Our Stories

Appeal for YOUR Personal Stories!

It’s been said that the shortest distance between two people is a story. Between now and the reunion, we invite you to think about, write, record, and share your own personal stories as they may have been influenced by your time at LRCH. Based on submissions of blog posts and your written, verbal or recorded thoughts on the subject, we hope to select a few of you to be interviewed on camera during the reunion. We will also be filming much of the reunion events themselves – another reason not to miss this special reunion!

This nation needs our experience and the wisdom of our nearly 60 years of life. The world is a mess, but complaining gets us nowhere. Now, more than ever, the world needs bright, faithful, compassionate citizens dedicated to being part of the solution instead of wallowing in the muck, adding to the problems. This is the meaning behind “Tigers Stepping Up“.

Tiger stepping up (or out!) - 1

The more I’ve gotten to know our classmates during the 2012 and 2018 reunion planning processes and through Facebook, the more I realize how very accomplished everyone has been in the last forty years, each in his/her own careers or paths of life!

Thanks to Principal Morris Holmes and his dedicated faculty, we were prepared well at Central for a lifetime of striving for excellence, in whatever paths we followed. We have public servants, DC lobbyists, doctors and surgeons in our ranks. We have artists and musicians, actors and speakers. We have athletes and scholars, hard workers and laborers. We have marketers, advertisers, event planners, designers; classmates who served in the armed forces; classmates who became teachers influencing succeeding generations. We have mothers and fathers who have taught their children, and now their grandchildren, to be persons who strive for “excellence” in whatever paths they choose.

We want to get to know WHO YOU ARE TODAY! We hope to learn how our life experiences, especially our LRCH academic and social education, combined with our talents, our energy, our wisdom, our faith, have worked together to produce citizens of this great nation who shine their lights for the betterment of humanity, each in his/her own way. Prior to and during this 40th reunion, you are invited to participate in the creation of a new documentary sharing with others our personal stories of where our paths in life have taken us, shaped by our exposure to positive race relations and our experiences at Central.

Between now and the reunion, we are Tigers Stepping Up! After the reunion, we will be Tigers Stepping Out, as we work together to create a documentary and a movement of positivity, inspiration, and hope.

Interview Questions:

1) Some of my most noteworthy memories surrounding race relations or desegregation are: _______________________________________________________________.

2) My high school years at Central influenced me as a person in several ways,      including: _______________________________________________________________________________.

3) Since 1978, since leaving Central High School, I ___________________________________.

4) I think our LRCH Class of 1978 could tell the world a few things about getting along, like ______________________________________________________________________________.

If/When you would like to submit a blog post to be considered for publication on this website, please email as an attachment to: Ginny Martin Fleming at gmfleming1124@gmail.com. We also hope to use some of these blog posts for “stories” that might be used in a possible new documentary!  Check back often to read posts from our classmates, as we explore what it means to be a LRCH Tiger.

If you are interested in getting involved with this effort, please email Ginny Martin Fleming at gmfleming1124@gmail.

In Search of Our Classmates!

WE NEED EVERYONE’S ASSISTANCE IN HELPING US LOCATE AND CONTACT OUR CLASSMATES BEFORE THE REUNION!

We are “missing” 300 classmates of the 617 who walked with us at graduation; 600 of the 980 who attended some part of our three years at Central with us! PLEASE take a look at these names and become a detective to try to find your friends and ours! 

Thank you!

 

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Bill Ridgeway’s Story

Bill Ridgeway:

A question was asked when was my first time to encounter race. My grandparents were born in the 20’s, and my parents were born in the 40’s. I heard the “N” word a lot when they would talk about black people. When my dad married my stepmother, she slowly changed that in our immediately family. We didn’t associate with people of color. At Jacksonville Elementary, there were very few black children, but I never personally thought anything about it…they were kids just like me.

We moved to Little Rock in June 1970. I was excited because I was going to be able to walk across the street to go to 6th grade. Boy was I wrong. That is when desegregation hit and I had to go to Southwest Middle School. That is when I first was exposed to a larger number of black kids. My homeroom and first period teacher was a black woman, Mrs. Yancey. I probably gave her more grief than I should have, because that was my background as a younger child, that black people were not the same as the whites. We were part of that move to the private school in 7th grade. That lasted one year. I missed my friends and wanted to go back to public school. Our neighborhood went to Dunbar Jr. High. I went there in 8th and 9th grade, and black kids and white kids were just kids. I do remember a lot of records were played at lunch in the mid-70’s…my first exposure to MoTown. Many of those kids came to Central with me, or I with them…

To me, Little Rock Central was magical. America’s most famous high school, and there I am walking the halls, attending the same classes the Little Rock 9 attended…walking in the same steps they walked. The thing that impressed me the most is how well we all got along. Mr. Holmes was instrumental in that. His leadership, the way he genuinely cared about all of us…that spoke volumes to me. There were no racial incidents that I can recall. Sure there were fights, but none that were racially motivated. That is a fact I am still proud of after all these years. Little Rock Central had a major impact on my life that I came to realize more and more we moved away from graduation.

The next phase of my life was with the United States Navy. So many things I learned at Central I was able to put to practical use, especially in race relations. In the military, we HAVE to trust each other, DEPEND on each other, because that person standing or sleeping next to you is the person you may have to depend on to save your life, and they feel the same about you. I was able to draw upon my time at Central to treat each person, regardless of color or creed, as equals.

When I was stationed in Kings Bay, GA, I was the supervisor of the enlisted personnel in my shop. I would sit down with each of my guys, black and white, each month to go over evaluation points that would eventually make up their annual evaluations. One of my younger petty officers, a young black male, accused me of being racially motivated to give him lower scores. My response to him? I don’t care WHAT COLOR you are. If we both are cut, we both bleed red. I told him to speak with the other young black men in the shop and if they felt the same way, we could go talk with our Chief. They told him he couldn’t be more wrong, and he dropped it. About 4 years later, we ran into each other again. We both had been promoted. He said, “Chief, you remember that time when you were going over the monthly review with me?” I told him I did. He apologized for his accusation,  and said that he began to use that technique with his own shop, and it was going well for him. That apology occurred in 1999, and STILL means a lot to me.

Mother’s Day 2018, my wife Carole and I went to see the band Chicago. During the concert, they showed many scenes of the violence that occurred in Chicago during the time we were in school at Central. I have been thinking about that this whole week. I can’t get those scenes out of my mind. I am so THANKFUL that we attended the school we did, and have the relationships we have with each other. I am thankful for each of my classmates, black and white. We have an amazing class, and I can’t seem to find the right words to express my feelings for each of my classmates. Someone mentioned getting to know each other better through Facebook. I must state that I absolutely LOVE Kenneth Monts’ postings about Black History. I have learned so much, and I hope to learn so much more.

Central has been a major part of my life, and continues to be to this day. That is why I am pouring so much into this reunion. I am so pumped about this one. Thanks for letting me share this story.

 

Q & A: Can I purchase tickets for just one event? Short answer: Sorry, but no – explanation follows.

Q: If I or my guest can’t make all three events, can I buy individual tickets to certain events?

We’re sorry, but we’ve crunched and crunched the numbers, and in order to make sure we cover our costs, we need to stick to a flat price for the entire weekend. We need about 145-150 paid tickets to break even, and in 2012 we sold 105 tickets for Saturday night. Several classmates have already fronted $1,000 each, and several others are in for several hundred dollars each, all of whom we really need to reimburse. We also are inviting our beloved teachers as our guests and prefer not to charge them to attend, so we will need additional monies to cover those costs.. In addition, the bookkeeping and event check-ins will be so much smoother with just one paid ticket per person. We do hope you’ll understand that we cannot charge per event, and that you will be able to attend the entire weekend with us. 

That said, if the ticket cost is really a financial hardship for you, please let us know. We do not want anyone to miss this reunion because of money! Some classmates are choosing to donate additional funds over and above the $145/ticket (there’s a donation button on the website with the registration). We hope to have some surplus monies after all the reunion expenses are paid to allow us to help those who truly could not otherwise attend. Shirley Kay is handling these needs discreetly, so if you need financial aid to attend, please email her at jsks4@aol.com or call her at 832-588-8566. For those of you who are able to make any size donation above the ticket price, we would be most grateful. Whether it’s $5, $15, $25 or $50, every dollar will help! Thank you!

Also, we really hope everyone can attend all three events to maximize the reunion experience. We have designed the reunion weekend so that each event will have its own flavor, building up to Saturday night. We think you’ll get a very good value for your money! You still have until June 30 for the $145/ticket price. After that, tickets will be $165 each. We think you’ll feel like you got your money’s worth at either price! We’re not just talking about a chicken dinner here — prepare to laugh, reconnect, hug, dance, take silly photos, be entertained, and have a fun, meaningful and memorable weekend! This weekend price includes your ticket to Friday night’s football game, transportation between the Marriott and Quigley Stadium if you need it, and pre and post game gatherings at the Marriott. The same weekend ticket includes lunch at the school on Saturday and dinner Saturday night at the Marriott. And, it includes swag only available to ticket holders — mementos you cannot buy elsewhere at any price! You will shortchange yourself (and us!) if you don’t make it to all three events. Please plan to come for the entire weekend if at all possible! 

Mignon Smith Gastman: A Reflection of My Public School Education

A Reflection of My Public School Education

I always loved when school started in the fall (my favorite season).  The excitement of getting to see my friends everyday, learning new things and usually a new pair of shoes!  It was no different when going into 6th grade.  The Little Rock Public School District started the desegregation busing program.  Some of my friends were put in private schools as parents chose not to have their child go to class with black children. This was my first real awareness of discrimination.  Some students I was in school with spread fear of what would happen to us attending an integrated school – “They will cut off your long hair” or “Beat you.”  Despite being a little nervous, I quickly found everything was no big deal.  I had my first black teachers for Math, Science and English.  They were excellent!  The kids that were bused to our school were polite, smart and friendly.  I had a great year.  I attended Horace Mann and Dunbar Jr. High Schools before going to Little Rock Central High School.

My years at LRCHS were also good.  Both my parents graduated from Central.  My mother graduated with the class of 1958 and saw the riots firsthand.  She said most of the students were not involved with the mob crowds and inside the school was nothing like the outside.  My grandfather, Gene Smith, was chief-of-police at that time and worked to keep the 9 black students safe from violence.  I feel I grew up in a family who taught acceptance and fairness.

My education at Central was good although looking back I could have been a better student.  My teachers were caring and competent and always encouraged me to achieve.  I met my best friend and husband my sophomore year.  We have been married 37 years, have 3 children and 5 grandchildren.  We are fortunate to be living our dream and advocate equality and impartiality through our family and involvement in our community.

I feel that diversity at LRCH during my years there gave me a better life experience for living in this world.  I find it frustrating the our country still has so much bigotry and prejudice.  I know coming together as a class again will rejuvenate my hope to eliminate discrimination.  The Class of ‘78 is truly GREAT!

Mignon Smith Gastman

Monts’s Musical Challenge!

I know we all love to jam to our old school tunes, and those of us on Facebook are frequently treated to You Tube videos of such shared by none other than the Master Historian and DJ, Kenneth Monts! Since Kenneth Monts is the consummate music poster on FB, we’re naming this page of the website in his honor! Please add your favorites to this page by clicking on “comments” or “reply” and pasting yours there! Have fun! Then we can always refer to this particular blog post for listening entertainment! Thanks for participating!

Oh, y’all! For those of you who don’t know, Monts has been sharing good, often old, music  on another FB Page if you want MORE! https://www.facebook.com/groups/soundsfromlrwestend/?fref=mentions

https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=share&v=oHSY7sYbSg8So, 

(I really need a tech savvy DJ to take over this page! Monts? Monts? Where are you, Monts???)

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THANK YOU, Shannan Venable, for these next 5! (added 4/29/18)

 

 

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Thankful for YOU, Glenn Dixon! (added 4/29/18)

 

Shannon — oops, forgot this one!