I’ve written several times about my high school and the area where it sits in Old South Baton Rouge. While the area is called The Bottom, it’s also the place where President Barack Obama held a town hall meeting last year. So take that.
While there was a toughness about the area around McKinley High School, it was one giant family on the campus when I attended.
This year, my class is celebrating more than four decades since we wore our royal blue caps and gowns. That is a milestone in anyone’s life. We have had reunions every five years since our first 10-year celebration.
Last summer, we planned a five-day cruise as one of our reunion activities this year. We’ve have already had four cruises. But this one would be different because this would be our first that included retirees, AARP qualifiers, people with walking and sight issues. There would be people complaining about knee and hip soreness. And, we would be lugging a lot more medication than in the past.
(Only the AARP label fits me.)
But that’s not the main issue here. Several of our classmates were affected by the flood of 2016. Homes were damaged, and belongings and furniture were lost. We had to decide whether we would kill our plans to go on a cruise.
A core group of classmates did not want to abandon ship. But we couldn’t go on a cruise if some of our classmates were stopped because of the flood. So the decision was made to raise money to pay for them to go. And we would pay for their spouse, too.
Then there was something else. A couple of the flood victims just could not get with the idea of going on a cruise. They were still working on their houses, and emotionally they weren’t ready for something like a cruise.
Okay, we would give them the equal amount of the cost for a person to be on the cruise.
But, how would we raise the thousands of dollars needed? We don’t have a lot of rich folk in our class with hundreds of dollars to giveaway.
So the decision was made to hold a couple of fundraisers. That’s always easier said than done. Anyone who has done that knows it is a lot of work, luck and hope that the weather will cooperate.
We planned and sold catfish dinners on Good Friday. Everything we used, including the fish, was donated by classmates.
Classmates pitched in with everything. A local store heard about what we were doing and donated all of the cornbread for the plates. (I bet you never had a store donate pans of cornbread for your event.)
In less than four hours, we sold 140 plates at $10 each. Not bad. We also had some financial contributions. It was decent start, but we still had a long way to go.
A few weeks later, we had grilled chicken fundraiser. Wouldn’t you know it, the same store that donated the cornbread gave us nearly 200 chicken leg quarters.
I joined a party of classmates that spent more than two hours one evening after work cleaning and seasoning every piece. Messing with raw chicken is not fun, but we had a blast laughing and joking as we pulled fat and washed chicken.
That Saturday, we sold about 150 dinners at $10 each. Some classmates and others gave us financial donations.
A week ago, we paid the travel agent for our classmates to go on the cruise. As class president, I got up and gave everyone high fives. We laughed and enjoyed the moment. We had done it.
While we had the struggles of a lifetime growing up the way we did, what we had accomplished showed we have not forgotten. There was a word at our high school that was drilled into us: Pride. Basically, if you have nothing else, at least show pride in your school and who you are.
I am so proud of my classmates. What we did, in the big picture of things, is so miniscule as to go unnoticed. But, you know what, the McKinley Class of 1972 will take it.
Email Edward Pratt, a former newspaperman who writes a weekly Advocate column, at firstname.lastname@example.org.