When Mr. Clifton Britton came on the scene at Goldsboro High School in the early 1940s, he was not sure that teaching was in his heart. But, it did not take long before the realization set in that he could be a positive influence in the lives of the youngsters under his watch.
He was responsible for setting in place many social activities that had been lacking. If you are one of my regular readers, you will recall several columns I devoted to Mr. “B” back in November 2017. I covered practically all of his activities at Goldsboro over the 20 years he was there until his death in 1962, including his hiring of Andy Griffith to teach at Goldsboro Hi.
Included in the last column was this paragraph: “A thunderous ovation blasted through the auditorium of Goldsboro High School yesterday afternoon as a humble man was brought onto the stage in a wheelchair. Some 45 minutes later, he was wheeled out as a crowd of about 500 people sang: ‘For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow.’ ”
In 1950 Mr. “B” had an idea. His drama students needed a spot of their own somewhere in the high school to relax. The following is a brief announcement as published in the Goldsboro High School News.
Goldsboro’s newest recreation room, The Porthole, got off to an auspicious beginning Saturday night, May 6, following the first performance of “The Return of The Vagabond,” the Goldmasquers-Junior Class production.
It was designed primarily for the younger set, that is, the high school students. The Porthole was born in the mind of Mr. Clifton Britton in an effort to give high school students some place to go following the production of a play and after school.
Knotty pine boarding extends halfway up the wall and from then on, the wall paper is in a sea motif featuring pearl divers. Indirect lighting gives the former storage room an atmosphere that is not seen in another place of the sort anywhere around Goldsboro.
Goldsboro High School and the patrons of the Goldmasquers performances have these three to thank for stimulating the interest in the recreation room under the lobby.
Director Clifton Britton, of the Goldmasquers, first envisioned a room for students to relax in after a play and Buddy Wester and Harold Nunn made “The Boss’s” dream a reality by spending countless hours under the lobby converting a veritable junk room into a spot of beauty in G.H.S.
Bar is provided
At one end of the room is the bar where candy and soft drinks may be secured and within the room itself are several round tables, painted so as to blend with the entire color scheme of The Porthole. Benches of knotty pine extend around the room on all sides.
Work on The Porthole was under the direction of Mr. Britton but Buddy Wester of the stagecraft class was responsible for much of the work done and it was through his efforts that much of the work was accomplished.
(Goldsboro Hi News, the newspaper of the Student Association, Friday, May 19, 1950)
What became of The Porthole builders?
Having developed some measure of expertise on research, I could not help but wonder what may have become of Mr. Britton’s Porthole builders. This I began “digging” with little expectations of actually making any contacts. I’ve covered Mr. “B” sufficiently, but what about his comrades?
Harold Shelly Nunn
Nunn graduated in 1950, the year The Porthole was built. His high school accomplishments read like a “who’s who” entry: A catchy caption was placed by each student’s senior photograph. His read, “To be admired is certainly a duty.” It is possible that he was a man with wit, for his “final toot” read: “He leaves all his books where he left them all year — in his locker — to ‘Red’ Lewis.”
As you read of his involvement in the drama department, it becomes obvious that he and Mr. “B” spent many hours together: Goldmasquers 1,2,3,4; vice president 4; Goldmasquers lighting director 2,3,4; New York touring play “First Lady” 2; “Land’s End” 1; “Out of this world” 3; “The Tavern” 3; “The Swan” 3; “The Willow and I” 3; “All My Sons” 4; “The Shepherds’ Song” 2,3; “The Land is Bright” 2; “Ramshackle Inn” 4; Jr. Varsity Baseball; Men’s Chorus 4.
On June 4, 1955, Harold married a hometown girl, Barbara Deen Jones, a 1954 Goldsboro High graduate. Harold died Feb. 23, 1998, and is buried in Raleigh’s Montlawn Memorial Cemetery. Gravesite information briefly mentions his military service: “SSGT U.S. Air Force, Korea.” Wish I had more information on that.
His wife Barbara died May 5, 2017, at the age of 83. She is with him at Montlawn.
Malcolm Neal ‘Buddy’ Wester
Buddy Wester and Harold Nunn were classmates. Buddy was musically talented but also spent some time with Mr. “B” as a member of the Goldmasquers: The caption by his senior photograph was a little more serious: “Be not merely good, be good for something.” Band 1,2,3,4; Goldmasquers 3,4; “The Willow and I” 3; “Ramshackle Inn” 4; “All my Sons,” 4; Glee Club 3; Men’s Chorus 4; Dance band, Music contest 2, 3.
On June 5, 1959, Buddy married Mary Beth Hawes of Watha in Pender County. He was 27, and she was 23. The photo of Mary Beth shows her as a 1958 East Carolina senior.
Take a look! Take a good look, gals! Is it any wonder that the class of 1950 voted Buddy the “best looking” lad in the class? And could that have been a factor that attracted the lovely Mary Beth to follow him to the altar? (Buddy’s counterpart as the best looking gal was Martha Ann Rose.)
So where is the lovely couple today? I had no idea where I might find them or how or if, but I didn’t throw up my hands without giving it a try. Ancestry.com, white pages.com, high school and college yearbooks took me on a journey. I learned that he had lived in the Myrtle Beach area. Several Westers were listed including a Malcolm Neal Wester with an address and phone number.
However, knowing that “white pages” sources often leave information on record of those who have passed on, I was reluctant to call. Thus, I called a Bryan Wester, with a same town address. No answer but left a message. Then with some reservation I dialed the number for Buddy. HE answered! I told him my name. He asked, seemingly a little annoyed, “What do you want?”
But when I explained my purpose for calling, I think he was as pleased to “find” me as I was to “find” him. We had a nice chat about The Porthole. He assured me it was he and Harold Nunn who had done the handiwork.
The article I had collected about The Porthole from the Goldsboro Hi News was accompanied by a photograph of the threesome standing in front of The Porthole, however I had hoped to find a better image. I was thrilled when Buddy said he had an original and that he knew right where he could put his hands on it.
My thanks to Buddy’s son, Bryan Wester, for forwarding me an excellent copy. And I must say if you’re an antique connoisseur and are down that way, go see Bryan. He’s spent a good portion of his adult life in the business. Name and location: Coast to Coast Antiques Gallery, 2608 South Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach.
Not only is Buddy very much alive, but so is his wife, Mary Beth. They make their home just south of Myrtle at Surfside Beach. Another pleasant surprise came from my research. Census records show that Buddy had a sister named Reba; the same who is the widow of Gaines Barnes. I met her several years ago but would never have made the connection then. She is a delightful person in her own right. Met her through a mutual friend, Wilda Overman Woodard, a former Nahunta High School graduate who lives in Raleigh.
I’m sure many yet live who spent a bundle of happy hours relaxing and socializing in The Porthole. I don’t know of its demise, but it may have faded with the passing of its architect, the inspirational Mr. Clifton Britton.