Home Towns and Alma Maters

BobLee
June05/ 2017

Home Towns & Alma Maters… Some of you won’t agree with me today, and that is OK. Don’t feel disloyal to tell me so. This may be something you’ve always taken for granted. I did. I don’t any more.

Home Towns & Alma Maters are two somethings most (but not all) have in our past. If you were “an army brat” or dad was a corporate nomad, maybe you never had a town to say “I’m from _____”.

I am forever from Kinston, North Carolina. So are jazz great Maceo Parker, Hollywood ingénue Jaime Pressley, the late (and amphibious) Charles Shackleford and  assorted other notable, notorious and just regular folks. Heavy on the “just regular folks”.Kinston NC

I grew up a middle class white kid in a semi-rural Southern town of 20,000 plus/minus. My formative years were the early/mid 60s. I had no say-so where or when I “grew up”. None of us do.

After I left in 1965 “to go to college” until now, I did have a say so in where I lived and not all those choices were as fortuitous as “where I grew up”.

Both my parents also “grew up” in Kinston. My dad fought in both WWI and WWII, but always came back “home” where he built a business and became “a city father”.

I have always liked Kinston and cannot recall EVER putting it down or decrying its small towness or its lack of anything “big cities” have.

“Small” is relative. To folks in LaGrange, Pink Hill, and Grifton Kinston was the ominous “big city” to avoid with all its crime and traffic. ???

I grew up in Beaver Cleaver / Richie Cunningham fashion. I had more “friends” then than I have now which is a story for another day. I still claim pretty much all those friends to Happy Daysthis day which affects my lifelong affection for “my home town”.

Kinston has suffered economically as have most small towns across America. Population demographics have changed. The tobacco business fell sharply and fewer and fewer kids who went off to college chose to come back to live there.

We sold “the home place” I lived in from age four until “going to college” and my Mom lived in until she passed away fifteen years ago. I never met the buyer and have only driven by it twice but all my memories are positive. Allowing that “growing up” has its moments. I “ran away” once but never made it off the front porch.

Enough of the Kinston I knew remains for me to feel at home when I revisit for reunions or stop for lunch on the way to “da beach”.

I never claim Kinston was “The Best”.  There were many similar towns just in Eastern NC… and I’m sure all across the country.  I just say I’m glad I grew up in “a Kinston”.

There have been many “roads dividing into yellow woods” since I left in 1965. I’ve made right turns and a few wrong turns. I credit my home town for the “right ones”. The other ones are on me.

**

My alma mater a/k/a “where I went to college” was, as you know, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I spent four years there graduating in the normal four years. UNC Old Well

I was a B student. I made friends with people from all sorts of places. Some I have maintained… others faded away. I was not in a fraternity per se, but I had a fraternity of sorts within UNC Athletics. I was “zookeeper”of The Football Dorm. No traumatic experiences involving drugs or alcohol or wicked wimmen. Some exciting times with Dean Smith’s first “really good teams” – Larry Miller, Rusty Clark, Dick Grubar, Charlie Scott et al.

My parents paid my tuition which was probably $1,500 or so. My work in Athletics supplied my room & board. We paid for my college education which UNC supplied. I left with a diploma, no debt and some lifelong memories… and moved on.

I have since described “going to college” as running a gauntlet between “home” and “on my own”. Being 100 miles from “home” I could get into all sorts of trouble if I was so inclined. I wasn’t / I didn’t.

I would touch a few hot stoves and some “wet paint” while chasing corporate rainbows, but nothing to brag about. OK, there were those six months in Mexico at the seaside resort where “10” was filmed. Other than THAT just the usual life stuff.

I jumped from Kinston to Chapel Hill to Columbia Missouri to Atlanta to Charlotte to West Virginia… Kansas City… Dallas… San Antonio… Boston… and finally back to NC and Raleigh. “Chasing corporate rainbows” is another form of lifelong education.

Several of those career stops had, IMO, more impact on me than college had.

If there is a point to all this… it is that I never felt any great affection / attachment for my alma mater. It was “where I went to college”. It was “fine”. If I had it to do over I might have gone to a smaller school. Maybe William & Mary or Wake Forest but I’m not sure why.

I’ve told this story before. March 1982… I was living in Dallas and Michael Jordan “hit the jumper”. Like a tree falling in the woods, I yelled but no one heard me. No one in my Dallas World cared.

I realized in my twelve years of wandering in corporate America since leaving UNC, no one at any of my stop-overs had cared if Carolina won or lost in sports or who the Chancellor was or what foolishness was going on on-campus.

