At Dillard/Goldsboro celebration, the love remains strong
By Gary Popp
Published in News on May 27, 2012 1:50 AM
Graduating 20 years ago, the Goldsboro Class of 1992 still has its Cougar pride on display during the Dillard/Goldsboro Alumni and Friends Parade.
Ms. Dillard/Goldsboro Alumni Queen Mary E. Carmichael, Class of 1962, waves to the crowd during the Dillard/Goldsboro Alumni and Friends Parade.
The streets of downtown bustled with thousands of people Saturday morning for the annual Dillard/Goldsboro Alumni Parade.
Many of the graduates traveled from distant locations including Detroit, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Maryland, while others traveled from only a few blocks away, but they all proudly proclaimed Goldsboro their home.
"This is a wonderful reunion," said Florence Allen Cutler, Class of 1972. "We get together and celebrate this three-day weekend and look back on the memories of the times from Dillard to Goldsboro High School."
Ms. Cutler sat with about 15 of her classmates on the Class of 1972 float, which was adorned with sparking yellow, blue and silver material. The group of alumni represented the last freshman class to be taught at Dillard High School before it was integrated with the white-only Goldsboro High School in 1970.
"We are the baby class of Dillard High," Ms. Cutler said as she joked, laughed and reminisced with old friends. "We got a lot of love there. A lot of respect. We learned a lot from the upper classmen. It was just a good thing."
At the annual parade officials with the Dillard/ Goldsboro Alumni & Friends designates specific graduation classes as the celebrated classes of the reunion. This year, classes that graduated in years ending in twos and sevens had the spotlight.
John Carmichael, Class of 1966, left Goldsboro for Rahway, N.J., soon after high school. Now he serves as one of 15 active members of the Dillard/Goldsboro alumni New Jersey Chapter that raises money to support scholarships.
He said the alumni week allows him foster his bonds with other graduates.
"This is my family. These are my friends. It just part of my life. Goldsboro always has been part of my life," he said. "That is the purpose of the alumni (association) to keep us united as a family and for the scholarships. It is just a bond that has developed and it just stays there. I will always be a part of Dillard.
Although he lives hundreds of miles away, Carmichael's pride in Dillard and the Goldsboro community has remained strong.
"You never forget your roots. This is who you are," he said.
Carmichael said his teachers at Dillard created a sense of community among the students and their families.
"It is hard to explain. It is just a feeling. It is what the teachers instilled in us, to love one another. They made us feel like we were a family. The teachers influenced us. It was like they were are parents.
Doffes Eatmon Jr., 51, Class of 1979, who now resides in Atlanta, Ga., and Anthony Royal, 50, Class of 1980, who lives in Waldorf, Md., each said it was important to make the trip home to reconnect with the community.
The pair stood on near the Goldsboro Fire Department where they watched the passing parade and exchanged back slaps with old friends.
"We all grew up down here," Eatmon said. "We have been coming for the past couple of years just to see my people."
While Eatmon rarely has the chance to become reacquainted with old friends, he said he still feels he is part of one big family.
"A lot of people are just glad to be back home because a lot of us don't live here," he said. "This is an opportunity to see family members and friends I haven't seen for 30 or 40 years."
Royal shared similar sentiments, adding that he now has the insight to see how things have changed since he roamed the halls of Goldsboro High.
"We grew up in a community that we love," he said. "It was a lot more like a village raising a child back then in our years. We are like a family, all of us. We a have a rich history together. Those (family) names like the Jones, Eatmons, Royals, they traditionally date back to slavery in this area, so we got some serious roots here. Sometimes it is beyond understanding why we all migrate to this event. It is just a beautiful experience for us."
Eatmon and Royal were students nearly 15 years after integration began to change education in Goldsboro.
"Coming up in the '60s we heard about it. We knew it was around, but it was not something that we experienced," Eatmon said. "When we went to Goldsboro High School it was 50-50, black and white."
Many others at the parade, however, were direct participants of the transition to integration.
Linda Artis Smith, Class of 1967, who now resides in Willingboro, N.J., said the world looks very different today than when she was a child growing up on North John Street, near the railroad tracks that racially divided Goldsboro.
She said segregation was a part of her daily life until leaving Goldsboro after high school.
Mrs. Smith recalled that she and her friends could only get food from white-owned, and some black-owned, restaurants if they entered through a back door, and while they could sometimes order food from a restaurant counter, they were not allowed to eat a meal while seated in the restaurant.
Mrs. Smith said the Dillard/Goldsboro alumni weekend celebration provides a chance to reach out to young people who don't realize the struggles of her generation.
She said she remembers going to the Paramount Theater and Carolina Theater and being forced to sit in the balcony.
"The only one we had was the James Theater, which was in the black folks' section of town. If we went to the other theaters we had to sit upstairs, we couldn't sit downstairs," Mrs. Smith said.
She said the living conditions then, which seem so foreign to young people today, were not perceived as irregular or unjust.
"At that time it was normal, so you didn't think anything about it because that is the way that it was," she said.
Integration would not take hold until Mrs. Smith was in her sophomore year at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro.
She said the racial division she experienced as child did not impede her opportunity learn because of the commitment of Dillard educators.
"We managed. It was OK," she said. "It wasn't that bad, but it was challenging because of school segregation, but our schools were just as good and our teachers were just as good. They cared and got us through it."
Mrs. Smith said after integration, school systems failed to maintain the sense of community that makes the bond among older Dillard/Goldsboro alumni so strong.
"Definitely a lot was lost with the integration of schools," she said. "The schools have changed, the laws have changed, the teaching concept has changed, and I think that has hurt us as a people tremendously. I really do.
"I think we lost the way they can teach. Unless you came through it, you can't really explain it because the teacher was like your second mother. You didn't have the disrespect of an adult figure. That was just unheard of."
Like others at the parade, Mrs. Smith said teachers were played a more dominant role in students' lives than they do today.
"I think with some of the changes in education, it hasn't been for the better because our teachers cared, not that (today's) teachers don't care, but our teachers knew the families. They knew us. We knew them," she said. "Anything you did in school was sent home, and it was dealt with that day. No ifs ands or buts about it. The teacher at that time was God, basically,"
Mrs. Smith said while schools don't provided the same level of education, many more options exists for students today.
"(Students) have more opportunities, it is just a matter of being prepared to take those opportunities. Some of them are not taking it seriously. The parents aren't taking it seriously, and, it is sad to say, some of the teachers are not taking it seriously to prepare these children to take the next step."
She said the ability for people to make a better life for themselves, was not as available when she was child.
"We didn't have the opportunities that they have," Mrs. Smith said. "If you weren't not a teacher, there was not a whole lot that you could do as a black person. The doors were not open."
And among the hugs, high fives and hollering that took place that the alumni parade, the true purpose is to continue opening doors for current and future graduates.
"At 62 years old, I look back on growing up here, and I wouldn't change it for the world," Mrs. Smith said. "My childhood here, I loved because this is all we knew."