LEWISBURG, WEST VIRGINIA
THE CLASS OF 1956 - 50th GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY REUNION
As told from the memory of
James Edward “Deak” Roberts Jr. ‘56
December 31, 2015
(1812 – 1972)
PREFACE BY THE AUTHOR:
The 1956 reunion of the Greenbrier Military School Alumni Association (GMSAA) was the largest, the greatest, most entertaining, the most members of any class returning, and finest reunion in the history of GMSAA reunions. It would be the 50th Golden Anniversary Reunion for the Class of 1956. The planning of it was accomplished by the 1956 Alumni Reunion Planning Team pictured below.
THE ALUMNI REUNION PLANNING TEAM - 50th ANNIVERSARY - 1956
Major assistance during the reunion was provided by Master of Ceremonies Al Chopey, GMSAA Secretary Herb Pearis, GMSAA President Vice Admiral Ted Parker, Past President Tony Sadler (Power Point Presentation of the ’56 deceased), and Cadet Officers from the Class of ’56 including Vince Crouse, Charles Duncan, Bob Gamba, Lee Hadley, Paul Pringle, Deak Roberts, Duke Schneider, and Benny Williams who reenacted the entrance under crossed sabers of the 1956 Queen of the Brier, Judy Adkins of Williamstown, West Virginia, and husband Jay Segall (substituting for the Queen’s 1956 Escort, Mark Williamson of Marietta, Ohio) that originally took place at the ’56 Final Ball in the Main Ballroom of The Greenbrier Resort and Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.
Below is a detailed accounting of the Reunion. It was the grandest, most elaborate, most spectacular, and most memorable Reunion in GMSAA history, and it featured the 50th Golden Anniversary of the Class of 1956.
This accounting of the Reunion is told as remembered by Deak Roberts and is dedicated to the Class of 1956. It is intended to be a gift to all Alumni of Greenbrier Military School.
End of Preface
The Greenbrier Valley in the Fall
THE CLASS OF 1956 -- 50th GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY REUNION
IT IS THEN THE BOYS OF THE BRIER RETURN
IT IS THEN THE BOYS OF THE BRIER RETURN………
The wispy mist silently rises above the hollows around old historic Lewisburg. God’s paintbrush had brushed the hills and hollows with beautiful shades of red, orange, yellow and green. The morning air is crisp, and there is a noticeable stillness throughout the Greenbrier Valley where the old school sits silently waiting among the Autmn leaves as it has since its inception in 1812.
It is at this time the Boys of the Brier return from places far and wide to the foundation of their being, to the place where they changed from boy to man, to the ground where thousands of marching feet had trod for 160 years. Although Greenbrier Military School (1812–1972) no longer exists as a place for teaching young men discipline, academics, military science, teamwork, and the meaning of Truth, Duty, and Honor, it still stands and remains useful for receiving the aging Alumni for Reunion and serves as the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM), a leading medical school for training the nations future, primarily rural, Physicians.
The changes that come with time are quite evident to the aging Boys of the Brier, but one thing has not changed. The “Greenbrier Spirit” still resides in this hallowed place. When the former Cadets assemble from all those far-flung places throughout the world, the “Greenbrier Spirit” lives once again. It permeates their very being and for the few fleeting moments of the reunion, they live again the Greenbrier experience as they see and hear their old friends and classmates from many years ago.
This reunion this year was to be exceptional, especially for the Class of 1956. It was their 50th Golden Anniversary Reunion and it would be special beyond the imagination of all in attendance. 1956 was at the pinnicle of Military School influence in the United States of America, and Greenbrier Military School was among the best of the best. The Class of 1956 was repesentative of the finest of military school classes and certainly one of the best ever produced by Greenbrier Military School. They were the epitomy of a class having the “Greenbrier Spirit. The “Greenbrier Spirit” was alive and prevalent then, just as it is alive and prevalent now. The definition of the “Greenbrier Spirit” is below.