This was well before UNCCH decided to become Berkley Southeast. I was politically agnostic back then anyway.

No one in my Dallas World cared… and I no longer cared. I had moved on and it felt just fine.

I moved back “here” in 1988. Back to Ground Zero where pretty much EVERYBODY “cared” about UNC one way or another. I tried to rekindle the spirit. I tried to “hark the sound” but my heart wasn’t in it.

I had by then become “politically aware” and very much aware that I had nothing whatsoever in common with what UNCCH had morphed into. The alumni magazine derided “people like me” but the alumni office kept asking me for $$$. That never sat well.

I started this website in 1999 and sorta kinda pretended to “care” for a while because… I’m not sure why.

An old college friend “Burly John” Bunting came back. Maybe THAT would “wake up the echoes”? Nope. NADA.

Then, of course, Young Marvin tweeted… The Butcher & Blake… and The Martin / Wainstein Reports… and TGU… and blah blah yadda yadda…

None of TGU ever surprised me. I had seen “how the sausage was made” decades earlier. I never bought in to the “holier than thou” BS and I wasn’t about to when TGU hit.

Now when I meet someone and they ask “who are you?” I say…

“I’m BobLee The Internet Legend. I grew up in Kinston. I have this website with incredibly insightful commentaries. You oughta check it out.”

No one ever asks “what is your alma mater?” It’s not “who I am”. It never was.

###

In the past week I have written five more Redbird Rants columns than the Cardinals have wins. 6-1.  OUCH!  Oddly, millions of Cardinal fans all up/down The Big River go to fan sites regardless of the teams’ up/downs.  I know these columns are “mine” but some of them are freakin’ awesome If I do say so myself.  I just did…

BobLee’s Recent Redbird Rants – LINK.

BL, hows AgentPierce?  As you might imagine, AP has a few thoughts re: “that toilet-mouth skank the Rabid American Left anointed their latest Joan of Arc.” Which one?  Touche.

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@CarolineduRosso
@CarolineduRosso
3 years ago

You left out Bill Bunting and I suspect it was not an oversight. You do recall ‘the shot’ do you not?

Elrod
Elrod
3 years ago

Interesting to see the contrast between eastern NC folks’ views and those from Gastonia. Unfortunately, I am another one of those Gastonia folks in self-exile. Like you BL, I have moved 16 times since leaving high school to chase college and the “American Dream”. I am only a couple of years behind you, so we have seen and lived many of the same social and economic upheavals. It is kind of sad that the eastern half of Gastonia has basically turned into a bedroom for Charlotte, while the western half remains almost unchanged. The town has never had sufficiently intelligent… Read more »

Former96Heel
Former96Heel
3 years ago
Reply to  BobLee

While in school, I remember seeing a TV shot of Hatchell on the bench with her finger knuckle deep in her nose. I’m sure the cameraman found that the most exciting thing to show, it being ladies bball. I still just bury my head in my hand thinking, this is as good as we (Gastonia) have to offer? We always have Big Game James and his black book, and this coach who looks like she’s in a dugout, hidden from everyone’s view. . I’m still shocked she hasn’t taken the brunt of the fallout from TGU. She’s a near perfect… Read more »

Former96heel
Former96heel
3 years ago
Reply to  BobLee

And with that sir, we have a winner. Thanks for the gut laugh!

Elrod
Elrod
3 years ago
Reply to  BobLee

Yep, Sylvia’s voice is classic Gastonia. Have a nephew that went to college in SC. First day in a speech class, he was doing the routine self-introduction bit, when the professor stopped him and asked, “You’re from Gastonia, NC aren’t you?” Yep, we are distinctive.

NCSU68Grad
NCSU68Grad
3 years ago
Reply to  Elrod

Gastony, as it was pronounced in Catawba county has a similar dialect. Them tars you got on that Ponyac look good. Ifn it gits colder ternight, we might have to lit a far. I could go on. It took a lot of work to lose some of the foothills speech and eloquition. Trust me on that. I got teased a lot by my Vance county GF….and eventually I dropped some. My wife’s rural Vance county accent was not that bad. Her grandmother saw to that. But when she taught in NW PA, the students had difficulty in understanding the spelling… Read more »

Myowngrandpaw
Myowngrandpaw
3 years ago

Did Larry Miller or Dick Grubar share any of their gorgeous babes with you? We used to wait around in Charmichael waiting for our neighbor , Jim Heavner to finish his post game radio interview with Dean Smith and then give us a ride home. We would watch the Miss America pageant when Miller and Grubar would come out after a game. They never exited Charmichael with less than one coed on each arm!

