So, why DID we hate New Bern?


April 21,’14:  Thru coincidence, I’ve attended two reunions in the past month.  One involved my high school’s basketball program.  The other involved my college’s football program.  

I enjoyed getting together with old friends in both cases, doing what everyone does at such affairs – (1) exhuming and exaggerating dusty memories and (2) talking about those who were not there.  #2 is why it is a good idea to attend such things.

In both cases, “those people” and “those days” are part of who I am, and always will be.  So are lots of other people and days.

These two reunions both involved sports.  With one it was about "success" – 51-1 over two seasons with back-back state championships.  With the other it was about “unrequited dreams”..... caught in the middle of a coaching change during which on-field success was minimal.  Both experiences created lasting “experiences-shared” bonds of friendship.

We are the sum of the choices and circumstances we make over our lives.  Each zig and zag leaves its mark and leads us to the next zig or zag.  Two of the most significant choices / circumstances are (1) When we are born, and (2) Where we “grow up”.  In both cases the individual has no say so.   We spend the rest of our lives moving on from those foundation circumstances.

I am in the median of Baby Boomerizm.  I came of age (?) during what I have defined as The Swan Song of America’s Innocence – the mid 60s.   

The Statler Brothers have a line in The Class of ’57 – “things get complicated when you get past 18”.  When me & mine barely “got past 18”, America got complicated with the Civil Rights Act and Viet Nam.   

Many generations can say that.   World War I – The Depression – World War II ..... those were pretty complicated eras too.   The Civil War and Reconstruction..... The Revolution..... Europe during the Black Plaque and The Inquisition..... The Fall of The Roman Empire.... The Mongol Horde ???   There have been lots of complicated eras, but I only grew up when I grew up.

All we had were rotary phones and just three TV channels and those were just b/w for most of my early youth.  We didn’t even have “zip codes” until I was a sophomore in high school.  28501 – who ever forgets their first zip code?  Hey.... times were tough but we persevered.   

I’ve kept in touch with both groups over the decades so there were only a few awkward moments spinning thru mental rol-o-dexes to connect names to age-worn faces.   Why God invented peel’n stick name badges.

The high school basketball get-together was especially unique.   Our #1 rival team was invited.... and attended.   Maybe our reunion wasn’t the first time that has happened but it’s rarer than an unassisted triple play.

We were the #1 3-A team in the state for two years and New Bern was, arguably, #2.  We played them seven times over two years, defeating them six times.  BUT, they ended our 46 game win streak in Laettner-esque fashion.   

As is so often the case, there was tremendous respect between the two teams.   Our beloved and revered coach passed away 4-5 years ago; but their coach attended and gave a fine talk about “those days”.    Fifty years ago and he still calls each player every Christmas.   Very cool.

Not unlike the UNC-Duke-State situation, our two rivals were located within a 30-mile radius.    All three towns (each under 25,000 at the time) went to the same beach in the summer.   30 miles might as well be 100 for kids of that era, so socializing was limited.   The three communities have separated themselves economically over the past 50 years – one prospering, one diversifying, one stagnating.   But back then they were amazingly similar.

Longtime readers here know my pet peeve re: “they are all abuncha ______!”  as it concerns rival institutions, communities and fans.  I understand how certified nitwits can think that way, but will never understand how otherwise functioning adults can.

Yes, I realize I am the only person on earth who thinks sports rivalries that reach "we hate'em" proportions are silly.  Oh, I "get" political rivalries.... and barbecue rivalries.  Those ARE serious.

There may have been substantial differences between the American colonists & Mother England.   I’m sure Rome and the Visigoths were not homogeneous.

Having studied the Trojan War, I’m not sure Hector’s Men of Troy and Achilles’ Greeks were all that different.   Remove Helen and King Agamemnon’s ego and maybe Homer has no epic to write about.... and there would be no reason to fear “Greeks bearing gifts”.

When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor THAT provoked serious hard feelings.  Certainly History has its share of very legitimate animosities.  With sports they tend to be contrived.... or downright silly.

A question I kept posing over the weekend was “so, why DID we hate New Bern?”  Had there been a signature incident that lit a fuse.... a bench-clearing brawl perhaps..... or a Romeo-Juliet situation involving “our” Homecoming Queen and “their” Quarterback??   I received blank stares of “I dunno... never thought about it.”

Maybe it was like Hatfields & McCoys and involved someone shooting someone else's mule?

Missouri & Kansas hate each other going back to the finals months of The Civil War and Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence which was actually in retaliation for a “Redlegs” raid on a small Missouri town.    There was no Quantrill between Kinston and New Bern.

There is a legend involving a Kinston catcher using a potato to pull off a hidden-ball trick against New Bern back in the pre-Ruth/Cobb days.  Trying to verify that would be harder than finding the headwaters of The Nile.

As 100 or so Baby Boomers milled about The Country Club dining room, there was no animosity..... no tense moments..... no beady eyes.... not a single babbling board monkey.   It was nice.    