THE GREENBRIER SPIRIT
(Defined by Deak Roberts, Class of ’56)
The “Greenbrier Spirit” exists in every Greenbrier Military School Alumnus. The “Greenbrier Spirit” is difficult to describe in words, but it can best be thought of as that intangible feeling we have when in the presence and camaraderie of those who have experienced Greenbrier Military School, especially when in the proximity of the old school and grounds.
The “Greenbrier Spirit” feeling is based in having experienced the school and what the school was, what it stood for, and what it imparted to every Cadet there, an appreciation of Duty, Truth, and Honor; the skills of Leadership, the virtues of honesty, integrity, responsibility, morality, decency, respectability, ethical behavior, and the desire to achieve and succeed.
The “Greenbrier Spirit” is a Legacy of the Greenbrier Military School and is available to all those having an appreciation of Greenbrier Military School and its Alumni. To have the “Greenbrier Spirit” is to believe in the virtues and values infused into every former member of Greenbrier Military School, enthusiastically support the goals and objectives of the GMS Alumni Association, and its subsidiaries, the Greenbrier Forever Society, and the Greenbrier Leadership Institute, and accept and embrace the fact that the “Greenbrier Spirit” will spread to others you have contact with. May the “Spirit of Greenbrier” live Forever.
THE GREAT REUNION BEGINS………
This story is the personal recollection of the event by Deak Roberts, Class of ‘56
DAY ONE (THURSDAY)……… A PROPER BEGINNING
On Thursday, October 19, 2006, Carol Miller (my future wife) and I drove from Canton, Ohio, the nearly six hours (including breakfast stop at the Dutch Pantry in Williamstown, WV, just across the Ohio River bridge from Marietta, OH,) and checked into the Brier Inn (now Quality Inn) at Lewisburg, WV, around noon. They didn’t have our room ready, so we headed for lunch over at Applebee’s. During lunch, fellow reunion planner, Bob, and wife Betty, Blair came in and joined us. We chatted with a nice couple in the next booth from North Canton, OH, just up the road from my home in Canton. They were headed for Williamsburg and Yorktown. I told them to check out Nick’s Seafood Pavilion on the York River bank in Yorktown. Superb seafood, and a really good place to dine. After lunch, I rode with Bob over to the Alumni Center, and the girls went off shopping in downtown Lewisburg. They liked that.
Raising the flags before the meeting of the Board of Directors
Reunion started off in the usual way with the Flag Raising up by the “Greenbrier Forever” Museum and Memorial Plaza, and at our Brick Walk with bricks that bear the names of so many of our Alumni that purchased a brick for funding our “Greenbrier Forever” Museum. Mine is there and wife, Carol Miller has one there also.
Following the Flag Raising, there was a Meeting of the Board of Directors in the Board Room. In addition to the many reports and discussion of items of concern, much of the discussion centered on how we would implement perpetuating our legacy by insuring our museum would be taken care of in the future after we are no longer here. Thanks to the efforts of fellow ’56 classmate, fellow Cadet Officer, and Attorney, Duke Schneider, and others on the Board, our legacy will be perpetuated into the future through The Greater Greenbrier Valley Community Foundation and Greenbrier Valley Historical Society. Duke did great work on this project that required his legal skills.
In a longer than usual Board meeting, our President, Vice Admiral Ted Parker, emphasized the need to fund this magnificent project, and this will be the task of our Association in the years to come. Others have expressed a desire to do more scholarships to help students. We, of course, do sponsor two students at our successor school, the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM).
Fellow ’56 classmate and fellow former Cadet Officer, Charlie Duncan, presented a proposal to assist a student at Fork Union Military Academy (FUMA) with whom several members of our Association have a close relationship. Many of our Alumni had been supporting a “Greenbrier Cadet “ at Fork Union. The problem was that this relationship was not officially sanctioned by the GMSAA.
