Harrison County

Long-forgotten letters from Gulfport students are in the mail

Alton Bankston of Biloxi found this box of letters written by his students more than 50 years ago. Since an article ran in the Sun Herald about his find and his intent to return them to his students, he’s had calls from California, Oregon and locally asking about the letters.
Alton Bankston of Biloxi found this box of letters written by his students more than 50 years ago. Since an article ran in the Sun Herald about his find and his intent to return them to his students, he’s had calls from California, Oregon and locally asking about the letters. meperez@sunherald.com

Letters from the past are in the mail to students who wrote them more than 50 years ago when they were juniors at Harrison Central High in 1964.

The same day an article ran in the Sun Herald about how Alton Bankston of Biloxi found the letters, he mailed the original 50-year-old homework assignment back to the students who wrote them and whose addresses he knew.

He also tucked inside each plain white envelope a note telling how he found the box of letters when his wife, Kay, asked him to look for a box of Christmas decorations at their home. He provided his phone number (228-861-2186) if anyone wanted to contact him.

“By Wednesday they were calling,” he said. “I’m getting calls from all over the country,” including Oregon and California.

In just a few days he’d heard from three people whose contact information he didn’t have. More calls and emails came to the Sun Herald, asking how they could get their letter.

“I just wish I could find everybody,” he said.

About 50 people in the class have died, and some who contacted him are relatives of those students. They asked that the letters be sent to them as a remembrance.

Others got their letter out of the blue and called to thank Bankston.

“They had fun finding out what they had written about 50 years ago,” he said.

The assignment was for the students to tell him, a new teacher who just moved to South Mississippi, about their family, their schools and their lives.

He didn’t know that two of his students later married. When the man got his letter in the mail, “He went out immediately and got it framed,” Bankston said.

The man’s wife died a few years ago and he asked Bankston to send him her letter so their framed letters from a half-century ago can be displayed side-by-side.

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