Monday, August 22, 2011

Blog 68 - Keeping Alive by Keeping the Mind Occupied

Blog 68

Keeping Alive by Keeping the Mind Occupied

Alene Kate Stewart McCorkle

(This is the second in a series of articles written by Mrs. McCorkle

as promised in blog 67 which you should read first for background.)

I get pleasure out of reading my NEWSLETTER from Vernon Herron. He keeps me aware of how great the students are who finished Second Ward. I just can’t imagine the great information he is sending us. It looks like he is trying his best to keep all of us ALIVE. I just wonder if it might have helped some of our deceased ones had this wonderful NEWSLETTER been sent before they passed on to the great beyond.

I have an addition to make to Vernon’s recommendations. It is not only exercise and proper eating but it pays to KEEP THE MIND OCCUPIED. Think positively. We have come a long way. Thousands of people are living to be over a hundred. Come with me as I hope to celebrate 100 years [2015]. My mind is busy. I wish that I could show you some of the things that I have done or made since I became 90 years of age.[Now 96].

I sew and crochet. When I was 91 years of age, I crocheted over 100 snow caps for members of the family and their friends. Two years ago, I did 11 jigsaw puzzles, 5 with 500 pieces, 5 with 1,000 pieces and 1 with 1500 pieces. The one with 2000 pieces is still under the bed in a shoe box. I think that I will let it stay there.

I read, do jigsaw puzzles, play pinochle, single and double. I learned double after reaching the age of 92. I play euchre double hearts, scrabble and spade on the computer. I do at least half of the cooking in our house. I can’t work in the garden but I freeze what comes out of it. I make juice from the oranges that grow on our tree in Puerto Rico.

I go to church or I listen to sermons on TV. I keep up with my little money and I pray mightily. Sometimes I wake up about 1 or 2 a.m. and send up prayers of Thanksgiving because I realize that even though I lived through the great depression, God has been GOOD to me. So you see that I am busy everyday. I even cut some hedges the other day. I was sore for a few days.

When I feel like I don’t want to do anything, I go to my “music box” collection. .I turn them all on at the same time. That is great noise and I love it. I collect music boxes.

I love Obama. I listen to him every time I know when he is speaking. He is having a hard time so we must pray for him and his family. He has a big job. Many people hope he will fail in his efforts. He is where we thought we would never live to see one of us. We helped him when he was running for President, so let us help him now that he is President with the highest rating of any President. Prayer is a little thing that helps us all. We, as Second Ward grads and supporters know what prayer can do. We have lived by it.

It looks like that I am bragging about my activities, doesn’t it? Well, I guess that I am, since I thought about it. I am doing this to let you know that as you get older, there are still lots of things you can do to help you live even longer.

I have a little message which I’ve placed some where, the lack of which I don’t remember. But when I read it, I thought how any one over 75 could certainly agree that it is all good and could see all of these things in their lives. I think it is called…


Everything is getting father away now than they used to be.

It is twice as far to the corner and I notice that they have added a hill.

I have given up on running for the bus, it leaves faster than it used to.

And it seems to me they are making stairs steeper than they did in the old days.

Have you noticed the smaller print they are using in the newspaper?

There is no sense in asking people to read aloud.

Everyone speaks in such low voices, I can hardly hear them.

It is almost impossible to reach my shoe laces.

Even people are changing. They are much younger than they used to be when I was their age. On the other hand, people my age are so much older than I am.

I ran into an old classmate the other day, and she had aged so much.

I did not even recognize her.

I got to thinking about that poor thing while I was combing my hair this morning

And in so doing, I glanced at my reflection.

You know, they don’t even make mirrors like they use to.

I did not recognize me in that mirror.

Have you looked in the mirror lately? I have and I don’t know who that lady is looking back at me!

Smile and be happy!

