Home Towns and Alma Maters

BobLee
June05/ 2017

Home Towns & Alma Maters… Some of you won’t agree with me today, and that is OK. Don’t feel disloyal to tell me so. This may be something you’ve always taken for granted. I did. I don’t any more.

Home Towns & Alma Maters are two somethings most (but not all) have in our past. If you were “an army brat” or dad was a corporate nomad, maybe you never had a town to say “I’m from _____”.

I am forever from Kinston, North Carolina. So are jazz great Maceo Parker, Hollywood ingénue Jaime Pressley, the late (and amphibious) Charles Shackleford and  assorted other notable, notorious and just regular folks. Heavy on the “just regular folks”.Kinston NC

I grew up a middle class white kid in a semi-rural Southern town of 20,000 plus/minus. My formative years were the early/mid 60s. I had no say-so where or when I “grew up”. None of us do.

After I left in 1965 “to go to college” until now, I did have a say so in where I lived and not all those choices were as fortuitous as “where I grew up”.

Both my parents also “grew up” in Kinston. My dad fought in both WWI and WWII, but always came back “home” where he built a business and became “a city father”.

I have always liked Kinston and cannot recall EVER putting it down or decrying its small towness or its lack of anything “big cities” have.

“Small” is relative. To folks in LaGrange, Pink Hill, and Grifton Kinston was the ominous “big city” to avoid with all its crime and traffic. ???

I grew up in Beaver Cleaver / Richie Cunningham fashion. I had more “friends” then than I have now which is a story for another day. I still claim pretty much all those friends to Happy Daysthis day which affects my lifelong affection for “my home town”.

Kinston has suffered economically as have most small towns across America. Population demographics have changed. The tobacco business fell sharply and fewer and fewer kids who went off to college chose to come back to live there.

We sold “the home place” I lived in from age four until “going to college” and my Mom lived in until she passed away fifteen years ago. I never met the buyer and have only driven by it twice but all my memories are positive. Allowing that “growing up” has its moments. I “ran away” once but never made it off the front porch.

Enough of the Kinston I knew remains for me to feel at home when I revisit for reunions or stop for lunch on the way to “da beach”.

I never claim Kinston was “The Best”.  There were many similar towns just in Eastern NC… and I’m sure all across the country.  I just say I’m glad I grew up in “a Kinston”.

There have been many “roads dividing into yellow woods” since I left in 1965. I’ve made right turns and a few wrong turns. I credit my home town for the “right ones”. The other ones are on me.

**

My alma mater a/k/a “where I went to college” was, as you know, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I spent four years there graduating in the normal four years. UNC Old Well

I was a B student. I made friends with people from all sorts of places. Some I have maintained… others faded away. I was not in a fraternity per se, but I had a fraternity of sorts within UNC Athletics. I was “zookeeper”of The Football Dorm. No traumatic experiences involving drugs or alcohol or wicked wimmen. Some exciting times with Dean Smith’s first “really good teams” – Larry Miller, Rusty Clark, Dick Grubar, Charlie Scott et al.

My parents paid my tuition which was probably $1,500 or so. My work in Athletics supplied my room & board. We paid for my college education which UNC supplied. I left with a diploma, no debt and some lifelong memories… and moved on.

I have since described “going to college” as running a gauntlet between “home” and “on my own”. Being 100 miles from “home” I could get into all sorts of trouble if I was so inclined. I wasn’t / I didn’t.

I would touch a few hot stoves and some “wet paint” while chasing corporate rainbows, but nothing to brag about. OK, there were those six months in Mexico at the seaside resort where “10” was filmed. Other than THAT just the usual life stuff.

I jumped from Kinston to Chapel Hill to Columbia Missouri to Atlanta to Charlotte to West Virginia… Kansas City… Dallas… San Antonio… Boston… and finally back to NC and Raleigh. “Chasing corporate rainbows” is another form of lifelong education.

Several of those career stops had, IMO, more impact on me than college had.

If there is a point to all this… it is that I never felt any great affection / attachment for my alma mater. It was “where I went to college”. It was “fine”. If I had it to do over I might have gone to a smaller school. Maybe William & Mary or Wake Forest but I’m not sure why.

I’ve told this story before. March 1982… I was living in Dallas and Michael Jordan “hit the jumper”. Like a tree falling in the woods, I yelled but no one heard me. No one in my Dallas World cared.

