• Steven Keith

A taste of nostalgia at the Charleston High All-Class Reunion

Hey, Charleston High School Mountain Lions, your big All-Class Reunion canceled by COVID in 2020 is back!

The old Shoney's Strawberry Pie will be served during the All-Class Reunion
The old Shoney's Strawberry Pie will be served during the All-Class Reunion

And the awesome lineup of memorabilia and retro food served that night will definitely take you back to many of the old Charleston restaurant haunts of your youth.


For those who may not know, the school’s history dates back to the late 1880s, when it operated as a number of educational facilities through the 1900s before becoming Charleston High. It eventually consolidated with Stonewall Jackson High in 1989 to form what is now Capital High School – and the old archway from the demolished building still stands on Capital’s campus.

As many as 1,200 graduates were expected to attend Charleston High’s All-Class Reunion back in August 2020, before a worldwide pandemic reared its ugly head and said otherwise.


But two years later the event is back on the books for Aug. 6, with festivities anchored by a gala and dinner in the grand ballroom at the Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center that will feature performances by former band members, majorettes and cheerleaders – and a very nostalgic menu.


After different CHS classes enjoy their own smaller reunions at gatherings throughout the weekend, all classes will come together that Saturday evening to enjoy a menu offering “a taste of old Charleston” thanks to beloved recipes alumni probably enjoyed back in the day.


The Anchor's Tomato Pie
The Anchor's Tomato Pie

The tentative menu shaping up so far includes ...


The Anchor’s legendary Tomato Pie and possibly sliders from Shoney’s being served as appetizers during the cocktail hour, followed by a dinner buffet featuring salad with The Sterling’s signature (French mixed with bleu cheese) dressing, Cagney’s famous Cajun Chicken Pasta, Diamond Department Store dinner rolls, Duchess Bakery chocolate brownies and Shoney’s strawberry pie.

Recipes for the food served that night – along with other long-lost dishes the planning group is able to secure – will also be included in a special “Taste of Charleston High” printed and digital cookbook that will be given to all attendees at the event.


And that’s where you come in.


Although the menu being served on Aug. 6 is close to being set, additional favorite recipes from the good ol’ days can still be included in that cookbook – and the more it features, the better it will be.


The old Diamond Department Store lunch counter
The old Diamond Department Store lunch counter

So far they've acquired the recipes above, along with Steak and Ale’s steak marinade, Hess’ Drive-In’s banana cream pie and a few others. They’d love to snag some from popular spots like the old Vesuvio’s, Kourey’s Sweet Shop, Gold Dome, Phillip’s Drive In (home of The Long Bob sandwich, they told me, which was “basically a Slim Jim, but better”) and Fazio’s.


I’ve helped track down a few recipes, but your “homework” is helping us source more. Fame and fortune may not result from your efforts, but you’ll go down in a page of CHS (cookbook) history!


“We are really hoping some of your readers may have access to some of these recipes and be willing to share them with us,” said CHS Class of ‘76 graduate Dale Clowser, who is leading up the reunion’s food committee. “Many of these restaurants are long gone, but their dishes can still live on.”


But savoring them that night will require a ticket, and the July 4 deadline to purchase them is just over a month away.


Approximately 350 tickets have been sold so far, but reunion chairman Andy Richardson (Class of ’76) is hoping to attract as many as 800 to 1,000, which is how many attended the last All-Class Reunion. Tickets are $60 each, or tables of 10 may be purchased for $600.


For more information on the event or to purchase tickets, visit www.chaswvccc.com. To donate or loan CHS memorabilia, contact Andy at andyrichardsonwv@gmail.com.


• • •


Speaking of the “good ol’ days,” when Mindi Brison Rulli heard that Charleston High alumni were reminiscing about their favorite hangouts and tastes from back in the day, she sent in her own list of favorites from when she grew up in town.


The interesting connection here is that Mindi is not just a Food Guy reader, but was also my French teacher from many moons ago when I was in school in Wayne County. What a coincidence!


Here, in her own words, were some of her favorites, which also made many on the CHS All-Class Reunion Committee nod in agreement when I shared them. Maybe they’ll help spark a few memories for you as well.

  1. Duchess Bakery – Glazed doughnuts with chocolate icing (I've never tasted any better) and their Grecian bread with sesame seeds.

  2. The Coffee Shop – It was across the street from CHS and I used to eat their mashed potatoes with gravy for lunch. It was just one scoop with gravy.

  3. The Diamond – Their soda fountain Coke!

  4. Shoney’s – Anything from there, and I'm not talking about the Shoney’ of today, but back from the ’70s and before. Their food was so much better then.

  5. Mr. Donut – It was in Kanawha City where the Donut Connection now stands. Their cinnamon rolls with chocolate frosting! I know it sounds weird, but it was good.

  6. The Sterling – Silver dollar pancakes.

  7. Leonoro’s – Spaghetti and meatballs.

  8. Grape bubblegum – We used to call it “Grapey.” That stuff was the bomb, but none of us can probably chew it now!

• • •


Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic known as “The Food Guy” who writes a weekly column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and has appeared in several state, regional and national culinary publications. Follow him online at www.wvfoodguy.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at wvfoodguy@aol.com.

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