Friday, July 16, 2010

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

2010 Douglass-Slater Reunion: "Proud Traditions Forever United"


Neither Fred Delaney with the Douglass High School Alumni Association in Bristol, Virginia, nor John Hogans with the Slater High School Alumni Association in Bristol, Tennessee expected a big turnout at the 2010 Douglass-Slater Reunion. The economy and dwindling alumni numbers were obstacles difficult to overcome.

They were wrong.. and pleasantly surprised at the same time.

The reunion was a huge success, with numbers that were up over the last reunion in 2008.

"When the folks arrived, they immediately started looking for their friends," says Mr. Delaney. "They start asking about everybody and talking about what they used to do. Some great memories are brought back, by old friends just getting back together."

"Nobody ever reads the newsletters we send out," laughs Mr. Hogans, "so the first thing they want to know is 'where is such-and-such event happening, what do we need to do, where do we need to go?' The only thing that really sticks in their minds is 'when do I need to be there?"

For years, Bristol, Virginia's only African-American high school and Bristol, Tennessee's only African-American high school held separate reunions, despite the schools being less than a mile apart. The state line has always divided the school districts, but not the black community of both Bristol's.

"Both Douglass and Slater held separate reunions since the 80's," says Mr. Hogans, "but since our families were always visiting the other school's reunion, we decided to join both reunions in the year 2000. We've been having reunions together ever since."

Both schools still hold separate business meetings while together for the combined reunion, and are fortunate enough to still have their old school buildings to celebrate, although both buildings have different purposes now. The Douglass building on Oakview Avenue is now the "Douglass School Apartments" and the Slater building on McDowell Street is now the Slater Community Center. Both buildings have undergone extensive renovations, but still resemble the learning institutions of old.

Please click here to see a slideshow of the 2010 Douglass-Bristol Alumni Business Meeting.

Please click here to see a slideshow of the 2010 Slater Alumni Business Meeting.

One cannot look at the buildings, and not think of fellow classmates.

"We also look back at the ones we have lost over the past two years," says Mr. Hogans. "I can think of at least 4 right now that are missing, that have passed. At our picnic at Steele Creek Park, we have a memorial service for the ones who have gone on. It's the last thing we do before we all go home."

A special treat for the reunion attendees was the 2010 Bristol 4th of July parade. This year, the Douglass-Slater Reunion group was in the huge parade.

Please click here to see a slideshow of Douglass-Slater in the 2010 Bristol 4th of July parade.

Click here to see downloadable pictures of Douglass-Slater in the 2010 Bristol 4th of July Parade.

"Last reunion, we had our own parade by ourselves, that went from Slater through downtown to Douglass and then back, but this past year, the city invited us to have a few cars in the big Bristol 4th of July Parade downtown," Mr. Hogans says. "We'd never done that before, and appreciated the invitation. We had three cars and it worked out really well. This year, they invited the whole group to be in it. We usually have a lot of people in our separate parade, so to have that many in the big parade was really good. The whole community got to see us, and it was a great experience."

And then, there was the big banquet. It is always a dress-up affair that reunites all the alumni at one time for a wonderful dinner.

Please click here to see a slideshow of the 2010 Douglass-Slater Reunion Banquet.

Click here for downloadable pictures of the 2010 Douglass-Slater Reunion Banquet.

"There's one of our alumni who brought her daughter and son to the reunion this time," says Mr. Delaney. "She said she just wanted to bring them to a black affair, because they had never been to one. Before the reception was over, I went up to the young lady who was about 21 or 22, and I said 'how do you like this event, and she said 'man, this is all do this all the time?' I told her we do something this big every two years. She said, 'she was so excited about being there and she was out there dancing and having a good time. Her mother told me she knew she'd enjoy it."

Both Mr. Delaney and Mr. Hogans say, getting the young people interested in continuing the traditions of the schools, is always a challenge.

"Some of the young people are receptive to what we're trying to do," Mr. Delaney says. "Of course, once you start talking about it, they don't realize it....they just don't understand the history of the school, so what I've been thinking about, is having a tye of career club for the young people. We can help them with their careers, plus introduce them more to our history. If we did that and get them involved, hopefully they'll think 'well, we just can't take things for granted. Somebody sacrificed for us to be able to be here in Bristol to be and do what we want to do."

