Memorial Day remembered in many ways

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 3, 2005

People celebrate Memorial Day in different ways because of its meaning. To some, it means the beginning of the summer vacation. To some it means honoring those in the military who gave the ultimate sacrifice to our country. To some it means decorating the graves of loved ones and relatives in remembrance of them, and to the class of 1963 at the former Booker T. Washington High School, it meant going down memory lane.

Memorial Day in a way is a little depressing to me because it brings back the memory of unpleasant situations involving my mother’s death and the sudden death of my husband. This is one day that I try to involve myself in some sort of activity to offset the depression. But thanks to the invitation from Henry Dillard, the chairman of the Reuniting Committee of the former BTW Class of 1963, to attend a cookout at his house for his class last Saturday, part of my weekend was fun-filled and enjoyable.

Our school was small and the graduating class of 1963 only included 35 students – 19 girls and 16 boys.

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At Dillard’s house Saturday, about 23 people attended including three members from my class, spouses and friends of students of 1963. Walking down memory lane included the fact that students of today don’t seem to have the fun we teens did in the 60s. One reason is the lack of entertainment for teens within the city. In our teen days segregation existed so we had two movie theaters – Chadwick on N. Main Street where whites attended and the Carver Theater on East Washington Street where blacks attended. A drive-in, The Plantation, was located almost where Obici is now on Rt. 10. We students at Booker T. also had a place of recreation called The Teenage Shack that was located on Lee Street, which is now an apartment complex. These places of recreation kept us entertained and out of trouble, and gave us a place to keep relationships alive and renewed.

Since this is the season for proms, that’s another event that we will always reminisce about when we are together. We didn’t care if we had to borrow our parents’ cars, catch a taxi or ride with a friend on that big night. Our fun began when we arrived at the prom. In our day, juniors always gave seniors the prom and decorated the gym or cafeteria and chose a theme. Seniors weren’t allowed to see the room until the night of the event. The thrill and shrieks of excitement of the ones receiving the honor on prom night made the work that the hosting classes did well worthwhile. Parents of the old days had little to be concerned about on that night compared to parents today who have to worry about the right limousine service to use and proms miles away from home that have to be driven by their teen or someone else’s teen in order to attend a prom.

We reminisced about our teachers who seem more like second sets of parents, because teachers in the days of old kept up with us from primary school until we graduated. In addition, when we students began the eighth grade, we had the same homeroom teacher from that grade until we graduated. When we entered the first grade, we remained with the same students of that class until we graduated which makes class reunions seem more like family reunions.

Finally, Cliff Edwards put a James Brown album on the music box and we ate, danced and the class of 1963 made plans where to reunite for their meeting in June before leaving for the evening. This class usually meets for dinner or some other recreation on the third Friday of each month.

The year 1963 was a very good one in many ways: the Beatles was the top group and had five top records; the Beverly Hillbillies was the most popular TV show; Cleopatra was the top movie; and the Beatles had the top album titled &uot;Please Please.&uot;

The bad note is that President John F. Kennedy, the president in 1963, was assassinated in Texas by Lee Harvey Oswald. Six male members of the class of 1963 have died since graduation, and as I write this entry on Monday morning, I am hearing &uot;Taps&uot; being played on the television for about the fifth time reminding me what Memorial Day really means.

However, the good note and a big blessing are that all 16 female students of the class of 1963 are still alive and looking forward to another year.

Evelyn Wall is a regular columnist for the News-Herald. Call her at 934-9615