My subsequent gathering with UNC Footballers from the late 60s reaped similar memories.   With The Great Unpleasantness likely to surpass the Trojan War in duration (ten years), there was only minimal talk of its latest twists & turns.  Comparing it to a smoldering fire in a landfill seemed to fit most perceptions.

Over the past five years, everyone has come to grips with his own version of that “grim reality”.  Athletes don’t drink the same Kool-Aid that fans do.   They know:  Balls do take funny bounces..... bad calls do even out over the years.....  the thrills of victory and the agonies of defeats both tend to dissipate.  

Each of us is the sum total of all those people and experiences we encounter along Life’s Way.

♦ ♦ ♦

Re: NBA Playoffs..... for the past several years I wonder:  when folks are paying $500 for lower level seats, how do you “make them” all wear the same color t-shirt with some goofy catch-phrase on it?
♦ ♦ ♦
 
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Posted: April 21, 2014 at 3:34 PM by SaidWHATMedia | with 14 comments
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Comments
Doug
I'm trady here. I didn't move to Kinston until 1967. During the first week in school a couple of my new friends walked with me to Shady's. By the time I got there after telling me some stories of the Shady gang I didn't know if I was going to get a hot dog or get an A** whuppin. Luckily I got the former.
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BL: If Kinston had any "Fonzies" back then, they for sure hung out at Shady's.

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9/30/2014 12:31:15 PM

Lamar
BL, a little younger than you and good friends with Ol' George Ten.... When in elementary school at Northwest, every little boy wanted a Red Devil coat from well known clothing store downtown. To get one was the bomb. Don't think kids today have that same pride.

P.S. Ol George slipped out of town after I finally beat him in golf at the Country Club!
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BL: George preceded me at the podium at The Reunion. Only guy to ever walk across Fairfield Park on his hands. .... now haunting Flat Rock NC. :-)

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4/27/2014 8:59:12 AM

CNR
NB @ Kinston is a big memory for me. One high school towns are and were great rivalry games. And then the music stopped.
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BL: Yes.... then the music stopped. :-(

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4/22/2014 9:34:50 PM

CR
Good column. Can’t say we actually did hate any of our rivals. We knew too many of the guys and girls from the other high schools. Loved to beat them every chance we got, but can’t think of any that we actually hated.

For me I couldn’t hate DH Conley as my bride was a Conley Viking. Just like now I can’t hate State as her whole family went there. Now about those Blue Devils and I’m not talking South Lenoir.

Heading over to Clark Leclair to watch the 30’s boys do battle with the Pirates tonight. Should be a good time and hopefully a good game. The purple fans at CL are most good and knowledgeable baseball fans. The guys with the megaphones in the jungle are usually hilarious without being nasty to the opposing players.
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BL: I LUV enthusiastic fans..... CHEER LOUDLY.

A pox on the beady-eyed haters.

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4/22/2014 2:12:01 PM

MMF
Good one BL. Thks MMF.

ps: Dad pitched for KHS in '24 and he told me the "potato" story and the alleged fighting on the train ride bk to Ktown after the event. Could be that he was telling the story as he heard it or was part of it? I am not sure. When I was younger, I wish I had axed more questions.
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BL: Cap'n Bob The Fire Chief !!!

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4/22/2014 2:09:54 PM

cooldela
As I recall Frank Mock and several of the lads went down to New Bern and repainted the bear after several Kinston boys painted a yellow streak down the back of the bear. Seems I recall the Brake brothers being involved as well as Pelican, Queen of the BBB's.

Then there was the famous fight when the two sides met in Cove City. At least the tale of the fight was famous. Over the years the fight become somewhat smaller than D-Day.

The girls in New Bern were rather more sophisticated than the girls in Kinston. Must have been the river.

Was it the Parkway in New Bern. It was the Creamery in Wilson and Pharos and the Golden Leaf in Kinston. Carlyles too if you wanted some rough.

We would leave Kinston early on Friday afternoon, hit the Parkway and then on down to the Pavilion. Stand outside and get the older boys to get us a beer. And then driving through New Bern's downtown on Sunday afternoon with the traffic backed up for miles and miles.
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BL: "Pelican- Queen of The BBBs" - OMG !!! YES! Wasn't he "a Sparrow"? My definitive historian for that Era is Reid Parrott.

The BBBs would "sit on the bridge at Emma Webb and spit through the cracks."

I was a Pharo's / Fairfield guy.

GREAT memories - THANKS! When "they" built the by-pass around Dover it shortened the drive to da Beach by at least 5 minutes. :-)


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4/22/2014 12:58:33 PM

Bill
Going off on a tangent, for some reason this musing recalled to my mind that during my years in The Southern Part of Heaven, three other NC townships consolidated and renamed the area. Correct me if I am wrong, but didn't Leaksville, Spray and Draper become Eden some time between 1967 and 1971?

Congrats on your reunion and the fond memories you've shared. I'm encouraged by them to think that my 50th HS reunion in 2017 will be equally good. Past reunions have been a mix, but time has a way, doesn't it?
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BL: I believe you are correct about Eden. School consolidation back in the 70s created many "oil & water" situations and not just "black & white".