Navy Captain Deak Roberts ’56 after taking the parade on the reviewing stand and an inspection of the Officer Corps with FUMA President Air Force Lt. Gen. John Jackson during “Greenbrier Day” at Fork Union Military Academy (FUMA)
Every year, the weekend in May after Mother’s Day, Fork Union invited the Alumni of Greenbrier Military School to come to the school where they gave us lunch in the cafeteria with the Faculty and Cadets; gave us a tour of the facilities; gave us a briefing in the Chapel by the President and his Staff; entertained us with musical numbers from the FUMA Choral Group; took group photos on the steps of the Administration Building; and had a full dress Parade of the entire student body in our Honor. One of our own would be honored by being selected to take the Parade on the Reviewing Stand with President, retired U.S Air Force Lieutenant General John Jackson. The honoree would normally be a high ranking military officer, or the President of the GMSAA or other officer, or Members of our Board of Directors, and always someone who was making significant contributions within our Alumni Association.
They read the bibliography of Captain Deak Roberts, U.S. Navy – Retired, to all present over the Public Address System. Before the Parade, Cadet Officers and the old (current year) and new (next year) Greenbrier Scholarship Cadet were called “Front & Center”. These Cadets receive our scholarship and they wear our Green & White Citation Cord. Also, their names are inscribed on a plaque outside the Superintendent’s office. They are also invited to the annual Social Event at the Stoney Brook Country Club in Wintergreen, Virginia, sponsored by Charlie Duncan ‘56 of Wintergreen, Virginia, who also serves as the Greenbrier Military School Alumni Liaison with FUMA.
Captain Roberts and FUMA President Jackson go down on the field to Congratulate these outstanding Cadets.
Navy captain Deak Roberts on the parade ground with Lt. Gen. Jackson to congratulate the old and new Greenbrier cadets at Fork Union. This is known as the transfer of the Greenbrier green & white citation cord from the old Greenbrier cadet to the new Grenbrier cadet.
Navy Captain Deak Roberts represents the GMS alumni on the reviewing stand for the parade at Fork Union Military Academy (FUMA)
Deak & Daughter Mary Kathryn Zuza, Dublin, OH, Lee Hadley, Marietta, OH
Duke & Joan Schneider, Milford, PA
George & Judy Reed, Akron, OH
Deak, Roz Fullerton & Nana, Atlanta, GA
On Thursday evening at 06:00 PM, we assembled as we always do at the Elks County Club for our traditional mixer complete with an excellent light dinner catered by the Food & Friends Restaurant, and wine & keg beer furnished by our Alumni Association. A cash bar was available for those who preferred other drinks. Many, but not all, of our Alumni were there. Lots of faces I had not seen in 50 years. Faces like Paul Pringle, Stan Nelson, Alan Kivett, Charles Helman, John Chokatos, and Tommy Richardson to name just a few. Many of what I call “regulars” were there. These are those stalwart, dependable ones that return nearly year after year. In addition to myself and future wife, Carol, some of them were Herb and Joanne Pearis, Charlie Duncan and Rose Marie Collins, Jack & Mary Ellen Depue, Ben & Susan Jones, Bill Isbister, Tony Sadler, Bill & Phyliss Stinette, Dusty Miller, Joe and Anne Taylor, Bob and Betty Blair, Al and Carol Chopey, Ken & Elizabeth Lewis, Jerry Chaney, Leon & Whinny Johanning, Lee & Sandy Martin, Dell Eddy, Leo & Brenda Andy, Jose “Joe” and Elizabeth Acosta, Vince Crouse, Jim Polino, Mike Ruth, Tom Stepp, C.R.Treadway, Bob & Rita Reider, Dan & Angela Pennington, Jim Downer, Duane & Charlotte Parsons, Truman Doran, Dick & Diane Salsitz, Duff Smith, Tom & Sue Wilson, Gary Williams, Marvin Conley, Al & Tay Petrie, Owen & Maggie Carney, Bob Duff, Sam Haddad & Betty Ireland, Bink & Christine Wilson, David Downs, Duke and Joan Schneider, Beaman Cummings, Jim Anderson, Grey Webb, Bob Boles, Steve & Suzie Adkins, Tom & Liz Rupich, Walt Cosby, Jim Hill, Larry Springer, Calvin Garvin, Larry Updike, Bruce Ehas, Vernon Thompson, John Byrnes, Joe McGloulin, Phil Mclaughlin, Barney & Freddy Burks, Vice Admiral Ted and Anne Parker, Bennie Williams, Diane Willis, Lee and Ruth Hadley, Butch Hadley, Perry Woodside, Hank and Eileen Marsh, C.J. Richardson, Dave Searles, Jim Duncan, Charlie & Rosnani Stokes and Bob/Vic & JoAnne Gamba just to name a few. I apologize to those who have not been included. My memory is not what it used to be, and, besides, to name you all would take an entire page, maybe two.
