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East End alumni celebrate 60 years
SoVaNow.com / November 06, 2013The East End High School Alumni recently celebrated 60 years since the first class entered its doors in September of 1953. It was indeed a grand celebration that was truly enjoyed by all who attended. The main event was the banquet, which was held on Saturday, Sept. 28, at the Good Shepherd Hall in South Hill. The theme for the evening was “Celebrating 60 Years — An Evening With The Wolfpack.” The banquet hall was beautifully decorated in the school colors of blue and gold.
The highlight of the banquet was Lucille Hudson, a former Elementary Education Supervisor for Mecklenburg County Schools. Hudson, who proudly announced that she would soon be celebrating her 95th birthday, kept the audience spellbound as she vividly traced the history of education for minority students in Mecklenburg County. She was there as a teacher when many of the one, two, three and four schools were opened across the county for minority students. There were many schools in various locations because the students did not have public transportation. Many of these schools were started by religious organizations and special interest groups. Many teachers in these early schools had to teach children in all grades. Conditions for learning were difficult for teachers as well as students. These schools existed for many years and offered basic education to many of the alumni in attendance at this reunion. In the early 1950s the county recognized the need to build larger schools and thus consolidate and eliminate these smaller schools.
Hudson traced the history of Mecklenburg County Training School, which was the high school for minority students until East End High School opened in September 1953. She told of how difficult it was for students as well as teachers at Mecklenburg County Training School before the opening of East End High School. She talked about the time the school was destroyed by fire and how they were able to continue educating the students during that difficult time.
Committee member Geraldine Kidd Newell of the Class of 1960 introduced teachers in attendance at the reunion. They included Dr. Rachel Dailey Hargrove, Delores Hayes, Doris Hester, Shirley Stuart, Nancy Simmons, and Arlene Walker. There was a special tribute to the teachers as the audience stood during a musical rendition of “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Facilitators Lorene Smith Johnson and Jean Warren Alexander presented each teacher and members of the alumni committee with a special East End High School emblem.
Other participants in the program were Earl Walker, Class of 1968, Alice Smith Williams, Class of 1965, Geraldine Kidd Newell, Class of 1960, Sarah Walker Lassiter, Class of 1956, Fannie Midder McClenney, Class of 1956, Dorothy Kidd Mabry, Class of 1955, Celia Midder Sturdivant, Class of 1954, Willie Leon Simmons, Class of 1959, and Edmonia Williams Brown, Class of 1962.
Alumni in attendance travelled from various states. The person who traveled the longest distance was Robert Read, Class of 1969. He traveled to the reunion from his home in Oakland, Calif.
A special treat during the banquet was a video produced and presented by former student Freddie Rainey of the Class of 1969. The video covered those early years through the opening of East End High School. It highlighted much of the history covered in Hudson’s speech. It also included other historical and cultural events, which occurred during the early years through the 1960s. The alumni in attendance truly enjoyed this video and thanked Rainey for a job well done. It is a video all alumni would want to see.
The banquet was the culminating activity of a two-day celebration. On Friday, Sept. 27, alumni attended a “Meet and Greet” at the recreational area on the Newell Estate in La Crosse. After registering, alumni greeted and reminisced with former classmates and enjoyed music by George Holmes of the Class of 1965. Food was provided by the Alumni Association with a special treat of “Mecklenburg Stew” by Carnell Newell of the Class of 1957.
Committee members who planned the events were: Lorene Smith Johnson, Class of 1961, Jean Warren Alexander, Class of 1957, Celia Midder Sturdivant, Class of 1954, Geraldine Kidd Newell, Class of 1960, Catherine Feggins Ashe, Class of 1960, Verbena Johnson Marks, Class of 1965, Dorothy Kidd Mabry, Class of 1955, Fannie Midder McClenney, Class of 1956, Dorethea Bracey Midder, Class of 1962, Sara Walker Lassiter, Class of 1956, Alice Smith Williams, Class of 1965, Lincoln Sturdivant, Class of 1956, and J. Carnell Newell, Class of 1957.
Most of these committee members have been working diligently for almost 15 years. At the “Meet and Greet” they expressed the need for all alumni to get involved locally and/or in their own states. Their goal is to keep the memory of East End High School alive and to continue to award scholarships to descendants of former students. In the past the Alumni Association has awarded many scholarships. They are committed to continue giving scholarships and to keeping the memory of East End High School alive.
Donations to the E.E.H. School Scholarship Fund can be made on line at http://www.eehs5369.com or by mail at East End High School Alumni Association, P.O. Box 761, South Hill, VA 23970.
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