11/20/06 — Plans in full swing for events honoring former GHS teacher

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Plans in full swing for events honoring former GHS teacher

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 20, 2006 1:45 PM

Organizers of the "Remembering Mr. B" events next month are busy putting the final touches on what is scheduled to be four events slated to honor Clifton Britton, the former Goldsboro High School drama teacher and adviser for the Goldmasquers.

Wayne Community College Foundation will sponsor the event, which is scheduled for the first weekend in December.

Jack Kannan, Foundation director, said the weekend was originally set aside for two performances of "The Shepherds' Song," which was written by Britton. Plans were to hold a reception following each performance.

But with so many coming from out of town, two additional events were added -- a cocktail party Friday evening and a reunion gathering on Saturday morning, Kannan said.

It is the first four-event weekend the Foundation has presented, he added, which meant it would require the leadership of some very capable helpers. He chose Betty and Charles Elllis for the task.

"I asked them to chair it because they have helped me with receptions in the past, and I know the quality of work that they do in making receptions first class-type events," he said.

"I hate to ask volunteers to repeat, but in this case, I felt that I needed somebody that I had worked with before and understood what the Foundation is trying to do. I know that they have a long history of volunteering in our community and have done this many times over, so when I called there was no hesitation to say yes."

Ellis was himself a Goldmasquer, graduating from Goldsboro High in 1947. But his wife readily became involved because she had long heard about the Goldmasquers drama group.

"I went to Rosewood High, but had a lot of friends at Goldsboro High," she said. "Charles being a Goldmasquer has pulled my interest into it."

The couple say they hope that's the way the whole community will feel.

"This is not just for Goldmasquers or Goldsboro High for that matter," Mrs. Ellis said. "It's for everyone to come and enjoy and see how it was."

"And remember Mr. B," Ellis added.

"The guy touched so many hundreds of people, hundreds of students. He pushed us, and we didn't know he was pushing us. In his own little way, he forced us to do things. He could see the potential."

Others from the Britton era -- he was at the school from 1942-1962 -- have also jumped on the bandwagon and volunteered where needed.

"That's part of the excitement. People are calling and saying, 'I want to help,'" Mrs. Ellis said. "A few have turned us down because of being out of town or because of illness, but not many have said no. Most have said, 'I would like to be a part of that.'"

Even those who live a distance away or won't be able to attend the events have found ways to support it, Ellis said.

"Some are going to be out of town but are cooking for it," he said, noting a woman who donated 29 dozen cheese biscuits to put in the freezer. "One lady gave a check to support it."

There are many such examples, his wife said, which is partially what prompted her not to consider catering the events.

"We're using homemade things as much as possible, to make it really welcoming, especially for those from out of town," she said. "We have chosen to have contributions, and it's coming in nicely."

The Ellises have managed to enlist the support of more than 50 people to assist with the four events. For awhile, that meant spending hours on the phone, day and night. Once subcommittees were formed and others got involved, it became more a matter of keeping up with them, the couple said.

"We're just kind of being trouble-shooters," Mrs. Ellis said.

With an estimated 200 each expected at the cocktail party and the reunion events, plus up to 400 possible at each of the two play performances, her role is also to motivate.

"So many of the volunteers are saying, 'I'm not sure I can do that' and we're saying, 'Of course you can. We all can do it,'" she said.

Among the volunteers will be students from the college.

"I'm not saying we're aged, but they have stronger muscles than we do," Ellis said.

Others will assist in such areas as providing flowers and decorations to spruce things up. Some effort will also be made to display memorabilia from the Goldmasquer era as well as depicting familiar sights from the school in its heyday.

One memory, Mrs. Ellis said, was the "porthole," a place underneath the foyer in the auditorium at Goldsboro High School.

"Students would go down and could have soft drinks after a ballgame or dance," she said. "Some remember the porthole. We'll try to have a backdrop of that."

Another scene will pay homage to the school's radio studio.

"Mr. B encouraged a lot of these students through the years because they had good radio voices, to go into that area of broadcasting," Ellis said. "Vassey Balkcum, Karl Cassell, Bob Hill, numerous ones became very prominent in radio here and elsewhere.

"The student broadcasting thing was just another subject in school but it was an important one to Mr. B and the students."

The overall theme will be to make it a "welcome home" event for former Goldmasquers and students, as well as the community.

"The home folks are really coming forth with wanting to help and contribute foods and beverages and time and energy," Mrs. Ellis said. "These people are remembering this like it was yesterday."

"I think it's exciting that everybody remembers and wants to be a part of it," Ellis said. "They were happy years in high school and Mr. B is responsible for a lot of it."