Last Tuesday was the first time Iâ€™ve stepped foot inside the old Lincolnton High School â€” now the campus of Gaston College â€” in more than 40 years. Visiting the campus of my high school alma mater brought back vivid memories of the past at this well-loved building.
I parked just outside Rosinelle Goodsonâ€™s classroom on the first floor, where I was schooled in three yearsâ€™ worth of Latin so that I could attend the college of my choice upon graduation. You see, Latin was the foreign (albeit distinct) language of choice back then, followed by the distant choice of French.
Ms. Goodson had a heightened sense of smell, and the one thing she absolutely could not tolerate was grape chewing gum. Gum, as a generic species, was outlawed in schools back then. But grape gum was a particular abomination to Ms. Goodson. She could smell it from a mile away â€” well at least from the front of her classroom.
Violators caught chewing the vile substance were directed to throw the chew away â€” not in the classroom trash can where she could still smell it, but outside and clear across the parking lot where the main entrance to Gaston and the Lincoln County Senior Center now stands.
It took me a good while to get my bearings once inside the old school, as Gaston has done an amazing job renovating the building to meet the needs of present-day Lincoln County.
To find my â€œhome,â€ I immediately went to the third floor. Once there, I quickly located the classroom of my mentor, â€œTâ€ Smith. Just stepping into that room brought a wide smile to my face.
Memories of â€œWhan that Aprilleâ€ â€” the prologue to Chaucerâ€™s Canterbury Tales â€” flooded my mind. I, as well as many of my classmates, can still recite the prologue, which was required to pass Tâ€™s 12th grade class.
My love of literature and the English language was cemented and nurtured in that room.
Wandering down the hallway, I sought out the Chemistry classroom and lab of Jack Hoyle. Mr. Hoyle was quite serious about his mission as an educator, and it was rare that the students got anything over on him.
The classes of 1970 and 1971 are among the elite who successfully pulled a prank on Hoyle.
When Principal â€œHappyâ€ Jack Kiser called Hoyle to the office, his chemistry students went into the chemistry lab, blocking its door with a rubber doorstop and hiding on the floor behind the lab counters.
Hoyle returned to the classroom a short time later and was visibly distraught because his entire class had â€œdisappeared.â€
Ah, youth. Yes, I know by todayâ€™s standards what we did is a low-tech childish prank, but those who participated no doubt remember it as one of the triumphs of their high-school careers.
Itâ€™s hard to explain the late 1960s to early 1970s to those who didnâ€™t experience it.
We were the Vietnam generation. Daily, members of our high school classes were sent off to fight a war that no one understood.
Notable members of those who served came home in body bags, among them Paul H. â€œSkipâ€ Lawing, Jr., star high school quarterback for the LHS team.
Others came home to only silence, to a community who knew that they had served in our nationâ€™s military, but had no appreciation or recognition for what the horrors they had experienced.
It was also the time when our schools were desegregated. Black and white students attended school side-by-side for the first time in our countyâ€™s history.
This change was not without dramatic angst as demonstrations took place during the school day on South Academy Street and parents kept their children home out of fear for their safety.
We survived the change and are better for it. I made friends â€œacross the aisleâ€ with fellow students Melba Poston, Harry Lander and Debra Hambright, and others. Other students did likewise.
For me, friendships forged during those days at LHS have been strong and enduring.
It was, therefore, very sad for me to learn of the untimely death of my friend and classmate, Charlie Tipton, this past weekend.
Those who were Charlieâ€™s classmates recognized and appreciated his talent and contagious personality immediately.
Charlie and Jillâ€™s classmates no doubt remember them riding around in Charlieâ€™s black 4-door Plymouth Valiant with its push-button transmission and tinted green windows during their courtship. I learned only a couple of years ago from Charlie that â€œJill hated that car â€¦ the passenger door didnâ€™t work and she always had to slide across the seat.â€
Well, despite the door malfunction, these two had a life together that many kings and queens would envy. A life filled with laughter, love and the joy of three children. A life of Christmases that always started in August with lavish, lovingly created decorations that took a couple of months to put out.
Accomplished pianist and vocalist, writer, poet, teacher â€” all of those are accurate descriptions of Charlie.
Most of all, those who knew Charlie remember him as a person full of love for the God-given gifts that life offers each of us if we are just willing to accept them.
Go rest high upon that mountain, good friend. You will be sorely missed.
Martha Seagle is a staff writer for the Lincoln Times-News.
by Martha K. Seagle