07/08/12 — Class memories: Carver alumni gather

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Class memories: Carver alumni gather

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 8, 2012 1:50 AM

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Mamie Waters, center, discusses a photo of the Carver High School Class of 1962 with fellow classmate Fred Waters, right, as her husband, George Waters, of the Class of 1956, looks on.

MOUNT OLIVE -- Whether it took a day-long drive, or as in the case of Ethel Briley, a stroll across the street, the hundreds who returned to their old high school this past weekend did so out of a sense of community and a desire to pass forward the lessons and values learned there.

They have been doing so since the mid-1980's when the Carver High School Alumni and Friends Association first began sponsoring the weekend-long reunion each Fourth of July.

The association's general membership meeting was be held at 10 a.m. Saturday in the Carver Cultural Center followed by a picnic at noon in the old cafeteria.

Gold and blue Carver flags flew from numerous cars, many of which sported out-of-state license tags -- Virginia, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Over in one corner of the cafeteria, people were checking out blue and gold Carver T-shirts.

A dance and social were held at the Southern Wayne Country Club Saturday night, and a Sunday morning prayer breakfast at the Carver Cultural Center closed out the event.

It is, the Carver graduates and friends, say a time to swap stories and memories and to reconnect with people they have not seen in years.

"The first time I came out here to an event I was surprised," said Mrs. Briley, a member of the Class of 1945, as she waited for the picnic to begin. "I tried to remember everybody because I had forgotten a lot of them.

"But more people remembered me than I remembered them. It has just been a pleasure being back home again, being back in my church and singing in the choir."

Mrs. Briley said she had already seen several people she had not seen in years.

"The lady right over there with the gray hair, she was one of the Grady girls," she said. "Her name was Doris and I thought she had passed away. Oh, Lord, it has been quite a few years since I graduated in '45 I haven't seen her. I love this because so much has changed. Everything is beautiful and this building is becoming so pretty.

"This was the cafeteria when I graduated in 1945, but I graduated from the 11th grade. They cut us off. I never went through the 12th grade. It makes me feel good because I thought for a while they were going to do away with the campus. This is something we need. It makes a big difference. We have a lot of activities out here."

After graduation, Mrs. Briley attended Cortez Peters Business School in Baltimore, Md. She later moved to New York where she met her future husband, John Briley, who died in 1987.

After his death, she moved back home to help with her mother, the late Henrietta Williams. She now lives with her son, Renado, and from her porch on South Breazeale Avenue she can look across and just down the street at the old school campus.

John Ward, Class of 1965, of the Fremont community, said he tries to attend the reunion at least every three years.

"It is awesome in that you can reconnect with a lot of your classmates that you didn't realize what happened to them or know where they are in life," he said. "It is just great to be able to come back here and get reacquainted."

After graduation, Ward served for 20 years in the military, followed by 18 years with the U.S. Postal Service in Cary.

"I look at the facilities and they seem to be roughly in the same state they were when I left here," he said. "I would like to see it improved some. I would like to see it remain. I would like to see it stay and continue to reflect on our heritage."

Danny King, local chapter president, was busy making sure the picnic, catered by Grady's Barbecue, was running smoothly.

"It has been very exciting," said King, a graduate of Southern Wayne High School. "A lot of people coming in town, and we were making sure the hospitality was in place for them. We have had the event here. It has been real good -- a real warm reception. I think the people have enjoyed themselves.

"I came here in elementary school. I just wanted to help out. I would say about 300 are here (picnic). (Friday) we had about 250 for the awards banquet and probably will have about a hundred for the prayer breakfast on Sunday. It makes me feel good, but excited at the same time. It is a bit overwhelming but good. It is a good feeling to see this many people come out and be a part of something like this."