07/07/13 — Carver alumni gather to share fellowship, memories

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Carver alumni gather to share fellowship, memories

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 7, 2013 1:50 AM

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From left, Letha Clark, Class of 1954, Mary W. Cobbs, Class of 1943, and Hattie Hughes, Class of 1951, look through a program of old photographs during the Carver Alumni Reunion Picnic at the Carver Cultural Center in Mount Olive Saturday. After graduating, Mrs. Clark returned in 1958 to teach at Carver High School. She retired as a teacher from Southern Wayne High School in 1993.

MOUNT OLIVE -- Ask anyone who attended this weekend's reunion of Carver High School graduates what brings them back year after year and the answer is the same -- celebrating family, community and the values instilled in them by their teachers.

Each Fourth of July weekend for more than 30 years, the graduates have returned to their school -- coming from across the country -- for fellowship and to catch up with friends who, in some cases, they have not seen in years.

This year marked the accomplishment of a goal they have worked on for years -- renovating and preserving the old school buildings to serve the community and the Carver High School Alumni and Friends Association, which organizes the annual event.

Sitting in the corner of the renovated building that was once the gym Saturday morning brought back memories for alumnus Donald Faison of Goldsboro of his days of playing basketball there. In later years, the building served as the school's media center and administrative offices until the school was closed.

"It brought back some great memories," Faison said. "As a matter of fact, the east basket was right against the wall. Then we had the stage at the other end and the basket was up on the stage. The 10-second line was actually in the back court. I made my first basket in organized basketball in this building."

It was a little hot and a little crowded in the room during the Friday night banquet, but the alumni had a great time and the closeness was "outstanding," he said. About 200 people attended the banquet.

The alumni gathered Saturday for the annual picnic and were back that evening for a dance.

"The other thing was we can really claim ownership of this facility," Faison said. "Everything (during the reunion) is on the campus this time, everything for the first time. If the alumni association were to continue to grow, we might have to move the banquet to the gym."

Thad Lane, a 1956 graduate, traveled from his home in San Antonio, Texas, to attend the reunion.

"I have been coming since 2006," he said. "I was aware of it from the very beginning, but because of my work and my location, I wasn't able to attend. Recently things have changed, and I find it a pleasure just coming back home and seeing old friends.

"It just gets better and better. It seems that every year I come that it increases every year."

Lane said his fondest memories revolved around his classmates and teachers.

"Just everything," he said. "I played basketball. I was in the school band."

While most of the alumni were gathering for the picnic, Lenstion Whitfield, a 1968 graduate, was in the kitchen chopping up the barbecued pork he had been cooking since 11 p.m. Friday.

"I am retired military and enjoying it," Whitfield said. "I served 18 years in the Army."

Originally from Seven Springs, he now lives in Goldsboro and has cooked for the past two alumni picnics.

"I have been cooking since I was 11," he said. "I'm 62 now. It is sort of a funny story. My father decided that he would let us cook pigs at Christmas. He taught us so far and then he said, 'When I come back it had better not be burnt.' But he taught us well and we try to carry on his tradition on. I have three brothers who cook as well.

"It is always honorable to come back to your alumni, back on your old campus. We are coming back now and doing different things. I am just excited about it. It is one thing that I have just wanted to do, to see this campus come back to life. The history, the school, I think, originated in the 1880s. We were very proud of it. It was state-accredited. We had the closest relationships. Those relationships never died, and when we come back, it is really a reunion."

The annual event included a golf tournament at Southern Wayne Country Club and ended Sunday morning with a prayer service at St. Mark Church on Nelson Street.

During its youth night program on Wednesday, the association gave out almost $10,000 in scholarships to 18 students.

During their business meeting prior to the picnic, alumni discussed ways to improve fundraising efforts and to increase the association's membership including a possible merger with the Southern Wayne High School alumni group.

The graduates said it also is important for the association to do a better job of getting its message and mission out to the public and for members to have a more visible presence in the community.