I realized in my twelve years of wandering in corporate America since leaving UNC, no one at any of my stop-overs had cared if Carolina won or lost in sports or who the Chancellor was or what foolishness was going on on-campus.

This was well before UNCCH decided to become Berkley Southeast. I was politically agnostic back then anyway.

No one in my Dallas World cared… and I no longer cared. I had moved on and it felt just fine.

I moved back “here” in 1988. Back to Ground Zero where pretty much EVERYBODY “cared” about UNC one way or another. I tried to rekindle the spirit. I tried to “hark the sound” but my heart wasn’t in it.

I had by then become “politically aware” and very much aware that I had nothing whatsoever in common with what UNCCH had morphed into. The alumni magazine derided “people like me” but the alumni office kept asking me for $$$. That never sat well.

I started this website in 1999 and sorta kinda pretended to “care” for a while because… I’m not sure why.

An old college friend “Burly John” Bunting came back. Maybe THAT would “wake up the echoes”? Nope. NADA.

Then, of course, Young Marvin tweeted… The Butcher & Blake… and The Martin / Wainstein Reports… and TGU… and blah blah yadda yadda…

None of TGU ever surprised me. I had seen “how the sausage was made” decades earlier. I never bought in to the “holier than thou” BS and I wasn’t about to when TGU hit.

Now when I meet someone and they ask “who are you?” I say…

“I’m BobLee The Internet Legend. I grew up in Kinston. I have this website with incredibly insightful commentaries. You oughta check it out.”

No one ever asks “what is your alma mater?” It’s not “who I am”. It never was.

###

In the past week I have written five more Redbird Rants columns than the Cardinals have wins. 6-1.  OUCH!  Oddly, millions of Cardinal fans all up/down The Big River go to fan sites regardless of the teams’ up/downs.  I know these columns are “mine” but some of them are freakin’ awesome If I do say so myself.  I just did…

BobLee’s Recent Redbird Rants – LINK.

BL, hows AgentPierce?  As you might imagine, AP has a few thoughts re: “that toilet-mouth skank the Rabid American Left anointed their latest Joan of Arc.” Which one?  Touche.

.

BobLee
  • @CarolineduRosso Reply
    2 months ago

    You left out Bill Bunting and I suspect it was not an oversight. You do recall ‘the shot’ do you not?

    • BobLee Reply
      2 months ago

      Re: “The Shot”… after about 50 years it finally stopped being Topic #1 every time two Red Devils got together. I still recall it like it was only 52 years ago.

  • Elrod Reply
    2 months ago

    Interesting to see the contrast between eastern NC folks’ views and those from Gastonia. Unfortunately, I am another one of those Gastonia folks in self-exile. Like you BL, I have moved 16 times since leaving high school to chase college and the “American Dream”. I am only a couple of years behind you, so we have seen and lived many of the same social and economic upheavals. It is kind of sad that the eastern half of Gastonia has basically turned into a bedroom for Charlotte, while the western half remains almost unchanged. The town has never had sufficiently intelligent leaders or politicos to recognize the town was going to disintegrate unless they found ways to shift the economic base from textiles to something sustainable. To this day, whenever I have reason to go back there, I always take back roads to where I am going, because the town itself is so depressing to ride through. The “what could have been” thoughts drown out other thoughts. It is, and I suspect it always will remain, the redneck capital of NC. Glad I am gone from there and have found a happy life elsewhere.

    The college connections part? I understand what you are saying about your experiences, but until you live on the other side of the UNC-CH wall, you will never understand the long-term impact that level of overt snobbery has on your life. I am not speaking of sports rah-rah stuff, but of the scholarship blocking, the job blocking, business opportunity blocking, the exclusive attitudes of what were old friends, etc. It makes me appreciate more where I went to college and what I learned there. My diploma is REAL. Like you, I don’t display it, but I know its value to me and mine.

    • BobLee Reply
      2 months ago

      My sum total knowledge re: Gastonia is (1) Does everybody from there talk like Sylvia Hatchell … (2) driving by it really fast on I-85 to Atlanta thinking “can we see the Gafney Peach yet?”. I doubt the Gastonia Chamber of Commerce will use either of those as a city slogan.
      .
      No, I never suffered the elite snobbery of The Carolina Wayers; but I am sure it exists even today. That it does exist IS part of my estrangement from “that place & what it represents”.

      • Former96Heel Reply
        2 months ago

        While in school, I remember seeing a TV shot of Hatchell on the bench with her finger knuckle deep in her nose. I’m sure the cameraman found that the most exciting thing to show, it being ladies bball. I still just bury my head in my hand thinking, this is as good as we (Gastonia) have to offer? We always have Big Game James and his black book, and this coach who looks like she’s in a dugout, hidden from everyone’s view.
        .
        I’m still shocked she hasn’t taken the brunt of the fallout from TGU. She’s a near perfect target.

        • BobLee Reply
          2 months ago

          I have several friends who are big personal fans/friends of hers… but I’m not. Her silly support of Jan Boxil – “the most ethical person I’ve ever know” was ridiculous.
          .
          I once described her wardrobe choice in a March Madness regional game as “from the Dolly Parton Rodeo Collection at Burlington Coat Factory”.

          • Former96heel
            2 months ago

            And with that sir, we have a winner. Thanks for the gut laugh!

          • BobLee
            2 months ago

            That line has always been a favorite of mine. Never found such a perfect use for it since.

      • Elrod Reply
        2 months ago

        Yep, Sylvia’s voice is classic Gastonia. Have a nephew that went to college in SC. First day in a speech class, he was doing the routine self-introduction bit, when the professor stopped him and asked, “You’re from Gastonia, NC aren’t you?” Yep, we are distinctive.

        • NCSU68Grad Reply
          2 months ago

          Gastony, as it was pronounced in Catawba county has a similar dialect. Them tars you got on that Ponyac look good. Ifn it gits colder ternight, we might have to lit a far. I could go on. It took a lot of work to lose some of the foothills speech and eloquition. Trust me on that. I got teased a lot by my Vance county GF….and eventually I dropped some.

          My wife’s rural Vance county accent was not that bad. Her grandmother saw to that. But when she taught in NW PA, the students had difficulty in understanding the spelling words. One kid, after maybe using it in a sentence, would then translate and pronounce it for the class.
          Sylvia sound more mountain born to me. It is heavy….

  • Myowngrandpaw Reply
    3 months ago

    Did Larry Miller or Dick Grubar share any of their gorgeous babes with you? We used to wait around in Charmichael waiting for our neighbor , Jim Heavner to finish his post game radio interview with Dean Smith and then give us a ride home. We would watch the Miss America pageant when Miller and Grubar would come out after a game. They never exited Charmichael with less than one coed on each arm!

    • BobLee Reply
      3 months ago

      Yvette Mimeaux smiled at me once… I think.

      “Heavy”still waiting for CH City Council to rename Franklin St to Heavner Highway.

    • @CarolineduRosso Reply
      2 months ago

      Grubar was a legend in this particular area. As I recall the rumors often included either Duke or State cheerleaders in various compromising situations, which makes me question their veracity.
      But I’ve always wanted to ask someone who went to UNC back in those days (now that the statute of limitations has ran out), did Larry Miller in fact own a Carolina blue Corvette (provided by a booster) and did he also get drunk and ride the roads of Chapel Hill, and did he on these occasions forget there was a game on and show up after the opening tipoff provoking Coach Smith to glare at him for upwards of five minutes before putting him into the game (presumably still half drunk)? Admittedly these are ‘junior high’ (Harvey Junior High to be specific) stories and I have no evidence whatsoever as to their reliability. But again, I always wanted to ask.

      • BobLee Reply
        2 months ago

        As I recall he (LM) did have a corvette; don’t recall the color or origin. Never heard the showed up drunk story. Tales of Miller and Grubar’s romantical adventures were prolific in keeping with the times (late 60s).

  • Deac64 Reply
    3 months ago

    I enjoyed your column and the home town focus. I grew up in a smaller eastern NC town where Lumberton or Wilmington would have been the go-out destination. But, I was most impressed to realize that you survived the ‘run then off’ pre-season football ordeal (via previous column info). I had assumed you were a scholarship guy all along. To endure all that and survive as a walk-on is to be admired,

    • BobLee Reply
      3 months ago

      You refer of course to The Carolina Junction Boys Ordeal in Spring 1967 …. when Dooley replaced Hickey. Numerous cases of PTSD still linger from that 50 years later.

  • MaHa Reply
    3 months ago

    BL, If there are any alumni who read you and have IQ’s of 10 to the minus 50 knowing how UNC has fallen into the cultural and athletic cesspool that it has then you aint alone in your antipathy. If I could find my diploma I would burn it. MAHA.

    • BobLee Reply
      3 months ago

      I got my “first real office” at 24. I immediately tacked up my UNC diploma. Two weeks later I quietly took it down. Unless one is a lawyer / MD who the hell cares? Not unlike wearing one’s high school letter jacket around a college campus. NO NO NO …

      • Former96Heel Reply
        3 months ago

        That goes for class rings as well. I give a pass for Texas A&M, The Citadel, and any military establishment, but if the pride of your alma mater extends to jewelry, you may need a reality check.
        .
        I think the oddity of your ice floe, is simply that it is UNC, where so much toxic pride has spewed forth for so many decades. Pick any other state school, including NC State, and it is not that odd a feeling. Sure the former fans have fond memories, but life has moved on to revolve around more important things to them than the myth of athletic programs. I’ve just never met a raving mad Seahawk, or Catamount, or Spartan. A few borderline 49ers, but nothing an intervention and medicine could not handle. You take a Coal Level Rams Cluber, and that FB Program and the right to buy upper deck tickets to the Nov 15th game against Shaw means way, way too much to them.

        • BobLee Reply
          3 months ago

          That level of obsession seems to apply to both “actual UNCCH alumni” and “WalMarters”. I’ve lived in other states with prominent state lib/arts schools – can you say TEXAS and the Pride is there but not so much “self-worth” tied to their alma mater. I never felt comfortable with all that. I expect there are some who will have “he had lower-level seats in the Dean Dome” in the first paragraph of their obit. THAT is sick.

        • @CarolineduRosso Reply
          2 months ago

          I wore my class ring for about two weeks, then I stuck it in an extremely masculine and manly jewelry box (with a couple of old wrist watches I’ve been meaning to get repaired). As Bob said, unless you’re a lawyer, nobody cares.

  • Doug Reply
    3 months ago

    Maybe a big or smalltime giver can explain the attraction of being with a certain herd. I just don’t get it. Not saying it either good or bad but I’m definitely missing something. Understand the elite givers motives – a say in making things work to ones liking – but don’t understand what’s in it for the $200 per year guy other than water cooler bragging rights. My sister graduated from Peace and UNC. She did donate small amounts irregularly to Peace until it went co-ed but never to UNC.

    • BobLee Reply
      3 months ago

      Never underestimate the power of a RamsClub decal on your MBenz Crossover when trying to get the last seat on the Bald Head Island ferry. I used “but I know Felix Harvey” once.. IT WORKED! … “…I went to a WoodDucks games with Skeeter Cowper” MIGHT work.
      .
      For some “He was a lowest level Ram” would be the highlight of their obituary.

      • Doug Reply
        3 months ago

        I did get in the WD’s game for free, plus all the hotdogs, cheeseburgers, water and Pepsi I wanted. Beer was extra. Cheap bastards! 😉

        PS: Also sat with an ex-Kinstonian, recently retired OBGYN Dr. at the game. Sadly missed the chance to learn any of his new occupational jokes.

        • BobLee Reply
          3 months ago

          It wasn’t Dr Rudy Mintz (sp?) was it? GREAT GUY! Wife once dated Ayden Legend Paul Miller. Where else you gonna pick up stuff like THAT but here.

          • Doug
            3 months ago

            Is it true or only legend that Paul Miller never lost a football game at QB from the time he started playing and all the way through his high school career?

          • BobLee
            3 months ago

            As I recall his senior year at Ayden he did not lose a game in FB, BB or BsB. He had a group of outstanding athletes with him that had all grown up together.

  • BobLee Reply
    3 months ago

    After 2,000 of “these things” I am still fascinated by how my intentions become something else… but its OK.
    .
    My #1 purpose in this column was my “estrangement” from my Alma Mater. I have no warm fuzzies about UNCCH – the institution – at all. Old friends sure. Nice memories sure. But I have those about various workplaces I was in over the years. I would no more “send $$$” to UNC than I would “watch The View”. I think I am unusual in my antipathy for “my Alma Mater”. Maybe I’m not ??
    .
    But you are all seeing this as an Ode To Home Towns. Thats great! So long as you are entertained and enjoy coming here. 🙂

  • TheCowdog Reply
    3 months ago

    I will always be a Great Lakes boy, and I will always be a Wolf. I figure 25 years in California put a stamp on the heart that will not fade either.

    I think that if I woulda split my boyhood town to play for UNC, I’d always be a Heel. ( Pun not intended.)

