The East Suffolk High School reunion

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 12, 2004

I am proud to acknowledge that during my school days I attended Booker T. Washington High School. In those days our closest rival was East Suffolk High School. Last weekend the ESH Alumni Association held its Second Annual School Reunion for classes 1939-1965 and Ross Boone, president, invited Luefras Robinson and me to attend activities.

Because I was going to be out of town part of the weekend. I attended only the Hospitality Night on Thursday, Aug. 5. However, it pays to have close friends in the right places at the right time because one of them, Gail Hinton-Copeland, also a BTW Bear, was also invited to be a special guest and attended four out of five events. In doing so, she collected information and obtained names and numbers of members whom I could contact to do a more thorough report..

About 75 people attended the hospitality event at the Holiday Inn and giant gift bags were given to each member. Some items inside the bag were business cards, brochures, pencils and personal items from businesses in Suffolk and surrounding areas, a Wednesday, Aug. 4 edition of the Suffolk News-Herald, candy, a black and gold (school colors) ESH cap and a schedule of reunion events. There were also plenty of activities and refreshments to keep attendees happy. These included food, music and different card games, Bingo, checkers and other games. I even won a game of Bingo and claimed a prize. This activity ended about midnight.

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On Friday the alumni headed to Portsmouth for a boat ride on the Carrie-B from 8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m.There was food, fun, and fellowship on the lower deck and a disc jockey and dancing on top deck.

Saturday from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. the association held a picnic on the East Suffolk Community Center grounds. Later that evening, the East Suffolk High School Fourth Annual Scholarship Banquet and Dance was held from 6 p.m.-1 a.m. at the Holiday Inn. Benford Hunter served as DJ for the dance.

Carol B. Diggs (64) served as chairman and mistress of ceremonies for the banquet and Evangelist Viola Parker from New Mt. Joy Church was guest soloist. The highlight of the program was the building project that Gerry Jones presented for the rebuilding of the old East Suffolk structure, one of the association’s main goals. Jones is the Director of Capital Programs Management for the City of Suffolk. Others on the program were Costellar B. Ledbetter (60), Rev. Henry Diggs (62), Ella Porter Ward (64), Barbara Ricks Thompson (65), Marion B. Wright (60) and retired minister, the Rev. Linwood Daughtrey (56) and special guest, Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett.

A candlelight period was also held for deceased students and school personnel. Members of the association sang the Alma Mater, &uot;Dear Ole&uot; East Suffolk High immediately following the dinner.

The East Suffolk Association is making a three-fold effort with the City of Suffolk and Boys and Girls Club to renovate and build a community center from the old East Suffolk structure. Therefore, Daughtrey, the keynote speaker for the Sunday morning worship service at 11 a.m. at the Holiday Inn banquet room, spoke on the topic, &uot;The Challenge of Building.&uot;

Worship leader was Mary Wilson Copeland and guest soloist was Gail Hinton-Copeland. Others on the program were Jasper Mullen (62), Priscilla H. Benn (60). Willie Gary (54), R. Linwood Ledbetter (55), Costeller Ledbetter , Rosser Turner (56).

Daughtrey took his scripture from Nehemiah 2:11-18 and Nehemiah 6:3-4. With these verses he set the example of rebuilding ESH the same as Nehemiah helped to build Jerusalem.

He told of the story of when the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and how the city was in disarray. Jerusalem was the home of Nehemiah and his family and the place of his birth; he was concerned about the condition of the city and gathered up a group of people, went to Jerusalem, and rebuilt those structures that had been torn down.

Daughtrey said that this is what has got to happen with East SuffolkHigh

School because it is falling down and it must be made to be a place of historical significance so that it can be a center that is useful. He told the congregation that they must use their shoulders and hands and must trust in the Lord and pray.

&uot;You must not only have physical and financial concerns but spiritual concerns as well,&uot; he said.

After telling a story of a night watchman at the train tracks who used a lantern to signal to those who approached the track if a train was coming, he concluded, &uot;We must never let the light go out. We must press on, fight on, move on and build on.&uot;

In a conversation with Daughtrey that I had on Monday, he said that the community center would be a big improvement for Suffolk because youngsters from all over the city will be able to come and have activities. He said a senior citizen recreation program will be included as well and that he would like for the entire community and other school alumni associations to help in their effort to rebuild the school. Those who wish to do so can send donations to the ESH Alumni Association, P.O. Box 1536, Suffolk, Va. 23439.

&uot;We have to get to work so that when the time comes, people won’t ask us what are we going to do. After all, this is our home base and we need to get some strategies into place so that we can make a worthwhile contribution,&uot; he said.

About 200 alumni members attended during the entire reunion. Al Britt was the first member to arrive at activities on Thursday night. Larry T. Fields was the father with the most children, Fields and Eugene Scott both traveled the farthest from the state of Florida. Bernice Maloney was the oldest member and also was the only member attending from the oldest class of 1942. Pearlie Blanks was the youngest member attending from the class of 1965.

The ESH Alumni Assoc. was organized in 1999. Officers are W. Ross Boone, president; Jasper Mullen, vice president; Priscilla H. Benn, secretary; Marion B. Wright, financial secretary; and treasurer, Pearlie H. Blanks.

Evelyn Wall is a former News-Herald reporter and a regular columnist.