The following are scenes from the 96th birthday luncheon

Pictures by William C. Youngblood

Friday, August 12, 2011

Blog 67 - A Beloved School Teacher Is Honored

Blog 67

A Beloved School Teacher Is Honored


Vernon M Herron

Let’s switch this time from an essay narrative style of writing to a news reporting style to report how a biblical mandate is obeyed. Ephesians 6:2-3 say, “Honour thy father and mother, (which is the first commandment [Ex.20:12, Deut.5:16] with promise) that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” “Honour thy father and mother” means to honor the elderly of the community, all ancestors, your teachers, those who molded your thought patterns and your social and moral behavior. That biblical injunction was observed recently when a beloved teacher was honored. Recently, approximately thirty persons, including the Second Ward High School National Alumni Foundation, Inc., former students and friends of Mrs. Alene Kate Stewart McCorkle celebrated her 96th birthday with a luncheon at the Olive Garden Italian Restaurant, in the North Lake Shopping Mall at Charlotte. The retired Mathematics’ teacher taught at Charlotte’s Second Ward High School for 31 years and is one of two survivors of the 1947 faculty.

The beloved teacher was showered with roasts, toasts and gifts. The luncheon guests were presented with a gift-package containing six articles written by the honoree, (see her writings in the next four blog postings) including her life history, educational and life experiences, goals and a blue-print for longevity, pictures of the ’47 class and faculty, and three blog postings.

The school was built in 1923 and Demolished by the Urban Renewal Program in 1969.

Mrs. McCorkle addressed the luncheon guests with words of gratitude and wisdom. (See last page for pictures of the luncheon). An example of her writing and speaking follow:


I was born in Mecklenburg County to the late Brown and Roxie Stewart, farmers who moved to Charlotte when I was 6 months old. I was fortunate to have five brothers, four older and one younger than I. I enrolled in school at age five but was not counted until the next year. There was no school for five years old. So when I was counted, I was six years old and in the second grade. I enrolled in the Biddleville Elementary School, a four room school on the railroad tracks, a few steps off Beatties Ford Road. It housed grades 1-4. After grade 4, you went to Fairview School which was located in Greenville. My being only eight years of age, I could not walk that far. I had to ride the five cents street car to Myers Street Elementary School located in Brooklyn or ride in the buggy, with my father to school. Usually, he was going in that direction (Dilworth) to pick up dirty clothes from white folks’ homes for my mother to wash and iron. At the age eleven, I went to Second Ward High School which was just about one block from Myers Street School. I was still riding the street car. That was the only school to attend which had its highest grade level at eleven. So at the age of fifteen, I graduated from high school, with not a penny to go to college. I spent my first year out of high school working as a maid and as a cook for a family in a section called “Elizabeth.”

The going may be “tough” but if you want a “college education,” you can get it. I wanted it and I got it. Look how it came! You have experienced getting an education or seeing that your child did. This is how I got mine and what I did to get it.

A new principal, (J. E.Grigsby) came to Second Ward High School the year after I finished. He knew nothing about me. He had never seen me. North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company was offering a scholarship of $75.00 to a graduate of Second Ward High School. To this day, I do not know why that scholarship was given to me. I have an idea but I don’t really know.

The $75.00 would pay my tuition but where would I eat? I discovered that I had a cousin living in Durham, NC. She told my parents that I could live with her and her daughter. I grabbed the offer with both hands; caught the train in September; went to Durham; lived in a four room house with my cousin and her daughter; slept in the same bed; walked three miles to school every morning, rain or shine, sleet or snow; and was always on time for my 8 a.m. class. I lived there for nine months without going home because I did not have enough money to ride the train home.

I won’t tell you about all of the problems because you might become sad. I was not sad. I was glad to get the opportunity including hardships and all. I won’t tell you, how I got to live on the campus. I was telling my daughter about it which was the last story which I told her as a child. She guessed that the story was about me.

I was an honor student at North Carolina for Negroes, now NC Central University. At that time, the Founder of the College, Dr. James E. Shepard, was the president who loved my independence, outspoken attitude, love for everybody and one who enjoyed a job given to me so I could live on the campus. Recognized as a good student, I remained there until my graduation.

