07/04/10 — Carver alumni reunite

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Carver alumni reunite

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on July 4, 2010 1:50 AM

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Mike Durham, president of the Carolina Heat Bike Club of Dudley, puts a flag on the windshield of his bike Saturday morning before the parade got underway in Mount Olive.

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Carver High School alumni ride a float through the streets of Mount Olive on Saturday morning. The yearly celebration brings members of Carver High School back to the town from places as far away as Washington, D.C., New York City and Maryland, organizers said.

MOUNT OLIVE -- People from the past kept appearing in front of William "Billy" Moore on Saturday afternoon.

They were classmates he hadn't seen in years -- some for as many as four decades -- as Carver High School Alumni and Friends held its annual reunion at the old Carver School on Breazeale Avenue.

As Moore sat in front of the old gymnasium door, helping younger participants get inside for games of pickup basketball, one of those faces suddenly appeared.

Moore recognized the man immediately as Jasper Musgrave, and jumped from his chair to shake his hand.

It took a moment for Musgrave to realize who he was speaking to, but when Moore told him his name, a smile immediately graced Musgrave's face.

"Oh yes. Billy Moore -- you lived right ... right around the corner there. It's been a long time, it sure has," Musgrave said, turning the handshake into a casual hug.

As the briefly men talked old times, they determined that it must have been at least since 1966 since they had seen one another.

The reunion with Musgrave was just one of many that Moore would have Saturday, his 40th class reunion of the graduating Class of 1970.

That was the last graduating class for Carver High, as the landmark desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education finally broke down the color barrier.

But although the Supreme Court's decision in the desegregation case came in 1954, the transformation to total desegregation did not happen overnight, Carver students said. Instead, they were given the option to integrate with white students at Southern Wayne High School. Some chose to stay in the segregated environment, while others moved on in hopes of expanded opportunity.

Moore was one of the students who stayed, graduating with the last segregated class in 1970.

Historic civil rights decision were the furthest things from Moore's mind on Saturday, however.

"Today was our day to shine a little bit, so that's why we're out here," Moore said. "Classmates, some of them coming from as far as (Washington) D.C. and the Maryland area are here. We're excited to see them."

Other friends still live much closer, however, like John Elliot Jr., a preacher who now lives in LaGrange, retired Army Larry Stokes of Kinston, and Kenneth Lee, who owns Lee's Country Club in Mount Olive.

Other nearby friends include Dove Bizzell, the treasurer for the Class of 1970, and Thurman Lee of Dudley, who was class president.

He also saw Aaron Altman, a friend he hadn't seen since graduation, putting their last meeting over 40 years ago.

Moore was only 17 when he graduated, and he spent much of his time with three other friends working at the now-defunct Heavy Duty Electric plant, near the Wayne County Fairgrounds.

The four young men had little time to do much else outside of school and their work at Heavy Duty Electric, where Moore learned a trade as a welder.

Although he enjoyed his job, Moore said the extra money he earned there was a necessity -- his father died when he was just 12 years old.

"I had to get me a job to help my family, and to get my own car. We all worked on buying cars with that job," Moore recounted.

Makaela Southerland, 18, is much too young to have graduated from Carver High School, but the teenager has attended the Carver alumni reunion for years to help her grandmother, Deborah Southerland.

Mrs. Southerland's husband, Al Southerland, is the president of the Carver High School Alumni and Friends, Inc.

Miss Southerland said there is some work involved with helping her grandparents, but that the end result is almost always enjoyable.

"We're socializing, playing games and eating, and people come down here every year from a lot of different places, like Maryland, New York, and a lot of other places," she said.

Many of the attendees can't make the celebration every year, so they are often shocked by how much their friends' children have grown.

"They (had seen) us when we were little, and we haven't seen them in a long time, so it's neat for them to be able to see us now that we've gotten a little bit bigger," the 18-year-old said.

Grace Faison, of the Class of 1968 and now a Goldsboro resident, said one of her fondest memories of Carver High School is the Glee Club.

It was in club she met John Ashford, who used the extracurricular activity to tease her, she said.

"He used to pick at me, whenever I was trying to sing, saying whatever he could to get me to laugh or whatever," Ms. Faison said.

Apparently, Ashford's teasing worked -- the pair eventually had three children, Craigory Faison, now 39 years old, Derrick Faison, 37, and 43-year-old Sonya Faison.

Ms. Faison was called "the glue" of the 1968 group by Southerland, the president of the alumni organization.

"Grace is pretty much the glue that keeps us together -- she never forgets birthdays, she never forgets anniversaries, she's always the one that sends out the invitations for us to get together. Any time we want to know anybody's address or something, we call Grace."

Ms. Faison said there's a reason she takes such an interest in the yearly get-together -- the reminiscing.

"The banquets, and the social -- that's when we do dances and stuff -- bring back old memories," she said. "Especially when they (play) those old songs from back in our days."

Events that started with a golf tournament Thursday were to conclude with a dance Saturday night at the Southern Wayne Country Club and a prayer breakfast this morning at the school.