    So yeah…I am still a fierce WNY, Wolfpack, Golden State honk. That I have been back in NC for the past 13 years, ironically, was not really my doing.
    No. My SoCal Beach blondie felt 46 years was enough time spent in one state. Who could blame her? 🙂

    • BobLee Reply
      3 months ago

      I did a “Phenom” column for the Cardinals site… mentioned Tom Hayes being Josh’s Legion coach.

      • TheCowdog Reply
        3 months ago

        Tom never did understand why anybody in their right mind would yank a mattress of a bunkbed, in quarters sleeping 25 guys, in non-airconditioned, 90° Clemson heat just to get a little sleep.
        …On the 2nd story roof. On the other hand, I could never figure out his screwball in intrasquad games.

        • BobLee Reply
          3 months ago

          TH is now operating a Baseball Academy in Fuquay. He had Carlos Rodon as a Fresh/Soph in high school. … Still a huge Cincinnati Reds fan. Named his son “Nolan” after you-know-who.

  • Robert Kennel Reply
    3 months ago

    It’s the BL I’ve known for the past dozen years. Without the details, it’s much like my story except for 10 years earlier, New Bern rather than Kinston, and NC State rather than UNC-CH. Then USAF and six 5-year careers with technical companies around the country before retiring back to North Carolina 18 years ago.
    Still love New Bern, Kennel’s Beach, and NC State and engaged with each.
    Did find different politics since friend Jim Hunt retired which have hurt NC’s moderate image and haven’t found resolution yet.
    We’re you able to attend George Whitfield’s 100th birthday celebration for Coach Frank Mock’s widow two weeks ago in Kinston (same house they lived in 65 years ago when George and I played Legion baseball for Coach Mock).
    As Dodger fan (and also Card’s fan), also loved all your RedBird Rants ?

    • BobLee Reply
      3 months ago

      The Cardinals columns are the perfect alternative to the dead horses I must beat around here. Trying to carve out a BobLee appreciation faction from the usual angry board monkey types that are, alas, everywhere.

  • robedixon Reply
    3 months ago

    I basically followed your path from the state and back, from Carolina and never back, and from my hometown and back, a few years later than you and that is normal since you are a few years older. Maybe that is why we see eye to eye on much. When I was in my late 30’s I sat at the knee of a gentleman in his late 80’s then old enough to be wise enough to begin to soak up what he knew about life. He made a comment I have always remembered. “Most people spend the first 35 years or so of the life running away from their roots, then they spend the next 35 year or so running back to their roots.”

    • BobLee Reply
      3 months ago

      Blondie is getting very anxious for an EI visit. She learned that Carib has a great Sunday Brunch. Maybe we will sell some blood and pay those in-season rates …. YIKES!

      • robedixon Reply
        3 months ago

        Well I just checked since it was news to me and she is right. Not sure if it is every Sunday but likely so since that explains why my son who provides the meat to them told me they had changed their order some weeks back to accommodate some new offerings. We are headed inland shortly for a few weeks and will return at some point. As the busy season comes soon it might be awhile however. Keep in touch of course.

        • BobLee Reply
          3 months ago

          I got her a “wave App” so she can pretend she is down there. “surf sounds”. MUCH cheaper than in-season rates. 🙂

  • ncsu1987 Reply
    3 months ago

    Great column, BL. Before I comment on it, let me say that I’ve been reading your Redbird Rants, not as a Redbird fan, but rather as a BL fan. Baseball interest somewhat rekindled after a couple of your columns, and I enjoyed some fantastic college baseball this weekend thanks to you. Cheers!
    .
    As for this column, I grew up in a small town for whose residents Gastonia was the “big city”. I have generally fond memories of my childhood, but those are because of my family more so than the location. I had great friends then, but don’t really keep up with any of them now. Went to my 10th reunion, but none since. I am proud of where I’m from, but it’s not a big part of my self-worth equation.
    .
    Went to college at NCSU, and Raleigh became second home. Received what I consider a world-class STEM education (although we ignorant farm boys didn’t know what to call it then!), made a lot of great friends, had some really good times, then, as you say, moved on. Have exactly ONE friend from that time that I still keep up with. Lived out of state briefly, but nowhere near as worldly as you! And again, none of this is part of my now matured self-worth.
    .
    Difficult as it may be to imagine, I am still somewhat apolitical, even in today’s caustic environment. I have a firm rule when it comes to political discussion: if you want to engage me, you have to answer two questions first: (1) tell me whether you are liberal or conservative; and (2) based on your answer to (1), tell me one thing that the other side has a better idea on than yours. If you can’t answer that question honestly, then I don’t care which side of the aisle you’re on, we probably shouldn’t have a political conversation, since I’m likely to piss you off….
    .
    So, if my self-worth depends on neither hometown, alma mater, or politics, why the hell do I bother? My simple answer: family. Everything I do is for family, everything I do is to provide opportunities for my daughter (a UNC student, BTW!) and my wife. That’s what defines me, and makes me happy. Sorry for the TL;DR comment today. Me thinks you struck a nerve this morning…

