Saturday, May 10, 2014

Reunion Remarks

Obie Oakley has a way of condensing the essence of our amazing no one else!

Here are a few of his remarks from last evening's 60th reunion:

Photo by Jerry Gaudet
As I said in my opening remarks, I think the evening would be rather incomplete to end it with the conclusion of the meal. Granted, we can’t even come close to matching five years ago and that incredible video Ed put together. That was and is spectacular. We can, however spend a little time together, have some serious moments and maybe even have some fun!

You know, if you were to go back in time to that evening in June 60 years ago and asked what were the expectations for achievement of the 350 graduates of Charlotte Central High School, I am convinced the response would have been, “Oh, they will do OK, but don’t expect too much”.

Think about it, we were from mostly middle-class, working, blue collar families. Our neighborhoods were Midwood and Dilworth, Elizabeth and Plaza and our Junior High’s were A.G. and Piedmont.

And so after graduation we quietly went off to make our mark on the world. Some of us went off to college, some to the military and most of us to jobs we would find right here close to home.

And now, let me tell you how wrong those “experts” of 60 years ago would have been. The Class of ’54 has established itself as achievers in every field. And how do I know this, I went through the questionnaires we filled out for our 40th and 50th reunions! I am going to recommend that if you were at the 50th, go home and sometime over the weekend read each one of these mini-biographies. I assure you you will be very proud of this group of achievers you call “classmates”. You will laugh and you will cry, but most of all you will be impressed!

I want to spend some time in citing specifics later but for now, a brief serious moment if you please. I think you will join me in being impressed by what we have returned to our communities and our nation. We have served with distinction in the military, (One giving his life), in the professions as teachers, doctors and nurses, attorneys and in the world of business as shop owners, clerks and administrators. Not to bore you with numbers but here are some examples about which I’m speaking.

At least seven went in to the ministry
Ten became lawyers, one became a judge (Bill Robinson) and one (Warren Sparrow) the district attorney who successfully prosecuted the husband killer, BlancheTaylor Moore.
Two have served with distinction as State Senators, Jennie Margaret
Is Maryland’s longest serving legislator and Neil Jones in the NC Senate
I think you get my point for now and I want to come back to this later.

Just as important and maybe a little more so is the way we have given ourselves as volunteers in hundreds of activities that help others who are perhaps less fortunate than us. These include shelters, Meals on Wheels, mission trips, YMCA, Boy and Girl Scouts and countless hours through our churches.


Let’s shift gears a bit and move to a lighter side and start off with the standard recognitions. Who came the furthest to get here? Start off with you ladies. Who feels you came from the longest distance and this has to be farther away than Gastonia. Atlanta? Rockville? Well, for making the effort, here’s a gift card from Starbucks! Nothing cheap about the class of ’54,

How about the guys? Again, Atlanta? Maryland? RL, I think Herb’s got you on this one. Way to go Herb and here is your Starbucks gift card.

How about a little game of trivia?
      1. If you grandson were to ask you what was the purpose of that Pepsi bottle and the metal cap with holes punched in it, what would you tell him? (Water sprinklers) Some hi-octane caffeine for ________.
      1. Who did Casey Jones, Rocky Spadaccini and Nick Ognivich play for? (Charlotte Clippers) Out of curiosity, what were the team colors?
Going back to the numbers game, did you know that our class produced five pilots who served in combat? One of them is RL Clark, we knew him as Robert. Of course, Charles Mateer lost his life in the service to his country.
I’d like to share with you at this time a little true “war story”. Our classmate, Calix Reneau, was serving in Vietnam as a Marine infantryman. His unit was pinned down and they were getting pounded by a North Vietnamese regiment. They were in a desperate situation and were calling for close air support. In just the nick of time, a flight of A-6 Invaders appeared and saved the day. Good guys riding in wearing white hats. And now, as Paul Harvey would say, for the rest of the story, the flight leader that day was none other than our own Pat Faulkner! Great story.

