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They ‘had our backs’

Our freshman year meant that we were about to enter a “brave new world,” where we would be around 16-to-18-year-old students. No longer were we under the wing of Mr. Carl Smith, who had guided us and taken care of our every need. Our eyes were wider and mouths dropped open that first day of school, as we were about to embark on our four years of high school. Everything about school seemed newer, and as freshmen, we needed all the guidance we could get from others. The problem was everyone in my class was in the same situation and as stunned as I was. Even though we would not admit it, we walked around that first day like we had been there before. Our dream had come true, and we were finally in high school!

Washington High School in the ’50s and ’60s had an unwritten tradition that I do not think existed at other schools. This tradition was that upper classmen always took care of the freshmen class. I do not mean that they were running to help but if they saw a freshman looking confused or misplaced, they were there to help with advice. Oh, there were times that freshmen were not allowed to do certain things (senior stairs, etc.) but the upper classmen saw to it that we “learned the ropes” because they too had to go through the changes we faced. We were in school with young girls and boys who we idolized, and we walked the halls with our idols daily.

The senior class that year had an exceptional football team and to be seen with a player like Mike Moore, Riley Roberson, Charlie Alligood, William Neal Martin, Billy Talley or Frankie Briley was every freshman’s dream. William Neal was from our neighborhood, and Frankie was Jerry’s big brother, so we saw them regularly. William Neal was the biggest person in our neighborhood and the first chosen in any football or baseball game. He was a good offensive lineman for the Pam Pack football team, as was Frankie. Later, I had the opportunity to play baseball in the spring alongside them. Their words of encouragement meant everything to a freshman in his first start. They encouraged me to play my best because they had “my back” and often times bailed me out of a bad play.

Phil Edwards, Lee (Burger) Drake, Joe Stalls, Tomp Litchfield, Ross Boyer, Billy Darrow and Tommy Langley were some of my best friends that gave me advice when I needed it the most. They were only a grade above me but had been freshmen only the year before. Susan Roebuck (Taylor), Claire Lewis (Darrow), Sallie Mann (Scales), Pat Walker (Talley) and Linda Larkin (Boyer) were girls that always had good advice for any of us.

At dinner the other night, Tracey, Josephine Buckman (Vause), Brenda Hardy (Dixon) and I were talking about this tradition, and we all agreed that it existed. Girls dated older boys, and boys dated younger girls, yet we all looked after one another and especially the freshmen class. This could be one way it started but it is a tradition that we hope continues at Washington High School today. Washington was a special place for any young boy or girl to grow up in the ’50s and ’60s. Yes, they were the best of times for young people, and we did not even know it. “We didn’t know that we didn’t know” is a good way to say it!

In closing, please let me apologize to Russell Smith and Rhonda Lyons for misinforming my readers about Russell retiring. He is not, and I should not have written about it unless I was sure. I am glad that the best-dressed man in Washington with his big smile will still be at Russell’s along beside Rhonda. They are a good team, and I hope that they will accept my apology. Lesson learned!

They were the best of times with the best of friends and in the best of places, Washington, N.C.! The Original Washington!

— Harold Jr.

Harold Robinson Jr. is a native of Washington.