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.

No comments: