Going Home to Old Town

Going Home to Old Town
In the summer of 1956, Wake Forest College moved from its namesake town of Wake Forest 110 miles west to the hills of Forsyth County and more specifically the outer reaches of Winston-Salem where land and money had been given to build a new campus. In June of that year, my parents and two brothers moved there as well as many of my friends, as all of our parents were on the faculty of the school. Mine was the local pastor of the Baptist Church and the Chaplain of the college. And since Wake Forest had decided to start a new church, also to be called Wake Forest Baptist Church, we moved.
Growing up in a small town of 3,000, and a college town at that, is about as good as it gets. You get to go to all the football, basketball and baseball games, ride bikes, go to the only town swimming pool in the summer, walk to school and on the last day of class, go barefooted. Amazing.
So moving to a large and unknown city that was really a Carolina town wasn’t too appealing. But the school had built ten large faculty apartments (we were in 9A), and almost everyone who had moved, lived there for a time while homes were built on what came to be known as Faculty Drive.
We didn’t know anyone, and no one knew us. Oh sure, Winston-Salem hosted a large and somewhat formal Welcome to us at the Memorial Coliseum, not far away, and our pictures and articles about our families were in the local afternoon paper. But when you are in the sixth grade, that doesn’t mean too much.
I remember the summer was spent riding bikes on the campus, taking the new elevators that you could operate yourself up and down in Reynolda Hall so much that the President of the college finally had to call my father to ask that I and some of my friends simply stop. No one else had been able to use them. And an indoor swimming pool and four basketball courts and six ping pong tables in one gym!
And then the dreaded month of September came, and we all had to go to a new school. Because of where we lived, we went even further away from the city to an elementary school called Old Town. It was an imposing place with large white columns in the front and a cool gym of its own in the back. I had never ridden a school bus until then. I had always walked.
I was in Mr. Lloyd’s class. I don’t remember much from that year except Mr. Lloyd had played football at Miami and allowed me and another friend to leave class a lot to referee basketball games for younger kids in the gym. I even tried out for the basketball team, though I was too short and not very good. My only good moment was in the father –son game when I was to dribble the ball between the legs of Bones McKinney and then go in for a layup. It all worked great, except of course I missed the uncontested shot.
But that year stands out in another real way for me. Old Town really welcomed me and my friends and made us feel at home. I have never forgotten that, and although I only went there one year, I readily accepted and was very excited a few weeks ago when a lady from Winston called and asked if I could come to an elementary school reunion on May 4. How quickly can you say yes? Going back in time to when we were young, small and full of promise, even for a night, is magical.

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