"We always had a tradition when we were in the black school, and we think it is important to carry on that tradition," says Mr. Hogans. "We're more cohesive now than we were back then, 'cause when we played basketball and football, it wasn't really like it is now. It's a better sense of cooperation now, and we love it."

And the message to the alumni from the other African-American school alumni in the area? Mr. Hogans has a quick answer to that one.

"I hope they're having as much fun as we are."

Lillian Davis, National President
Fred Delaney, President
Margo White, Vice President
Mary Hardin, Recording Secretary
Verdia Bradley, Correspondence Secretary
Norman Cook, Treasurer
Mae Duff, Chaplain & Historian
Frederica Cook, Scholarship Chairperson

John Ed Hogans, President
Rita Howard, Vice President
Penny Walker, Secretary
Hattye Broady, Treasurer & Historian
Thomas McDaniels, Chaplain
Drucilla Hogans, Scholarship Chairperson

COMING UP IN A FUTURE ARTICLE: Proposals for the "REUNION OF ALL REUNIONS" that hopefully will reunite all of the African-American schools in the area at one big gathering to talk over shared times, old rivalries and wonderful traditions. Please watch for the article.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

2010 Langston School Reunion: Enter to Learn - Depart to Serve



"Everybody's had a good time."

That pronouncement from Langston High School Reunion Chairperson Barbara (Bobbie) Watterson, only underscores the excellent turnout for the 2010 Reunion.

And no wonder.. it was a free reunion.

Yes friends, you heard correctly... The entire 2010 Langston Reunion was free of charge.

"Because we're crazy," laughs Mrs. Watterson. "Years ago, we promised the alumni that one day we would have a free reunion, with just the 25 dollars for dues. Lo and behold, back in March at one of our organizational meetings, Reverend James (Litt'l Man) Whiteside, a Langston alumnus, stood up in the group. I had my agenda all laid out and ready, and in the agenda where it called for suggestions, he gets up and says 'I think this time we ought to have a free reunion.' Well when he said that, everybody just went ape. I said, 'well we'll table this until the next meeting and I told everybody to just be thinking about what they wanted to do about this free reunion."

She continued, "I was so mad," laughing again. "When he said that, two or three people joined in. Nobody realized the preparation that would go into this thing, so at the next meeting, I said 'well, let's put it to a vote.' The folks I needed to help defeat it didn't show up to the meeting, so it passed 5 to 4."

But Mrs. Watterson says, once the process got started, things began falling into place.

"I asked around and contacted Herb Greenly, the director of the Carver Recreation Center to see if we could use the center for three days on the July 4th weekend. He said he was happy to reserve it for us.

Please click here to see a slideshow of the Langston Alumni activities at the Carver Recreation Center on Saturday of the 2010 Reunion.

Click here to see downloadable pictures of the alumni activities at the Carver Rec Center.

And then there were the little things that make up a reunion.

"When we had a hotel, if somebody got tired or needed to freshen up, they could always go upstairs to their or somebody else's room and rest, but where could we do that at Carver? I asked Herb about a hospitality room.. if we could take one of the Carver rooms and make it a lounge area. He said we could take the Community Room and he's got some friends in the rent-to-own business, and he had them bring in lounge chairs, couches, tables, a big-screen TV set and that was settled."

Oh yeah.. the food. How could the reunion organizers possibly feed dozens of guests.. on a continuous basis.. for 3 straight days?

Turns out, the solution to that problem turned up in a true volunteer.

"Irma Smith decided she would do the cooking just like back in the old days," says Mrs. Waterson, "so we made up a menu, checked all the prices, decided what we all wanted, and she went and bought it. But since we had to have some kind of food all day long to feed the people, I thought 'well, let's ask the churches because they've got connections to feed a lot of people during funerals and receptions. I wrote a letter and sent it to the churches, reminding them how in yesteryear, the churches all worked together with us, to feed the alumni. We only asked for two trays of food from each church and all 15 of them stepped forward to help.. we had five trays from each one. Friday morning (July 2nd), it all started coming in."

Mrs. Smith was reimbursed for the food she purchased. "The alumni board voted to split the food cost between the board members and reimburse her for her generosity."

