Once upon a time, in a little village called Lafayette, there was a boy and girl who had long hoped to be king and queen.
On a cold February night in 1965, as a few patches of snow spotted the ground here and there, Dad turned up the car heater as we pulled out onto Ellington Drive. As a few stars were beginning to peek through the clouds, the annual spring festival slated for Lafayette Elementary School was getting underway as festivities began at 6 p.m. with a chicken supper.
I could hear the drone of hundreds of voices, as I swung the door open wide. Entering what had been a drab looking 8th grade study hall full of desks and students only a few hours earlier, was now transformed into an auditorium filled with bright lights. In the middle of the floor was a huge table overflowing with colorful cakes, pies, cupcakes and cookies, surrounded by numbers placed in a big circle forming the cake walk and loud music coming out of speakers strategically placed around the area.
Arriving in my new white dotted-Swiss dress with black shoes and footies, I spotted my partner, Donnie Morgan, over by the fish pond. After playing darts and a few strolls on the cake walk, we met behind the stage as people started crowding rather close as the contest was getting ready to begin.
My heart gave a humble jolt. Looking around anxiously, I saw that the twenty other contestants looked terrified too. But not to be intimidated, Donnie and I walked across the stage with grace and elegance.
Standing there on the stage, as I looked out into the sea of faces, I saw friends, classmates, parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, as the whole auditorium burst into applause each time a beautifully dressed couple would exit the stage.
The out-of-town judges selected Mickey Walrond, son of Mr. and Mrs. Hillas Walrond, 800 Sylvian Drive, as school King. The school Queen title went to Kathy Smith, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Howard Smith, 208 Church Street.
Judged the cutest couple was Donnie Morgan, son of Elder and Mrs. C.M. Morgan, Jr., Route 5, and Debbie Gregory, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Gregory, Due West Circle.
After the clapping and cheering died down, we made our way out into the welcoming crowd. At 12 years old, it was a little overwhelming, but we were proud and honored, as our parents stood there with open arms and big smiles spread across their faces.
The festival grossed a total of $1,292 for the sponsoring PTA of the school. That was the last such activity that was ever held in the old elementary school building. The proceeds from the festival that year went to buy equipment for the new Central Elementary School that would replace the 37 year old building. Central Elementary now houses only the 2nd and 3rd grades.
Built in 1928, the comfortable old grade school was an institution that had seen thousands of different faces walk down the corridors and held an abundance of wonderful memories. Located to the left on College Street behind Rite Aid Pharmacy, the last of the original buildings are finally gone and the Board of Education holds residence there now.
Sometimes at night, when I drive by the old grade school site, and I roll down my window, I can still hear Wardean Perdue calling out numbers as people are strolling around the cake walk and when the loud music suddenly stops, Marion Casady slowly turns around, and with that look in her eye, she points her finger straight at me.
“Always do right; this will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”