Covering a rival school reunion was fun

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 23, 2002

I can’t believe that I’m actually getting paid for doing what I love doing best: meeting lots and lots of people by attending your banquets and especially school reunions. I’m even scheduled to attend the 60th class reunion of Suffolk High School in The Dining Room tonight, but that is another story. However, it’s really good to see former students bring back the past in this way and honor to those who helped them to get where they are today.

Though I’m a proud member of the Booker T. Washington High School graduating class of 1962 and the BTW Alumni Association, last weekend I felt I was right at home with some of the members of the East Suffolk High School alumni. This is because some of them were also my friends during high school days, and some of us grew up in the same church.

The alumni kicked off its day with a picnic on East Suffolk Center Community grounds at South Sixth Street. I grabbed my black-and-gold-colored camera bag about 6 p.m. and headed for event. When I entered the gate, I saw a beautiful array of black and gold tee shirts with the words &uot;East Suffolk High School Alumni Reunion, Classes of 1940-1965, July 19-21, 2002.&uot; Thank God for my camera bag. I now felt a little more at home.


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After I talked to a few people and took some pictures, I went inside. There I met the valedictorian and salutatorian from the Class of 1940. To me, this was historic, finding them together after all these years.

In an excited move to interview them before they got away, I made my first boo-boo when I asked them &uot;How do you both feel being here in the presence of each other and attending another Booker T. Alumni Association event?&uot; I said ‘oops’ under my breath hoping beyond hope they didn’t catch my mistake. I suddenly heard one person, Gloria Colbert, holler from across the room, &uot;Uh oh, get out, get out!&uot; in a joking manner. We then laughed and hugged because she knew I was trying to hide my mistake.

I wandered outside, and William Harrell, a graduate in the class of 1959 and an excellent football athlete for the Wolverines, approached and told me about his winning catch once for his team in a game against my school. I thought about his statement while I was looking at a children’s program entitled &uot;Kid Talk&uot; on Saturday. The show dealt with the hostility, bad tempers and poor sportsmanship shown by some parents and students alike that is sometimes displayed at games today. If we had behaved like these people in days past, the teams of East Suffolk and Booker T. may have been wiped out in a gunshot battle. But we had clean fun, and if we did get a little angry by losing a game to each other once in a while, we were all friends and laughing again when we saw each other on the street the next day. Now a student cannot play a high school game without guards or policemen on site to check if anyone is carrying a dangerous weapon.

At the banquet Saturday night in Temple Beth-El, some members were a little tense because the association president, Dr. Thelma Norfleet, has been ill and no one knew if she was going to attend any of the events.

But about 30 minutes into the program everyone began to cheer as Norfleet and her husband, Cleophus entered the room dressed down to match in their black-and-gold attire for the evening.

Even though Norfleet is a 1943 ESH graduate, many people are not aware that she taught at BTW and ESH, and is the chairperson of the BTW Scholarship fund as well as being president of the ESH Alumni Association. This fact was yet another bond between Booker T. and East Suffolk because she is respected and loved by both associations.

During the banquet, the 13 honorees, alumni, family and friends had the privilege of listening to the speaker, the Rev. Dr. Robert R. Rodgers, a 1952 graduate who now pastors Pulaski Baptist Church in Carrsville. His topic on &uot;Soul Food&uot; was taken from John 4:31-34. He made an excellent point that the most important food was not that which filled the physical body, but the spiritual food (the Word of God) that you should live by. This would eventually lead to everlasting life after this life on earth has ended.

Cheryln Smith Covington was the musician for the evening. Marion Matthews, a retired educator and a member of the Class of 1950, performed solos; and Gail Hinton-Copeland, guest soloist and a 1968 graduate of Booker T. Washington High School and a BTW Alumni member, also sang a solo.

The Rev. Linwood Daughtrey, a member of the Class of 1956 at ESHS, served as master of ceremony.

At 10 a.m. Sunday, the alumni worshipped in C&C Banquet Hall on White Marsh Road. Two candles were lit in memory of deceased classmates.

Gloria Colbert, a member of the Class of 1964, gave an excellent message on the topic, &uot;God is an Equal Opportunity Employer – Hired or Fired.&uot; Colbert stressed that it really doesn’t matter how many degrees we have, where we live, how much money we have, or even the kind of clothes that we wear. She said the most important thing about Christ is that He gives all of us an equal opportunity to come to Him as we are; and if we follow Him daily, He would be our employer. However, if we fail to follow His rules, we are fired.

Neva Flood, a member of the Class of 1945, served as musician; and Minister Dolores Pinner Chavis, a member of the Class of 1961, served as worship leader.

Gail Hinton-Copeland once again fed the congregation of about 300 with musical selections.

&uot;Who said that the Bears and Wolverines can’t get along,&uot; she asked.

Then I looked toward Dr. Norfleet who was dressed in a royal blue dress and wore a white hat with red trim (Note: BTW school colors are red and blue). Then I thought, truer words were never spoken and Norfleet seems to love both BTW and ESH as much as we love her. She is that bond that the two schools will always have in common.

Marion B. Wright was the overall chairman of the reunion. I would to thank her for the gifts presented to me on the alumni’s behalf. I will cherish the meeting of new friends and renewing relationships with old ones. I really enjoyed your special weekend.

Evelyn Wall is a regular columnist for the News-Herald.