Even the music ended up being free of charge.

"Miss Irma, she's the cook, and the D-J was her nephew, Paul Faw," Mrs. Watterson says. "He supplied the music for our reception, and the sound system for our banquet, and he donated his time and equipment. He was wonderful, and had a great musical selection."

One of the big tasks was deciding on a nearby event that would give the alumni something extra to do during this year's reunion.

"This year, we decided to go to the Gray Fossil Museum in Gray, Tennessee," Mrs. Watterson says. "Turns out, nobody realized what a jewel that was.. fossils, bones and evidence of prehistoric life discovered right in our own backyard. It's amazing that we had that many prehistoric animals in this part of the state, right in our back door. It did cost at the door for those alumni who went, something like 10 dollars, and we let them know up front, so they could have their money ready. They said it was well worth it."

Please click here to see a slideshow of the Langston Alumni touring the Gray Fossil Museum in Gray, TN, and the old Langston School building in Johnson City on the Saturday of the 2010 Reunion.

Click here to see downloadable pictures of the tour.

The reunion committee also arranged a bus tour of many landmarks to their memories, both past and present. Those included the historic buildings at the Winged Deer Park, the sports complex there, Freedom Hall Civic Center, the new Science Hill football stadium, ETSU, the new Sherrod Library, the old Seavers Bakery.

Certainly, many good memories were stirred up by a visit and stop by the old Langston High School building at 225 Myrtle Avenue. The tour spent several minutes there with most visitors remembering favorite classrooms, favorite teachers, and favorite school events the building brought back to memory. The building is now used for storage by the Johnson City Board of Education, and is flanked by the Langston historical marker from the Tennessee Historical Commission.

The Langston Alumni Banquet was held in the large multi-purpose room and easily held all of the visitors to the Reunion. Besides the dinner, highlights included two spiritual selections from Ms. Denise Greenlee, and the main speaker Norman Howard, Langston Class of '65, retired from the Kellogg Foundation of the famous cereal name, whose foundation motto stands for "helping communities stand up for children."

Please click here to see a slideshow of the 2010 Langston High School Alumni Banquet at the Carver Recreation Center.

Click here to see downloadable pictures of the banquet.

The reunion was quite an accomplishment, considering it didn't cost anything.


"We didn't want to get carried away with the freeness of it all," says Mrs. Watterson. "Our big reunion will come up next time in 2010, and we don't want to take anything away from that. If we give out too much free, folks might not want to pay the 95 dollars next time, and if we do what we need to do for the next reunion, which is the 112th anniversity of Langston School, we might not get things done that need to be done.. things do cost money."

But Mrs. Watterson promises a return to business in 2012.

"It was so good to see everybody once again, and now we're working on 2012," she says. "That one's going to be a biggie."

COMING SOON... AN ARTICLE ON THE POSSIBILITY OF "THE REUNION OF ALL REUNIONS:" A homecoming for all the alumni from all the African-American schools in the area.

Owens to challenge Crowe for Tennessee Senate seat

From staff reports at the Kingsport Times News

Former 1st Congressional District candidate T.K. Owens of Johnson City has announced his candidacy to run for Tennessee’s 3rd Senatorial District seat.

Owens will run as a Democrat against two-decade Republican incumbent state Sen. Rusty Crowe of Johnson City in the November general election.
Owens, like Crowe, is unopposed in the August primary, according to the Tennessee Division of Elections.
Two years ago, Owens ran for Congress as an independent and finished fifth.
The 3rd Senatorial District includes all of Washington and Carter counties in Northeast Tennessee.
“Some of the district’s needs are simple,” Owens said. “It needs infrastructure and roads. The quality of water in Carter County is less than what it needs to be. So those are things I can vie for in Nashville ... and then I can be open-minded to some of the initiatives that have already been started, like the (federal) stimulus package and the health care (reform) bill and get folks on the list who are not currently on a health care package.”
Owens did not want to talk about Crowe’s job performance.
“What I know that I can do is be an excellent spokesperson (for the district),” Owens said.
Owens’ resume includes interning for former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and holding a bachelor’s degree in political science from East Tennessee State University.
He served as a videographer and reporter at WJHL-TV and did some substitute teaching while he ran for Congress.