Independence High School Classes Of ‘71 And ‘72 Plan 50th Reunion

A photo from the 1971 yearbook recalls when the class collected cans to win a prize from a local radio station and pay help pay for stadium lighting.
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MINT HILL, NC – Independence High School’s Classes of ‘71 and ‘72 will celebrate their 50th reunion on April 23 at the Embassy Suites in Concord, NC.

An IHS reunion at Penny's Place
An IHS reunion at Penny’s Place

Planning a reunion in the middle of a pandemic is no easy feat.  Originally planned for April of 2021, the committee made the decision to reschedule for the fall when things began shutting down in the spring of 2021.  In the fall, however, the omicron variant arrived on the scene, and the committee was forced to reschedule again.  Over a full year from the original date, the reunion is finally set to happen!

Kristy Miller Eddelman and Jane Marcel Rhodes, both members of the Class of ‘71, have fond memories of their time at Independence.  They recall being taught by a young, diverse and enthusiastic faculty led by Principal Sam Haywood, whom they both still admire.  The Independence of the early 70s was a “smaller school” where everybody knew everybody because they’d grown up in the same neighborhoods and attended school together since kindergarten.  Both Kristy and Jane have warm memories of football games, pep rallies, senior breakfast, prom, military ball and a formal Christmas Banquet on “the mall.”

But the 70s were also a turbulent time for Independence.  In the wake of Federal District Court Judge James McMillan’s 1969 verdict, which noted that almost every black student attended schools that were entirely black, CMS began busing students as a means of integrating schools.  “We were the senior class the year they desegregated the schools,” said Kristy.  “They didn’t give seniors the choice not to move.  We lost a lot of classmates to Garinger and West Charlotte during our senior year, and we also gained a lot of people from East Mecklenburg.”

Some of the ensuing changes were logistical.  “When we were sophomores and juniors, our letter girls spelled out ‘Independence,’ recalls Kristy, “but senior year we spelled out ‘Independence Patriots’ because we gained so many girls from other schools!”  Clubs that used to meet in the evening began meeting during the day because kids being bused in from West Charlotte couldn’t come back at night for meetings.

Other changes were harder to weather.  Kristy and Jane remember things getting heated and ultimately violent when Independence played West Charlotte in football.  For the two women, busing meant losing friends they’d been in school with for eleven years.  Ultimately, the pair remembers that busing changed the dynamic of Independence, resulting in less community and school spirit.

But ultimately, the pair remembers the good times, hijinks sure to be relived at the 50th reunion.  “We’ll always remember the friendships we made, the crazy things we did that we probably wouldn’t have gotten by with today if we tried!” says Jane, recalling a classmate who got caught trying to skip school by hiding in the boot of someone’s convertible.  “I’m sure many of these memories will be relived at the reunion!”

An IHS reunion at Penny's Place
An IHS reunion at Penny’s Place

Fifty years down the line, those friends still find ways to connect.  “We try to have big reunions every five years,” says Kristy.  “We’ve also celebrated major milestones like our 50th and 60th birthdays.  We have informal get togethers – when Billy Kiser (Class of ‘71) owned Penny’s Place, he would open it up to use once or twice a year.”

Nowadays, it’s relatively easy to keep in touch with former classmates via email and social media, but keeping up with reunions for five decades is quite remarkable when you realize Kristy and Jane graduated two decades before the first website of any kind went live.  “We’re lucky that a lot of people still live here in the Mint Hill area,” says Kristy, who remembers calling her former classmates’ home phone numbers in search of them.  Now they post in various Mint Hill groups to get the word out, but tracking people down – especially women who may have married more than once – can be tricky.  

Nevertheless, Kristy and Jane work hard to find everyone they can, including the kids who were bused away and the ones who were bused in their senior year.  At the end of March, they had over 100 people signed up to attend the reunion, but they’re still hoping to get more.  If you’d like to purchase tickets, email  Tickets are $75 each, which includes dinner.

“It’s been a lot of hard work,” says Jane, “but we can pick right up where we left off if we don’t see each other for 6 months or 50 years.  There’ll be lots of stories about high school, but also stories about kids and grandkids.  Your ten-year reunion is kind of a competition to see who accomplished what in ten years, but by the time you get to the 50th, you’re just so glad to be on this side of the grass!” she laughs.  “This is probably the last great hurrah as far as a big reunion goes.  We just want everyone that can to come.”

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Mary Beth Foster
Mary Beth Foster works part time as an essay specialist at Charlotte Latin School and full time as a mom to her five-year-old daughter Hannah and her two-year-old son Henry. Prior to having children, she worked as a high school English teacher for nine years. Most recently, she chaired the English department at Queen's Grant High School. She and her husband have lived in Mint Hill with their children and their cats since 2011. Email: