Parade through East Spencer celebrates Dunbar School Mass Reunion

Published 12:01 am Sunday, September 1, 2019

By Mark Wineka

EAST SPENCER — Lisa W. Tranumn says the old Dunbar School fostered  a sense of respect, dignity and pride in the community.

Kids in the neighborhood around the school frequented family stores, and most everyone loved Krider’s Cafe. Churches were close by, and it seemed like everyone’s parents were your parents, too.

“We were raised to respect ourselves,” Tranumn said, looking back Saturday. “We were taught you could be anything you wanted to be.”

Even though integration meant she would only attend Dunbar School through the second grade, Tranumn proudly carried the “Welcome Home, Tigers” banner for Saturday’s Dunbar Mass Reunion Parade.

She held one end of the banner and Felicia Ruffin held the other as they led the parade down Long Street. Ruffin’s mother, Essie Graham Ruffin, belonged to the Dunbar Class of 1967.

The parade was part of the Dunbar Mass Reunion weekend, which included a gala banquet Saturday night at the West End Plaza in Salisbury and a picnic immediately after the parade at Royal Giants Park.

At least 14 classes from the mid 1950s through the school’s last year in 1969 were expected to be represented at the gala.

“We are carrying on the same community event that Essie Mae Foxx started in 1984,” said Margaret C. Jones, the parade’s coordinator. “We are celebrating our school’s unforgettable memories. … Also this event celebrates the end of school segregation.”

The weekend and biennial gala in particular helps raise money for heritage scholarships given out by the Dunbar School Alumni Association. The scholarships are awarded to descendants of former students, teachers or administrators of Dunbar School who are current financial members.

The event also pays tribute to Dunbar students who have gone on to make outstanding contributions to the community.

Jones said Saturday she had 43 official parade entries, but the number of actual participants were more than that. The lineup included Dunbar School Alumni Association President Reginald Massey, a former mayor of East Spencer; current East Spencer Mayor Barbara Mallett; and Salisbury Mayor Al Heggins.

Doug Holmes of Holmes Iron and Metal, one of East Spencer’s biggest businesses, served as the parade’s grand marshal.

Several other candidates for the East Spencer town board participated in the parade, including a large contingent for mayoral candidate Tony Hillian.

Beyond candidates, the Dunbar Mass Reunion Parade had plenty else to offer — firetrucks, police cars, vintage cars, horses, motorcycles, high school bands, the North Rowan High ROTC, a stretch limousine, a lawn tractor, representation from the J.C. Price American Legion Post and a crowd favorite, Gary Roseborough.

Roseborough, a native of the Dorsett Town community outside Spencer, retired earlier this year as one of the Carolina Panthers bus drivers, a position he had held since the team’s founding in 1995.

Roseborough’s bus-driving career otherwise covered 45 years and took him on trips across the United States and into Canada.

For the Panthers, he sometimes ferried players and coaches back and forth to the airport or transported Panther employees from the parking lots to the stadium on game days.

Fellow Panther bus drivers for Rose Chauffeured Transportation of Charlotte came up to see Roseborough in the parade. They included Cliff McCrary (Bus No. 1), Brent Roland (No. 2) and Doug Keelan (No. 4).

Roseborough used to drive Bus No. 3 for the Panthers.

“We came up to support him,” McCrary said, as all three men walked up to Roseborough’s parade car along the route to say hello.

The North Rowan High School Band participated Saturday, along with a contingent from Carver High in Winston-Salem.

Evelyn Johnson rode in the Dunbar Class of ’67’s parade car. She said she enjoys the reunion weekend for the obvious reasons, such as seeing classmates you haven’t seen for a while.

“The ability to reconnect with old friends,” she added.

Of the Class of 1967 in particular, Johnson said, “We had a lot of class spirit, a lot of school spirit. We had a good class.”

Beverly Hairston, a member of the class of 1966, said she “liked the fact we had teachers who were real encouraging.”

In her school days, Hairston lived in Granite Quarry, and after eight years at Shuford School, she had to ride the bus to Dunbar in East Spencer for high school.

“I love the parade and seeing people old and young,” Hairston said. “It’s a good time to come together. There were a lot of participants this year, and that’s good to see.”

Tranumn wore a special T-shirt for Saturday’s parade that carried photographs and honored her brother, Marine veteran Carl Wood Jr. (Dunbar Class of 1965) and her late sister, Paulette Wood, who was a Dunbar Tiger cheerleader.

“The only thing bittersweet about today,” Tranumn said, standing near the place where she and others once attended Dunbar School, “is that it’s basically gone — except what’s inside of us.”

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.