It was not all books. I had a strong love affair; more than one. A teacher paid for me to become a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. I was a cheerleader, sang in the college choir, worked in the Dean of Women’s Office and the Registrar’s Office where I kept the records of all students attending NCCN. Never once did I tell a student what his or her grades were. That was not my job. They got that report in writing from the registrar.

Even though I am a Methodist, during my college days in Durham, I sang in the West Durham Baptist Church choir [I knew it!] and the NCCN choir. When I returned home on vacation, I sang in the Gethsemane A.M.E. Zion Church choir.

Sometimes, teachers have a hard time getting an education but you can. If you are willing to work hard, hold up your head high, treat everybody right and serve the ONE ON HIGH, success is yours.

Take time to say, “I’m sorry,” “please forgive me,” or “it is o.k.” and if tomorrow never comes, you’ll have no regrets about today.

The following are scenes from the 96th birthday luncheon.

Pictures by William C. Youngblood

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Just Stand Up and Yell when We Do!

Blog 66

“Just Stand Up and Yell when We Do!”
Vernon M. Herron

This blog 66 represents the third in a series of experiences about which I promised to write. Blog 64 was a childhood experience; blog 65 was an experience of my youth while blog 66 was a young adult experience. These three experiences represent aspiration, information and perspiration. Let us begin by setting the context stage.

This story is about two homeys, who during the Fall of 1947 went off to college, (Shaw University) to begin their post secondary educational pursuits with a maternal hug, kisses and a promise. Anonymity suggests the name of my school friend to be Ruth Green but the experience is true.

Ruth and I had much in common. We were neighbors; attended and graduated from the same high school; attended the same church; had a strong brother/sister relation and had common goals. Ruth’s mother, known in the community as “Miss Green” was the “bread winner” of her family as papa Green was an invalid. So was my mother the chief family supporter, as my father was deceased.

With limited funds and a bright future, off to college Ruth and I went, but not without maternal blessings and a promise of a visit soon. The two mothers had said, ”once you get to school and settled, we will come to visit you.” My! What a great incentive! No description is needed for parental hugs and kisses but the “promise” needs to be elucidated. College life was not in the experience of either parent. They had never been on a college campus, no experience in the classroom, chapel, dining room, a campus Inn, a Student Union, nor college sports.

There are two other factors in the “stage setting” that you need to know about. One factor is that three or four of our high school mates had gone on ahead of us to join the Shaw University National Championship Football Team. The football players were known as “The Mighty Eleven of ’47” and were the CIAA Football Champions of that year!

The other factor is that our mothers visited us at the time of our school’s Annual     Homecoming, when the football team would be contending for the CIAA National Championship. It was Ruth’s and my responsibility to give both mothers a “crash course” for a typical football game. Cramming was required at this time!

We explained the essentials of football in the follow manner:
            A football field.
            Goal-post zones.
            Teams-dressed alike-running in opposite directions, like they are trying to
                     avoid “stepping in something.”
            Making a “touch-down” for points and a goal.
            Extra points.
            A victory and a Winner.

Yet, when the two mothers showed visible signs of incomprehension of this mass material and the inability to “cram,” we quickly thought of and suggested an easier way. Our proposal was, “just stand up and yell, ‘hoo-ray’ and ‘right-on’, when we do.” They did! They enjoyed the game, especially being on the winning side.

Leaving the stadium, we overheard conversation between the two mothers: they said, “the football game was a thriller and a diler.” “It was the first and only one I have attended.” “We did not know the game at first, but we learned fast.” “God is good to allow us to be here this day to see our children start their college life with a ‘bang.’” “It is our hope that they will succeed.”

Yes we were limited in resources but rich in parental love and support.

By the way, if you have never taken your parents or any senior citizen to a football game, I urge you to do so. Even though they may not know the game, tell them to stand up and yell when you do! They will enjoy it!