homer Archer, died, the friends all sent Ann sympathy cards, and she was surprised to have each of them report, “they got their first kiss from Homer.” Norma said hers was behind the drapes at school, and Joan said hers was while playing “kick the can.” They agreed that none had ever dated him.

When they graduated from the ninth grade at Stowell, Ann noted, a teacher told them, “We were big ducks in a little pond, but when we got to high school we were going to be little ducks in a big pond.” They were afraid they would not see each other much, but this proved false. “Our social life was always together, through high school,” one said.

They remembered taking rides in Tom Campbell's old Model T, and it was so old that sometimes, “everybody had to get out and push it up a hill.”

On Friday nights, they went to Teen Town, which was on the south side of Broadway in about the 600 block. It was problem-free, they said, and there was no liquor.

“None of us ever drank or smoked,” Ann said. “We didn't think about it.”

Ann added, “We made a pact we wouldn't say anything about somebody else unless it was good.” This did not apply only to each other but to everyone.

Several earned honors in high school and college. Gloria was HHS Student Council president. Carolyn was junior queen, and Marilyn was football queen.

Joan was basketball queen at Hannibal-LaGrange College, where Ann was homecoming queen. Gloria was class president at St. Louis University.

Gloria said at St. Louis University, “I found out how good an education I had at Hannibal High. I passed everything.” She has lived in St. Louis since 1949 and made new friends, “but this relationship is different. We trusted each other.”

Ann said, “We are all completely different. We have all gone different directions.”

They have been sharing a round robin letter for years, starting it right after high school. After it goes to all seven and comes back to the first, they start a new one.

Joan said their friendship was character building.

Norma said they are, “just like sisters, when you call, it's just like you've been together.”

Gloria said, “I think our relationship is part of my character. It was a character-building relationship.”

The group's advice to young people is, “Try to keep your friends close, even after you are out of school, so you have common memories.”

Reach reporter Bev Darr at bev.darr@courierpost.com.