By David Arkin: CNJ Correspondent
Former students from what was once an all-black Clovis school got together this weekend, just like they have for the last 15 years, to share old stories, talk about their families and enjoy fellowship.
Starting on Friday night and continuing with a banquet on Saturday night, more than 100 former students and their families with ties to Lincoln Jackson school congregated in Clovis for a reunion.
It was their ninth reunion since 1989. But this year’s reunion carried a bit of a different meaning and feeling.
This year marked the 50th anniversary since public schools did away with segregation.
While none of the events this weekend were focused on Brown v Board of Education, a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that declared segregation unconstitutional and ended decades of separate schooling for whites and blacks, the topic still was on peoples’ minds.
“The segregation decision was like dealing with culture shock,” said Bruce Pollard, the organizer of this weekend’s reunion. “We weren’t used to the whites and they weren’t used to us. But the people in Clovis really tried to make it work. Everyone was pretty nice to us. We had a few parents who would tell their kids this and that about us, but people for the most really opened their arms to us.”
Lincoln Jackson is an elementary school today, attended by children of all races.
In 1954, when segregation ended, Pollard was a sophomore at Lincoln Jackson and was transferred to Clovis High School. He still lives in Clovis.
Beulah Haynes, who still lives in Clovis and attended Lincoln Jackson from 1937-1949, said she thought the Supreme Court’s decision provided many children with better futures.
“I was out of school by the time the decision was made so it didn’t bother me at all,” Haynes said. “But it was great that children could then go to school wherever they wanted to go and get a better education.”
While some talked about segregation this weekend, others chatted about the way things used to be.
“During the last few days we had a good time,” Pollard said. “We’ve been talking about the old days. We’ll say, ‘Do you remember this?’ And sometimes we remember and sometimes we don’t. We did everything together. We hung out together. That’s the way it was done. Everything was done at school.”
Pollard said when he was in school teachers cared about students.
“Teachers would come and visit students,” he said. “They would go around to the students’ houses. It was like they were one big family. Maybe that’s what’s wrong with the structure now — teachers don’t talk to parents, unless parents have to go to the school.”
LeRoy Green, who, like Pollard, went to Lincoln Jackson until 1954 and then attended Clovis High School, said he loves seeing all of his former classmates at the reunions. He hasn’t missed a reunion yet, he said.
“It’s really interesting to see the people,” he said. “It’s good to see people I haven’t seen in 50 years. You get to see how people are living and what they are doing and how life is treating them. It brings back a lot of history and memories.”
For Haynes, her memories of the school are based around learning from good teachers.
“The teachers back then had more time to teach,” she said. “The teachers would get up there on the board and they would tell us to write certain things down and study them and the next day we would discuss them. When we would get to school the next day we would be ready.”
The reunions for Pollard’s wife, Joyce, are meaningful as well, even though she didn’t attend Lincoln Jackson.
“Lincoln Jackson (elementary) was where I got my first teaching assignment,” she said. “I worked there first as a secretary and then moved up the ranks to become a teacher.”