    • BobLee Reply
      3 months ago

      Methinks there will many novellas comments on today’s column… which is JUST FINE.
      .
      I noted my # of friends now versus back then. Around 40 I finally admitted I AM NOT “A PEOPLE PERSON”. A great weight was lifted from my psyche when I did that.
      .
      With a very limited social life and zero corporate life, my “political discussions” are limited to asking AgentPierce “Are you SURE you want to say that?” To which he always says HELL YES and goes with it. 🙂

      • ncsu1987 Reply
        3 months ago

        😀 novellas, indeed. The redoubtable Agent Pierce and you share something in common: I don’t always agree with what I’m reading, but I do always ENJOY what I’m reading. You can tell him I agree with you more than him… 😉 And, seriously, thanks again for rekindling my baseball itch. Really enjoyed the time I invested this past weekend!

        • BobLee Reply
          3 months ago

          2.5-3 hours “watching baseball” cleanses the mind from much of the daily crap. It truly is cathartic. I try to do it every day whether the Cardinals win or not does not lessens the experience.
          .
          AP’s #1 objective is to torment the bejeebers out of Goofy Old Kennel. Which he does expertly. Saving America is a bonus objective. 🙂

  • UNC blue Reply
    3 months ago

    Bingo! Great column. Almost identical story. Born and reared in Ktown. Know many of the same folks. While living in California, experienced exact same attitude. “So you are from NC?” or “You went to UNC?” So what. No one outside area cares. I once cared about UNC in its entirety. The school, some of the teachers, the education and some of the sports. Now the only things that matter to most are the social scene and sports. Both interconnected equal to any of those cheating schools.
    K’Town has changed dramatically. Now it is a shell of its former self. I am told crime is out of control.

    • BobLee Reply
      3 months ago

      My sources say Kinston crime is pretty much “segregated” (no pun intended) to what we called “East Kinston”. Club Pines, Sedgefield et al not effected. The Vivian Howard Phenomenon is the current Talk Of The Town. She has her critics but most seem pleased with what she has meant to the economy with Chef & The Farmer and The Broiler Room. The new baseball team has been quite a hit… pun intended. 🙂
      .
      Re: Diplomas… With my first “real office” I hung my diploma then two weeks later quietly removed it. Kind of like wearing your high school letter jacket at college. No clue where my diploma is today.

      • UNC blue Reply
        3 months ago

        One of my few sources who lives on Cambridge, stated “if you leave your keys in the car overnight, it will not be there in the morning”. He also mentioned he checks his shotgun every night before retiring. Those are memories I thankfully do not recall.
        I also must thank you for sparking my interest in baseball. After work watching the game of the night is quite relaxing.

        • BobLee Reply
          3 months ago

          I had heard that Kinston is a regional HQ for “the Jamaican Mob”. Not as ruthless as The Russian Mafia but plenty bad for Lenoir County. I thought being “above Perry Park Drive” (up Carey Rd hill) was still pretty safe. Armed security patrols on Walker Drive is depressing.

  • Former96Heel Reply
    3 months ago

    Wonderful read, and a very similar path, albeit a generation removed. My memories of the hometown are not quite as nice. Most of my generation saw Gastonia in the midst of a massive decline of textiles and jobs. And while none that I knew aspired to go work in a mill, the decline of the majority working class in a mid-sized city brings about a dramatic change to the civic pride. It was just far enough to not be brought into Charlotte’s orbit then, and yet large enough to have many of its larger neighbors issues. You learned early that folks from there were generally a bit more mean, and willing to prove it. Not many of us aspired to land back home, but I would not change it for the world.
    .
    One fact that has changed significantly in the state universities, and for the worse, is the cost. My tuition was shy of $1,600 for 2 semesters. You could muster living on $500 a month and still had plenty of fun. Anyone willing could easily work their way through school. I do not know what it costs today, but relative to the value one receives, I would say one gets a whole lot less for their money.
    .

