07/06/08 — Carver High School alumni hold annual reunion in Mount Olive

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Carver High School alumni hold annual reunion in Mount Olive

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on July 6, 2008 2:01 AM

The missing yearbook of Carver High School in 1968 may have been an omen -- after all, just two years later the high school would close.

But the Class of '68 has its yearbook now, and the Carver alum who could make it celebrated on Saturday with a parade, parties, pick-up basketball in shiny-floored gymnasium, and a late night dance.

Back in 1968, however, they were strange, exciting and sometimes bittersweet times for some of Carver's students, explained Linda Jones, a member of the Class of 1969.

"It was a great year. It was when gas was like 20-some cent a gallon. We had so much fun," Mrs. Jones said.

"And candy was 5 cents," her niece Tiara Jones, 11, piped in, clearly having heard some of these stories before.

But change was on the horizon for Mount Olive's blacks and whites, who had been segregated by race into so-called "separate but equal" schools.

In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision overturned cases dating from as far back as 1896, the case of Plessy v. Ferguson.

But it took a while for the decision to take effect in North Carolina -- it was still optional in 1968, said Mrs. Jones.

And for her and a few other students, it was at first hard to see why the black students who chose to leave for Southern Wayne High School did it, Mrs. Jones said.

"I would say, 'I can't believe you want to go out there,'" Mrs. Jones said. "We were a very unified class. It was like you were losing a part of your family."

Mrs. Jones, who was also accompanied by niece Katlyn Miller, 12, said that some students may have made the decision out of convenience -- those who lived in Dudley were closer to Southern Wayne than Carver High.

But some undoubtedly believed the schools for whites offered a superior education, although Mrs. Jones defended her own education at Carver.

"It was a choice. Then, it was a choice. Not that we didn't get a good education, but I guess they (those who left) wanted a better education."

But the Carver High School students who stayed on until the school closed lived just as productive lives as those who left for Southern Wayne, Mrs. Jones said.

"A lot of us went off to be in the military, a lot of us went off into schools and a lot of us stayed around and became housewives and farmers," Mrs. Jones said.

And their school continued to have a history -- it became Carver Elementary, where both whites and blacks were taught.

Carver Elementary has since been rebuilt, and in 1997, it became the Wayne County School District's Southern Academy.

Commissioner J.D. Evans was once affiliated with Carver, said Caroline Allen of the Class of 1968.

"He was one of our high school advisors," Mrs. Allen said of Evans, who rode with many others in the day's parade.

The route began and ended at the school, taking a route north on Breazeale, then heading up Center Street along the tracks.

Other Carver alum who weren't riding in cars stood along the route, waving and shouting to their classmates.

Linda Warren, before the parade, said that the reason her Class of 1968 didn't have a yearbook was not laziness.

"We were all overachievers, but we didn't have a yearbook," Mrs. Warren said.

Her husband, Rev. Joseph Warren, a member of the Class of '67, couldn't resist the chance for a cheap shot.

"We had a yearbook," her husband said with a chiding smile. Mrs. Warren took the joke well.

Perhaps her gentle nature was owed to the time she had in high school -- one of the cherished memories of her life, she said.

"It was a togetherness school. Unity. Just, unity," Mrs. Warren said.