Ready for some more give-aways? How about this one? Who has the most great-grandchildren? (In earlier times it would have been Grandchildren)? Charlie, help me with the counting. Here we go, another Starbucks caffeine injection!

The next winner is going to have to work for his/her prize. Do any of you remember the first time you saw television? For a prize, would you be willing to share that with the group? As you think about that, I saw TV for the first time standing outside a house on Chesterfield Avenue looking through the window at the tiny image and being in awe! Where were you?

Next, I want to talk about the incredibly wide range of activities you could involve yourself in offered at Central. There was drama, music, athletics and occupational clubs just to mention a few. Those of you involved in choir, band or orchestra to include letter girls, how about standing. Next, those of you who were on an athletic team stand up. As I was researching for this I was in shock at the absolute lack of mention of girl’s athletics, which I suppose was limited to basketball. Whereas the boys had individual pictures with names below, you girls got a long distance group shot with no names! Times have really changes haven’t them. I must say for the good! (8:31)

How about some more trivia?
1. What color was Smith Brothers Cough Drops? (Black)
2. What do Al Widenhouse and Richard Petty have in common?
Both wore #43.

At my fiftieth college reunion, an entertaining part of an evening was called “Open mike”. Classmates were encouraged to share with the group something they thought particular meaningful or amusing that occurred during their time at the school. I had an email sent out earlier putting you on notice that you would be encouraged to do the same about your time at Central. Do I have any takers? You’ll get a prize if you do.

Couple more trivia questions. These are going to really test your memory skills.
1. Who was our graduation speaker? (Judge William Bobbit)
2. Who delivered our baccalaureate sermon? (Dr. Warner Hall)
        1. And finally, who was the last person to walk across the stage and receive his/her diploma? (Charlie Willis)
A few classmates to highlight special achievements).

1. Diana Carpenter- DeKalb County teacher of the year!
2. Can you believe Vic Brawley, until last year, was playing
Competive soft ball?
3. Charlie Willis – Built one of the largest engineering firms
Of its kind on the East Coast.
4. Linsy Farris – Couple of things. Continued to practice in a
Hospital in Harlem when he could have gone to more
Lucrative areas. He’s also an accomplished musician,
Playing the bass in classical as well as country groups
Entertaining in nursing homes.

Finally, I’d like to close with something I think speaks to the true make-up of the members of the Class of 1954.

For Herb Jacobiwicz’s 70th birthday, his wife Barbara sent out a call for anyone who remembered anything about Herb to send it to her. She was planning a party and would include it it a book of memories for him. Well, here’s what I sent.

“I remember Herb Jacobowitz enrolling for the 12th grade. Here was this little guy, certainly not an athlete, coming on the scene and immersing himself into daily routines of school life. Herb had a certain air of confidence about him and didn’t see himself any different from the other 349 of our class. The flip side of that was the other 349 of us didn’t seem to take note that Herb was Jewish. In fact, if I’m not mistaken he was the only one of his faith in our class.

“I think this speaks to the heart and soul of our class. We were totally accepting of those coming in and joining our ranks, especially when they were willing to apply themselves and make the effort to becoming a good Wildcat. I will say there was some resentment over his playing hell with the grading curves in Karl Sawyer’s classes!

“Herb, we are proud you chose to become a member of the class of ’54. I’d like to tell those here that you went on the get your PhD at M.I.T. and retired as a physicist designing and developing weather satellites!”

To close, I’d like to relay a little conversation I had yesterday while picking up the sound system. The owner was also a disc jockey who played records at various functions such as ours. In fact, he is entertaining a group down in Chester tonight. Andy, my new best friend, remarked after learning that we are of the 50’s generation that he was envious of our times and experiences. He had been with many groups and decided that if he could go back and be a part of and spend time as a member of a particular class, ours would be the one he would choose!

Well Andy, it has been our privilege to have experienced three whole years as members of the Central High School Class of 1954!

That wraps up the evening. Does anyone wish to add anything?
-Obie Oakley 5/9/14