    • BobLee Reply
      3 months ago

      I don’t know that much about Gastonia but yours are not the first discouraging words I have heard about it for the reasons you noted. I think WHEN one lives in a town has a lot to do with the experience. The early 60s were the quiet before the storm on several issues… Viet Nam… CRA… etc.

  • NCSU77 Reply
    3 months ago

    Thanks for the excellent (as usual) column.

    I was raised about 30 miles north of you and 7 years behind. I say raised because I “grew up” once I got to Raleigh where I “went away to college”.

    Being raised G’ville was different from Kinston, Wilson, Rocky Mount, Washington, etc. It was in transition from being mostly an agricultural town to being mostly a college town. It had it’s good points and bad ones too. I never really had a lot of affection for G’ville. Don’t know why, I had a pretty good childhood. Just left and only went back to visit my folks.

    When I went off to college I was a pretty rabid Wolfpack fan. I was a terrible winner and an even worse loser when it came to Pack. After I graduated, I came to realize a couple of things:
    1) Why would I let the fortunes of the football and basketball teams determine my mood and overall happiness for days? That seemed down right silly. So, I just started to it let go and became a much happier person.
    2) Once I figured out part 1, then it hit me – I have pretty good memories of my time at State (except for dating my future ex-wife over at UNC, but that is another story), but not because it was NC State. It was because of the people I met and who became my teachers, classmates and friends. I suppose my loyalty is to those folks from my past and not so much the institution.

    • BobLee Reply
      3 months ago

      I have never understood “institutional loyalty” but I’m sure we’ll hear from those who do.

  • NCSU68Grad Reply
    3 months ago

    Interesting column, BL, and it reveals a lot of personal or general info about you which I find interesting. I headed off to NCSU in 1963. Based on your description, I guess my “formative” years would have been a cross between Happy Days, Thunder Road and The Beverly Hill Billies. It is a wonder that I escaped counseling…save one session about my AZD mother’s condition and the overwhelming needs that would be required.
    Along those lines, my grandparents accompanied me and my parents for the 180 mile trek to west Raleigh. My grandfather summed it up and said…”don’t make him stay there…it (Owen Dorm) looks like a prison…” This gentlemen had an IQ of almost 150 and was slated to be a lawyer…right up to my Great Grand Daddy, the Postmaster, and his assistant (PG at the time) done took off for the Ozarks. He had to quit school and thus his life as a textile worker. He would work third shift and then labor in the summer for a local dairy farmer and then his garden to make ends meet. He did see to it that his 5 children all had HS diplomas and some went to vocational schools. My older Cousin and I were the first two College Graduates.
    I really adopted Raleigh as my “home town” as once I left….I never went back. YES, I visited, but Raleigh (due to my DW’s Vance County roots) became OUR place and we always moved closer each job change.
    I worked in NW PA and NE NC (where the Civil War guns can still be heard in the Potecasi Swamp and North Hampton County is the ONLY county in NC without a Confederate War Memorial) and then back to the Piedmont where my parents could see the GK’s and spent wonderful time with them….then finally to South Raleigh (Sanford) and now “The Promised Land”. Each locale has an exponentially inverse (based on mileage) understanding of NCSU and MY Alma Mater.
    Now, not to besmirch my high school, the Mighty Blue Devils of Maiden High have championship banners in many sports and a multi-million dollar Automotive Technology department with a 5 bay garage and many esteemed graduates working for the BIG TIME NASCAR Teams. Thanks to our own Fonz and now my cousin, who left a nice career and took over the department.
    One of our more famous graduates is none other than the “Elevator Lady”. Cherie Berry is a Maiden High Grad and is in the 21st year as our labor commissioner. Having been in safety as well as environmental and dealt with same globally and also in at least 20 states, her Labor Department is one of the BEST in the US…despite the feces stained headlines from Randy Mandy, who was also found guilty of LIBEL, at the N&O.
    Just read AP’s comments….YES, I did, also know, who Kathy Griffin is or hopefully from a career standpoint, WAS. Good Column…recommend folks travel there and read it.

    • BobLee Reply
      3 months ago

      I suspect neither this column nor AP’s will be everyone’s cuppa tea… which is fine now and then.

    • Doug Reply
      3 months ago

      68, do you believe Kathy be-headed to another vocation? Pun intended.

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