@CarolineduRosso
@CarolineduRosso
3 years ago
Reply to  Myowngrandpaw

Grubar was a legend in this particular area. As I recall the rumors often included either Duke or State cheerleaders in various compromising situations, which makes me question their veracity. But I’ve always wanted to ask someone who went to UNC back in those days (now that the statute of limitations has ran out), did Larry Miller in fact own a Carolina blue Corvette (provided by a booster) and did he also get drunk and ride the roads of Chapel Hill, and did he on these occasions forget there was a game on and show up after the opening tipoff… Read more »

Deac64
Deac64
3 years ago

I enjoyed your column and the home town focus. I grew up in a smaller eastern NC town where Lumberton or Wilmington would have been the go-out destination. But, I was most impressed to realize that you survived the ‘run then off’ pre-season football ordeal (via previous column info). I had assumed you were a scholarship guy all along. To endure all that and survive as a walk-on is to be admired,

MaHa
MaHa
3 years ago

BL, If there are any alumni who read you and have IQ’s of 10 to the minus 50 knowing how UNC has fallen into the cultural and athletic cesspool that it has then you aint alone in your antipathy. If I could find my diploma I would burn it. MAHA.

Former96Heel
Former96Heel
3 years ago
Reply to  BobLee

That goes for class rings as well. I give a pass for Texas A&M, The Citadel, and any military establishment, but if the pride of your alma mater extends to jewelry, you may need a reality check. . I think the oddity of your ice floe, is simply that it is UNC, where so much toxic pride has spewed forth for so many decades. Pick any other state school, including NC State, and it is not that odd a feeling. Sure the former fans have fond memories, but life has moved on to revolve around more important things to them… Read more »

@CarolineduRosso
@CarolineduRosso
3 years ago
Reply to  Former96Heel

I wore my class ring for about two weeks, then I stuck it in an extremely masculine and manly jewelry box (with a couple of old wrist watches I’ve been meaning to get repaired). As Bob said, unless you’re a lawyer, nobody cares.

Doug
Doug
3 years ago

Maybe a big or smalltime giver can explain the attraction of being with a certain herd. I just don’t get it. Not saying it either good or bad but I’m definitely missing something. Understand the elite givers motives – a say in making things work to ones liking – but don’t understand what’s in it for the $200 per year guy other than water cooler bragging rights. My sister graduated from Peace and UNC. She did donate small amounts irregularly to Peace until it went co-ed but never to UNC.

Doug
Doug
3 years ago
Reply to  BobLee

I did get in the WD’s game for free, plus all the hotdogs, cheeseburgers, water and Pepsi I wanted. Beer was extra. Cheap bastards! ????

PS: Also sat with an ex-Kinstonian, recently retired OBGYN Dr. at the game. Sadly missed the chance to learn any of his new occupational jokes.

Doug
Doug
3 years ago
Reply to  BobLee

Is it true or only legend that Paul Miller never lost a football game at QB from the time he started playing and all the way through his high school career?

TheCowdog
TheCowdog
3 years ago

I will always be a Great Lakes boy, and I will always be a Wolf. I figure 25 years in California put a stamp on the heart that will not fade either. I think that if I woulda split my boyhood town to play for UNC, I’d always be a Heel. ( Pun not intended.) So yeah…I am still a fierce WNY, Wolfpack, Golden State honk. That I have been back in NC for the past 13 years, ironically, was not really my doing. No. My SoCal Beach blondie felt 46 years was enough time spent in one state. Who… Read more »

TheCowdog
TheCowdog
3 years ago
Reply to  BobLee

Tom never did understand why anybody in their right mind would yank a mattress of a bunkbed, in quarters sleeping 25 guys, in non-airconditioned, 90° Clemson heat just to get a little sleep.
…On the 2nd story roof. On the other hand, I could never figure out his screwball in intrasquad games.

