October 25, 2010

Rural diversity

What's a little diversity among friends? Having grown up with pre-school playmates who were almost all black, recovering tuberculosis patients at the hospital where my dad worked as medical director, and spent my teen years in Malvern OH, where the small percentage of blacks didn't seem all that different from anyone else, I wondered why the publisher was wasting his money on "diversity training" when I worked at the Plain Dealer.
Sure, my former copy editor Felipe Nieves, a Puerto Rican, was moved to ask "Where's the color?" when he visited me in Minerva and Malvern a couple years ago. I lamely pointed him to Clearview Golf Course just outside Minerva in East Canton, founded by a graduate of Minerva High School, frustrated by discrimination in golf. Most of my friends learned to golf there and take advantage of the PGA/LPGA professional instruction provided by the Powells. Certainly they helped educate the rural people with some money.
Facebook friend Bill Monroe Sr. used to caddy there himself, while is mother was the postmistress of Malvern, OH. People like my father, who was truly color blind, were proud of that and didn't like that Diane's parents moved her out of town when she took up with one of our basketball stars.
So I can't gloss over America's shortcomings in race relations by pointing to a golf course or a black postmistress. Malvern had some other integration problems, too, but to me, a white girl, they seemed not too great.
Let's just say we got along better than our counterparts in the big cities and leave it at that. So, that's the backdrop for our gathering at West End Inn a couple Saturday's ago. Some of us had not seen each other for nearly 40 years and were eager to be reunited with Dietra Monroe Turner and Faye Brown (Stokes-Gardner), whatever he last name is now! As aside, she announced, "I've been married and divorced three times!" Oh, two knee replacements, too!
Faye was a live wire when were growing up. She and I used to run together in my little red VW. Earlier, those who were allowed to go to the sock hops, were entertained by her rendition of the funky chicken.
My friend and colleague at the Plain Dealer, Philip Morris, a black columnist, used to quiz my about rural blacks, how they got there. I guess I could only say the same way as everyone else everywhere else. Anyway, for a dozen of us, it was a great reunion, that Saturday night in October.
Cheryle Burwell Clark was some years older than Dietra, but you couldn't tell, could you!
The Gamber girls, Karen on the left and Beth seated next to me, lived on a farm very close to the Eakin girls. And Faye spent a lot of time there. Kathy Eakin Shingleton is on the right below, with Donna Early Tope and Connie Lambert Crowl. Stan Gamber is the only guy in the group picture. at the top. He graduated with me.
It was a great evening among great friends. We vow to do it again!

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