Central/Eastern Wayne alumni gather
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 24, 2009 2:00 AM
A member of the Eastern Wayne High School Marching Band performs during the Central/Eastern Wayne Alumni Parade on Saturday.
This is a special year for Central/Eastern Wayne Alumni & Friends Inc., said Paul Battle, current president of the alumni association, prior to Saturday's noontime parade.
In the 37 years since the organization formed, a rich legacy has been formed, said the Class of 1965 member.
"In 1939, Eastern Wayne Middle School (where the parade originated) was named Central High School," he explained. "Then in 1959, the alumni organization was founded. And in 1969, it was the last graduating class of this school -- that's the legacy."
And while this year the celebrations centered around classes ending in the number nine, all alumni were welcome for the weekend events, Battle said.
They have had a good turnout, he said.
"We had over 200 at our banquet Friday night," he said. "The Class of 1969 won the award for highest fundraising -- $2,740 -- which goes for student scholarships, community enhancement and charity."
Former classmates began to gather around 11 a.m. for the parade, which was to be followed by a picnic and other activities that culminated with a worship service today.
Class of 1975 members Sandy Jackson, Barbara Waters, Sheila Durham and Linda Sutton helped decorate a truck they would ride on in the parade. The float's theme, said classmate David Simmons, pointing to a large sign, was "Yes, We Can."
More than being the same phrase attributed to President Obama, though, Simmons said it pertains to the group's mission.
"It's about providing for the kids, trying to provide a positive example for these youth," he said. "We take advantage of it in that respect, the opportunity to minister and to share. So many times we have lost class members over the years -- this is just a celebration of life."
Tyrone Wagner, Eastern Wayne High School band director, and Kim McGuire, the group's dance instructor, accompanied students from the Eastern Wayne Marching Warriors.
"It means a lot to the community as far as history and heritage," Wagner said. "That's why we do it. You have a lot of people come back into town to be with family members and friends."
Lynell King, Class of 1969, brought grandson Komari Jones, a first-grader at Meadow Lane Elementary School. Rosa Harvey of Goldsboro is not an alumnus, but said she came out for the parade and vendors.
Vernese Rowe, Class of 1970 -- the first graduating class of Eastern Wayne High School, she pointed out -- helped prepare a banner that was carried in the parade.
Shirley Perry, Class of 1960 and alumni secretary, was busily putting last-minute touches on the day's events. She said she would be hard-pressed to estimate the turnout this year.
"We just know people are coming," she said. "We don't know how many, we just know it's a crowd of folks."
This year's theme was especially appropriate, she pointed out -- "Building for the Future." After having breakfast at Madison's, the group toured a building that may one day become the group's home.
"We're considering buying a building in order to have all our activities -- the banquets, the picnics -- we are just so thrilled because people cooperated so well with our building fund," she said.
Beyond the allegiance of their own alumni, though, Mrs. Perry said it is wonderful to see the crossover from other organizations.
"Half of our people come over from Dillard's parade ... and now we're looking for Norwayne and Carver to come here today and be with us," she said. "We just support each other."
Catherine Brown, Class of 1956, and Carolyn Jones, Class of 1959, are typical of class members who moved back to Wayne County after living elsewhere.
Ms. Jones said she "graduated one week, left the next" and lived away for 50 years, while Ms. Brown was gone for 31 years.
"It's a fun weekend, a lot of work but a lot of fun," Ms. Brown said.
In addition to dozens of cars and motorcycles in the parade were the two winners from this year's scholarship pageant.
Cvardez Spruill, a senior at Southern Wayne High School, was pronounced Mr. Beautillion for raising the most for student scholarships, bringing in $1,000.
Amythest McPhail, a junior at Eastern Wayne High, raised $9,000 and earned the title of Miss Jabberwock. The pageants also had academic and talent components -- she played piano and Spruill's talent was singing.
"I'm excited because this is my second (parade) today. I just got caught up in the moment," Miss McPhail said before taking her seat in a convertible.
But perhaps it was said best by one of the last entrants pulling up the rear of the parade. Seated in the back of a pickup truck were Eastern Wayne graduates from the 1980s and 1990s who said they were representing characters in "The Wiz."
A poster board adorned the truck's front bumper. The sign featured a colorful rainbow and bore the words, "No place like home."
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