Robert Kennel
Robert Kennel
3 years ago

It’s the BL I’ve known for the past dozen years. Without the details, it’s much like my story except for 10 years earlier, New Bern rather than Kinston, and NC State rather than UNC-CH. Then USAF and six 5-year careers with technical companies around the country before retiring back to North Carolina 18 years ago. Still love New Bern, Kennel’s Beach, and NC State and engaged with each. Did find different politics since friend Jim Hunt retired which have hurt NC’s moderate image and haven’t found resolution yet. We’re you able to attend George Whitfield’s 100th birthday celebration for Coach… Read more »

robedixon
robedixon
3 years ago

I basically followed your path from the state and back, from Carolina and never back, and from my hometown and back, a few years later than you and that is normal since you are a few years older. Maybe that is why we see eye to eye on much. When I was in my late 30’s I sat at the knee of a gentleman in his late 80’s then old enough to be wise enough to begin to soak up what he knew about life. He made a comment I have always remembered. “Most people spend the first 35 years… Read more »

robedixon
robedixon
3 years ago
Reply to  BobLee

Well I just checked since it was news to me and she is right. Not sure if it is every Sunday but likely so since that explains why my son who provides the meat to them told me they had changed their order some weeks back to accommodate some new offerings. We are headed inland shortly for a few weeks and will return at some point. As the busy season comes soon it might be awhile however. Keep in touch of course.

ncsu1987
ncsu1987
3 years ago

Great column, BL. Before I comment on it, let me say that I’ve been reading your Redbird Rants, not as a Redbird fan, but rather as a BL fan. Baseball interest somewhat rekindled after a couple of your columns, and I enjoyed some fantastic college baseball this weekend thanks to you. Cheers! . As for this column, I grew up in a small town for whose residents Gastonia was the “big city”. I have generally fond memories of my childhood, but those are because of my family more so than the location. I had great friends then, but don’t really… Read more »

ncsu1987
ncsu1987
3 years ago
Reply to  BobLee

😀 novellas, indeed. The redoubtable Agent Pierce and you share something in common: I don’t always agree with what I’m reading, but I do always ENJOY what I’m reading. You can tell him I agree with you more than him… 😉 And, seriously, thanks again for rekindling my baseball itch. Really enjoyed the time I invested this past weekend!

UNC blue
UNC blue
3 years ago

Bingo! Great column. Almost identical story. Born and reared in Ktown. Know many of the same folks. While living in California, experienced exact same attitude. “So you are from NC?” or “You went to UNC?” So what. No one outside area cares. I once cared about UNC in its entirety. The school, some of the teachers, the education and some of the sports. Now the only things that matter to most are the social scene and sports. Both interconnected equal to any of those cheating schools. K’Town has changed dramatically. Now it is a shell of its former self. I… Read more »

UNC blue
UNC blue
3 years ago
Reply to  BobLee

One of my few sources who lives on Cambridge, stated “if you leave your keys in the car overnight, it will not be there in the morning”. He also mentioned he checks his shotgun every night before retiring. Those are memories I thankfully do not recall.
I also must thank you for sparking my interest in baseball. After work watching the game of the night is quite relaxing.

Former96Heel
Former96Heel
3 years ago

Wonderful read, and a very similar path, albeit a generation removed. My memories of the hometown are not quite as nice. Most of my generation saw Gastonia in the midst of a massive decline of textiles and jobs. And while none that I knew aspired to go work in a mill, the decline of the majority working class in a mid-sized city brings about a dramatic change to the civic pride. It was just far enough to not be brought into Charlotte’s orbit then, and yet large enough to have many of its larger neighbors issues. You learned early that… Read more »

NCSU77
NCSU77
3 years ago

Thanks for the excellent (as usual) column. I was raised about 30 miles north of you and 7 years behind. I say raised because I “grew up” once I got to Raleigh where I “went away to college”. Being raised G’ville was different from Kinston, Wilson, Rocky Mount, Washington, etc. It was in transition from being mostly an agricultural town to being mostly a college town. It had it’s good points and bad ones too. I never really had a lot of affection for G’ville. Don’t know why, I had a pretty good childhood. Just left and only went back… Read more »

NCSU68Grad
NCSU68Grad
3 years ago

Interesting column, BL, and it reveals a lot of personal or general info about you which I find interesting. I headed off to NCSU in 1963. Based on your description, I guess my “formative” years would have been a cross between Happy Days, Thunder Road and The Beverly Hill Billies. It is a wonder that I escaped counseling…save one session about my AZD mother’s condition and the overwhelming needs that would be required. Along those lines, my grandparents accompanied me and my parents for the 180 mile trek to west Raleigh. My grandfather summed it up and said…”don’t make him… Read more »

Doug
Doug
3 years ago
Reply to  NCSU68Grad

68, do you believe Kathy be-headed to another vocation? Pun intended.

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