Scrap Book

Man Plans, God Laughs.

Getting into my car(a rented Ford Cobalt) I am headed to the icebreaker, the reunion with 1970 will take place in the barbeque joint on Wilkinson Boulevard in Charlotte, North Carolina.

An hour before the ice-breaker starts, I am in this car driving like mad, worried. After all these years, I still wanted to impress. I still cared what these people thought of me. I still wanted to be liked. At home before my flight to Charlotte,  I changed shirts twice and then decided that wearing my dressy loafers was trying too hard, so I went with something more casual, my leather crocs. 

As I drove, I debated calling an Mary(my grade school friend) so I wouldn’t have to walk onto the Barbeque King parking lot alone. As I debated, I became aware that traffic was coming to a stand still on Interstate 85, suddenly I realized I am going to miss the Bar-B-Q King ice-breaker.  I called Mary, to be part of the celebration I have her buy me a pulled pork sandwich, just so I can feel like I am part of the ice breaker.  As I get closer, I realize I am going to have to follow Mary to the concert that was part two of the ice breaker. We talk and we meet up on the highway to Belmont and we arrive very quickly.

As I step out of my car, the transformation occurs. The stale rental car smell is gone, replaced with the sweet smell of Carolina sunset and line dancing music.  It is spitting rain. I immediately run into Robbie Little and Mike Eubanks, my childhood friends who tell me they has spent time perfecting my baseball delivery. They tell me how unorthodox it was. That night in Belmont, my neighborhood friends and I spend many hours reminiscing about Shorty’s truck, the concession stand at Ashley Park, our childhood savant Bud Biggers, my friend Sam Shaver’s early demise diving in the rock quarry in 1976. The ice is broken.  

As quickly as it began it was over.  Everything had changed, yet everything had remained the same. After the concert I get lost heading to my car and my first grade friend Mike Eubanks is there to help me.  It’s really odd to lose your car in a small, quaint, perfectly planned town like Belmont.  I park in unorthodox places in St. Louis at sporting events to save money and I never lose my car.

I am deep in thought as I drive the hour back to my cousin Wayne’s house in Hickory, North Carolina.

It is now Saturday night, reunion night.  As I wind my way toward 1970 I find myself unstuck in time...I can smell the used textbooks and that school disinfectant smell found solely in high school corridors and school bathrooms. I can hear the echo from slammed lockers, the sounds of Simon & Garfunkel on a transistor radio, the ringing of the school bell as it nears 3 p.m. I see that vice-principal in the baby-shit brown polyester suit, those big hairs with the glossy, strawberry lip smacker, shagging in front of the juke box in the gym. In class is that pretty girl (that gave you butterflies in your stomach) in the boy’s monogrammed letter sweater who sits in the front row and always whines that she’s going to fail the test, then finishes in record time and spends the rest of the class painting her finger nails. Here I was going way back—four decades back. 

A sobering experience my 40th high school reunion. Fortieth. Big number, right? Long time.

Things change, don’t they?  No, they don’t. 

I’m 58 years old, not a kid anymore by any definition, but here is a universal truth that every adult at some point will realize: We are all always 18 years old, waiting for our lives to begin. 

At the reunion I hear stories of sucess, tragedy, and premature deaths. None of our lives has gone according to plan. No life ever does. That’s a good thing. There is an old expression that the young people cannot understand yet, but that we, Harding High School’s Class of 1970, are living: Man plans, God laughs. 

As I look around the room for my old girlfriend.  I notice, some of us are heavier, some of us have more lines on our faces, some of us have even lost hair!  The jocks are still there. The pretty girls. The nerds. But something odd is going on. The head cheerleader is engaged in conversation with the pocket-protector geek. The big jock is sharing a joke with the Harley Davidson dude. The school bully is talking with the kid he would beat up between classes as a sophmore.  The cliques are gone now, smoothed away like beach shells pounded by years of high tide. Everyone talks to everyone, and we realize what a waste it was not to have conversed like this when we had the chance. 

So as I talk with my old classmates, as I see them laugh and share and listen, I am deeply moved. The prescence of the past is still there, but the war is over. Make no mistake, the teen years are war. No one gets out unscathed. But here we are, former rivals, former clique members, former insecure high school kids who thought we had to get the better of one another to get ahead. 

I look at their gray hair, their weathered faces, their smiles, and one thought knocks me down like a surprise wave at Nags Head: I wish them all nothing but the best. I hope they’ve all found happiness or at least contentment, and I’m surprised and overjoyed to discover how many have indeed reached a good place. I sense nothing but to love for them, and I have an idea that my childhood friends and classmates are feeling the exact same things. 

I wish we had felt that way in high school. 

I don’t mean this to sound so goody-gumdrops. Competition is a part of life. But I wish that we hadn’t wasted so much time and energy worrying and belittling and keeping score. It has taken me forty-five years to learn so simple a lesson: No one has to fail so that I can succeed. In fact, maybe it is just the opposite.

As I am trying to make the class picture on the dance floor at the party, I suddenly realize that maybe we are all on the same path, and just maybe we are all walking together as one. 

William Mathis




First, of all I want to thank everyone who has signed up.  This has been really fun getting to "see' my old friends.  This following statement I put on my high school site in St. Louis.  I just want everyone to remember, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant.  They also took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can and didn't get tested for diabetes!

Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-base paints.  We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, locks on doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had baseball caps not helmets on our heads.

As infants & children, we would ride in cars made with heavy gauge metal instead of plastic, with no car seats, no booster seats, no seat belts, no air bags, bald tires and sometimes no brakes.  We could not wait to ride in the back of a pick-up truck on a warm day over unpaved dirt roads.

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle.  We shared one Cheerwine with four friends, from one bottle and no one actually died from this.

We ate cupcakes, white bread, real butter and bacon. We drank Kool-Aid made with real white sugar. And, we weren't overweight.. WHY?  Because we were always outside playing...that's why!  We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.  No one was able to reach us all day. And, we were O.K.(when Randy Cook broke his leg we played knee football in his backyard on Marlowe and when they took the cast off it was filled with leaves)! 

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride them down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.  We did not have Play Stations, Nintendo's and X-boxes. There were no video games, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVD's, no surround-sound or CD's, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet and no chat rooms. 

William & Mary


You Know You're a Charlottean If

 1. You remember the original Krispy Kreme and lingerie shop on Independence Blvd 

2. Ever went or dropped someone off at Skate Palace on South Blvd.

3. Went to Queens Park or Tryon Mall to see the movies. 

4. Used to stand in line on Saturdays to pay your bill at the Southern Bell building off Freedom Dr. 

5. Remember when Freedom Drive had a Red Lobster and Harris Teeter. 

6.Remember when Zayres and Richway were the original Retail chains before Walmart and Target 

7. Remember Richway becoming Gold Circle before it became Target 

8. Looked forward to Spring Fest every year. 

9. Remember Belk, Sears and Ivey's downtown 

10. Still call CVS Stores Revco 

11. When someone said gang they were talking about LA or Chicago. 

12. Remember Jerry Peterson and Thunder Boomers!!!! 

13. Watched Fred Kirby 

14. Remember when people confused Charlotte for Charlottesville, VA 

15. Remember NWA wrestling and Jim Crockett, Rick Flair, the Andersons and Magnum T.A.

16. When giving directions to the Arboretum, you use the "pink" church as a landmark.

17. You find yourself surrounded by RV's and portable grills during RACE WEEK.

18. In WAXHAW you admire houses beautifully decorated with flowered sofas on their front porches.

19. In Myers Park and think you're suddenly on Wisteria Lane and an episode of "Desperate Housewives."