"going back to a reunion" is certainly not for everyone. I appreciate both POVs on doing so. I've always been a reunion attender; but Blondie less so. She ran into a "Trany" at her last one. Wanna be THE #1 Topic at your reunion ?? Return as a Trany - either way will work.

Plenty of humor columns have been written on "the 5-10-20 types of people you always find at any reunion".

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4/22/2014 10:28:46 AM

FROM: BobLee
The Hammer (??) brings up a point that I should note more often.

EVERYTHING here is about "what I think about ________ ." This is totally a BobLee-centric website. It's my POV about whatever. No apologies.

If you agree, sort of agree or most definitely do NOT agree.... thats cool. If you want to vent your opposing opinion, that OK... but, as 58WK knows well, I WILL have the final comment. :-)

If you are looking for THE Truth, there's those umpteen monkey boards where Truth is spewed in more tongues than The Tower of Babel. Here its just me. :-)

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4/22/2014 10:25:42 AM

FancyGapWolf
Another fine column, BL ! As usual, quips, jokes and personal comments were great. You really hit the mark with the simple observation that those people and those times are a part of who we are.... So true ! and you stirred an old question I have asked myself so many times since my 1960's high school days.... Why did my eastern N.C. high school so hate our rivals ? They pretty much owned us in football, we owned them in basketball and track....but they were 10 miles away and they were the county seat, a little bigger....but I never could learn the defining moment or event that created the hate...But it was real ! Now my curiosity is up and I will have to do some digging with old friends (and enemies) on this one !
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BL: Be careful when you start "digging". Never know what you might dig up!!

I'm pretty sure most town rivalries involve dead mules, potatoes, and/or star-crossed lovers.

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4/22/2014 9:58:27 AM

58 Wolf Kennel
Great column BL. Been hearing about the high school reunion from both sides as well as you, and it was uniquely good. Even though I was early '50's Bears-Red Devils rivalry, it was always good competition. Caught the pass in the final minute to beat Kinston for the NorthEastern Conference championship so winning helps. Also played American Legion ball for Kinston for Coach Frank Mock so respected the coaches and players in Kinston. That's where I met and played with George Whitfield. You were but a pup at the time.

Too bad we can't be the same way about politics. BBQ I agree.
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BL: In one version of the potato / hidden ball story, my great-grandfather tagged YOU out at home, precipitating a riot. It happened around 1910 or so. :-)

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4/22/2014 9:04:45 AM

The Hammer
You can't even mention the players by name, it's all about you and your emotions?

Is Coach Jones still alive? What's Willie Taylor and the Randall boys up to these days? Did Bill Bunting show? Once again it's all Bob Lee all the time. I don't know why I bother.
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BL: No, Coach Jones passed away 4-5 years ago, as I noted.

Yes, Willie Taylor was there. Retired military. Yes, Bill Bunting was there... and Cecil, and Gary and David. Ray & Jay are both retired from vet and school admin respectively. Paul is an ENT surgeon in Gville.

The title here is BobLeeSays. That oughta be a clue. As to why you bother... only you can answer that one. ??

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4/22/2014 8:31:47 AM

rivlax
Did I miss it? I see Kinston and New Bern. What's the third town?
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BL: Greenville.

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4/22/2014 8:31:10 AM

paintcan
I'd add #3 - Your choice in parents is a potent "foundation circumstance".
You wonder why so many are careless about that one !
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BL: Touche!

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4/22/2014 8:14:56 AM

thailand
Looking forward to my reunion with friends dating back to my ​Wheeler Road/​ Ridge Road/ Ridgewood/ Coley Forest/ Alexander Dorm/ West Fraternity Court Days. .......​

A long-winded dinner at Mitch's will usually illicit a yawning wife's plea, and a "We're only to the 7th Grade!" reply......

​Of all my sports memories, the one I ​cherish the most is a Seventh Grade Championship basketball game played at Martin Junior High on a Friday night in front of a packed gymnasium-back during the Chip Hilton Days..... That night five nervous, skinny little kids beat the heavy favorites.... That one and a Phi Tau win over the Sig Eps in intramural football... Wasn't the long pass for the winning score that I remember so much, but the demurring smile from a certain St. Mary's coed from the sideline.... We'll talk about that one too....

​Reunions may be the reasons we move away......

Of ​Redlegs and ​Josey Wales and Greeks b​earing gifts ​ .... You really do grasp histories' edges seamlessly and bring them to bear...​:-)

Folks from all walks over this way are enjoying your writing.....​Received anything from a disgruntled Ukrainian, yet? :-)

Look forward to seeing my friends again.....

I 'coulda' played for the great Paul Jones.... But my family moved... and then there was Nancy Williams and her demurring smile? What was dad thinking?
Later
​From Thailand​
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BL: A spouse who can endure his/her spouse's reunion is more precious than Midas' gold... and to be treasured. Heaven has a special throne for'em.

Both Nancy and her sister were Red Devil cheerleaders, but, alas, not at The Reunion. :-( ... but most were.

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4/22/2014 12:43:31 AM

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