11/26/06 — Guess who's coming back to Goldsboro High

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Guess who's coming back to Goldsboro High

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 26, 2006 2:00 AM

Jerry Sandford recalls his days as a Goldmasquer at Goldsboro High School as a magical time.

"The era we were living in was truly Mayberry," the 1949 graduate said.

"I think back on it, all of us were so innocent and happy, it felt like. I just treasure those days and bring them out and dust off the memories and then I put them back for awhile."

Now living in Hampton, Va., Sandford said he performed in two productions of "The Shepherd's Song," written by drama teacher Clifton Britton. He was later recognized as best actor over the first 15 years of the play.

"It was something we had never done before. This was original," he said. "It was an annual event that the community looked forward to and really supported."

Originally performed on the nights leading up to Christmas, "The Shepherd's Song" was presented outdoors on the top of the roof adjacent to the Goldsboro Hotel, Sandford said.

Janet Nufer Umhau, Class of 1944, was the first Mary and later designated best actress. She remembers the first shows, done in the winter of 1943.

"It was crisp and cool and people were standing down on Center Street, and it was very nice. It was a lovely event," she said.

The show was also broadcast on the radio, she said, and her parents listened to the performance at home.

"It was mostly Biblical readings," she said. "Some of the script that I was to do was from the Bible."

The two said they are very pleased that Jack Kannan, director of the Foundation at Wayne Community College, initiated an event to reunite the Goldmasquers and to pay tribute to Britton. This coming weekend will showcase the combination "Remembering Mr. B" and "Shepherd's Song" performances.

"I think it's a tremendous tribute to the man and long overdue," Sandford said. "He really had a positive impact on the students. I commend those who have put this together. We all still have those memories. Now, we'll be able to share them."

Students typically have a teacher who influenced them and for Sandford, Britton was that man.

"He just brought the best out, and everyone was included," he said. "It wasn't just the few, it was everyone he worked with. He demanded that they do the best they could, and I think we did it for him because we loved him so much."

Mrs. Umhau now lives in Chevy Chase, Md. She said she is thrilled about the upcoming reunion and has painted a portrait of Britton she plans to present at the reunion.

She said she is indebted to the teacher who gave her the chance to act on stage.

"I had always played pretend as a child. One of the first things (Britton) did when he came was to cast me in an Easter play," she said. "It wasn't a big production, something for the school. And later I was in the junior play, 'Double Doors.'"

Some members of the original "Lucky Bakers Dozen" are also preparing for the reunion, said Ann Thompson Sorrels, Class of 1944.

The club didn't have anything to do with the Goldmasquers, she explained, but began in grammar school when the group of 10 girls befriended one another and initially called themselves the "Lucky 10." By high school, three others had been added and they called themselves the "Lucky Bakers Dozen."

Up until the year before last, the group gathered annually for a beach house party each May. Several still get together about every month, she said, but now they come to her home in Fuquay-Varina.

"I'm an amputee, and I also have some other physical problems, so once a month or every six weeks some of them come here and we have a tea party," she said.

Expected to attend the reunion, she said, are Mrs. Umhau and Katherine Royall Williams of Greensboro, all Class of 1944, Mary Lou Donnell Pope of Winston-Salem and Elizabeth "Liddy Bet" Myatt Holsten of Chapel Hill, Class of 1945, and Mrs. Pope's sister, Patsy Donnell Toole of Raleigh, Class of 1949.

"We all ran around together," she said.

Some of the group are deceased, she said, acknowledging the passing of 1944 classmates Lois Taylor Jeffreys and Nona Pate Sullivan, as well as Harriette Thompson Heyward, Class of 1945.

Learning about the special events brought a swirl of excitement, Mrs. Sorrels said.

"Ever since we read about it, we started planning," she said. "We're going to have our own cocktail party Friday evening and getting together for the breakfast on Saturday.

"We have gotten in touch with several others. Everybody's been so excited...It's going to be a wonderful event. We all absolutely adored Mr. B."

He was like a member of their families, Mrs. Sorrels said, recalling how he would often have meals at her home.

"He was just like a family member and not just a teacher," she said.

Her brother, John Thompson, Class of 1948 and a Goldmasquer, chuckled as he remembered how loyal his older sibling was to the drama program.

"She was property manager, responsible for the props," he said. "One time she cleaned out a whole room of mother's antique Victorian furniture from our home."

"Mother just about had a stroke when she arrived home and found the empty room," Mrs. Sorrels said.

Until that night, Thompson said, when their mother went to the play and saw all the furniture sitting on the stage.