Perry Hall 50 years

From left, Ed Miller of York, Mary Miller of Perry Hall and Cindy Horn of Fallston pose for a portrait with a yearbook from 1965 and Horn's senior photo at Perry Hall High School. Ed and Mary were a part of the original graduating class of '65 from the school. Horn graduated in '78. They are planning a celebration for the 50th anniversary of Perry Hall High School. (Staff photo by Sarah Pastrana / February 19, 2013)

At age 50, she's still big and beautiful. Beginning this year, Perry Hall High School will mark a half-century of existence with celebratory events stretching 14 months.

"It's going to be a party," Principal George Roberts said.

The scope of the celebration befits the size of the school, which, student-population-wise, is a monster.

As it approaches a landmark year, Perry Hall boasts a student body that has frequently reached or exceeded 2,300 students. This year, it's a shade over 2,200. Student spillover fills nine trailers.

Alumni number 24,000 for a school with enrollment boundaries that reach Harford County on the north, Route 43 on the south, Old Harford Road on the west, and Philadelphia Road — and the Chesapeake Bay — on the east.

A school big enough to have five assistant principals, one of the largest cadre in the county, is also the centerpiece institution in Perry Hall.

"Perry Hall High School is really the glue that helps bind the community together," said Baltimore County Councilman David Marks, a 1991 PHHS alumnus.

"Perry Hall is very sprawling and suburban, but the high school brings it together," he said.

When the school opened in 1963, it was housed in the building that is now Perry Hall Middle School, drawing new students from Parkville and Overlea high schools. The current high school opened five years later.

Mary (Harvey) Miller was not only in the first graduating class in 1965, she was part of the first wave of black students to integrate Baltimore County's public school system. She spent her senior year in an honors class.

"After the things I went through coming up (in the school system), Perry Hall was really more friendly. It was a different atmosphere," she said. "It structured me. I accepted challenges better."

Miller, who retired in 2009 as the state's Equal Opportunity Employment coordinator, has had three children and a grandson also graduate from Perry Hall High. She is currently serving on the alumni association's 50th Anniversary Committee.

Another member of the first graduating class, Diane Knoedler, recalled an idyllic social scene.

"We didn't seem to have a care in the world. Everything was at a slower pace," she said. "We would go to Perry Hall Elementary for teen center ... and the music was great back then."

The parking lot at Perry Hall Shopping Center was a regular hangout.

"We would go by the bowling alley ... and sit on the hoods of our cars and listen to music," she said. "Then, after an hour or so, we would get scattered by the police. Not that we were doing anything bad, other than loitering."

Cindy (King) Horn, Class of 1978 and also a member of the 50th Anniversary Committee, rode a bus to school from her home in rural Fork, near the Harford County line.

"I slept a lot," she said. "I was a fortunate girl, though. I could get up, fix my hair and be right out the door."

Her's was the last class to wear unsightly gym uniforms, she said.

"It was this ugly yellow snap-up tennis dress with bloomers. I don't know one girl that liked them."