10/18/04 — OPINION -- Impromptu reunion

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OPINION -- Impromptu reunion

By Gene Price
Published in News on October 18, 2004 1:58 PM

The parking lot on the Highway 111 shopping center was crowded to overflowing. Some cars were lined up on the approaching streets. And people were gathered three and four deep in a staggered line that wound the full length of the store fronts and continuing around the building.

Most appeared to be senior citizens.

The first person I recognized was Dick Griswold. "What's going on here?" I asked, mystified.

"Flu shots! Southeast Family Pharmacy received 500 doses of the vaccine." Dick explained. "I'm Number 416 -- and I've been here almost four hours." (And obviously happy to have been among those assured of getting his inoculation.)

I snapped a picture and began working my way toward the entrance to Food Lion to get a gallon of milk. But with almost every step, I encountered old friends and familiar faces. Floyd Evans, former Social Services director, was holding forth in one of the several wheel chairs.

There also were folks with walkers, folding beach chairs, walking canes and some using makeshift benches. Others waited in their cars.

"Hortie" Rouse, there with her cane and indomitable good humor, was entertaining a cluster of friends reclining against the Food Lion store front. I worked the crowd like a politician. Former Community College President Clyde Erwin -- number 462 -- was relaxing in a folding chair and told me of all the bass he could catch from the deck of his condo at the beach.

I swapped greetings with the Rev. Bill Brettmann, chatted with Dean and Jackie Gurley, fielded Wildlife Commission questions from several old hunting acquaintances, found Bill Smith in a beach chair, smiling amiably behind his sunglasses.

Some shook hands and explained they recognized me from the pictures in this column and the one I do for Sundays on hunting and fishing. Strangers, it turned out, were just good friends I hadn't met before.

With the election just days away, the gathering would have been a windfall for politicians courting the senior vote. And surely a few must have worked the crowd sometime during the day.

It was a delightful experience. Everyone was in an upbeat mood, exchanging banter, renewing acquaintances, and appreciating the fact that Southeast Family Pharmacy had acquired 500 flu shots.

All clutched their sheets showing their respective places in the order of getting immunizations.

The atmosphere was like being present for the lottery drawing -- and everybody having a winning ticket!

Everybody except me. But I ended up with my gallon of milk -- and a delightful hour visiting with the winners.