Why did I name some of the wives and significant others? These women have become a part of us. They love the Brier just as we do. Some of them have been with their men since they were at GMS. They have all come to be a part of everything we do and they experience the “Greenbrier Spirit” just as we do. This includes the women of the Greenbrier College for Women. They make an important contribution to our efforts and they are indeed an integral part of the Greenbrier Military School family. I created and got approved by the Board of Directors a subsidiary organization, Greenbrier Forever Society, an organization for the families and friends of GMS and its Alumni. This organization was originally headed by Rose Marie Collins of Lexington, KY, then Mary Ellen Depue of Bridgeport, WV, and is now headed by Liz Rupich of Wheeling, WV. If you have not done so, have your family and friends join by contacting Liz at 304-242-6376 (Home) or by e-mail at: email@example.com
Over the years, I have taken some great guests to reunion including Susan Kathryn Travis (my Sister) from northern KY; Kevin and Mary Kathryn (my daughter) Zuza from Dublin, OH; Lee & Camilla Thomas of Canton, OH; Ross (Max) & Gail McElroy of Toledo, OH; George & Judy Reed of Akron, OH; and Chris Schlabach of Hartville, OH. They were all exceptionally impressed with our organization, reunion, and people. They did get the “Greenbrier Spirit.”
Girls from the Greenbrier College for Women (GCW) came to our reunion.
Girls of the Greenbrier College for Women
THEY CHEERED FOR US THEN AND THEY CHEER FOR US NOW
GCW GIRLS -- WOW
Greenbrier College for Women
Carnegie Hall on the campus of Greenbrier College for Women
The catered light supper was superb, and everyone enjoyed the event. Afterward, I, and others, repaired to the Brier Patch Saloon at the Quality inn (former Brier Inn) to witness the West Virginia University demolition of the University of Connecticut on the gridiron. Hitting the Brier Patch was standard procedure for some of us at the end of the day. We solved some of the world’s most pressing problems there.
Quality Inn (former Brier Inn), Lewisburg, WV, Home of the Brier Patch Saloon
Many of us have stayed here over the years. It was here in the Brier Patch Saloon that many gathered at the end of the day to solve some of the world’s more pressing problems and enjoy the company of our old friends and classmates.
DAY TWO – FRIDAY ……
Friday morning was cold, overcast with low rain clouds that could have been snow clouds had it been just a little colder. It was almost too nasty to even think about playing golf at the Elks Country Club golf course. Regardless, remembering the old golf truism “It never rains on the golf course”, I went forth to the Club and joined Dick Salsitz and Butch Hadley. Very few others showed up. The wind was whistling across the first tee and I was glad I had on three layers of clothing. It was not pleasant, and neither was my second shot. My drive was good, but I pulled the second shot to the left of the green, chipped barely on, hit the putt way too hard and three putted the green for a 6 or double bogey. I could see it was not going to be the best of days on the course. We played on until we got to the third tee. Butch complained he was having some chest pains. I recommended we stop, but Butch said he was OK and wanted to continue. We played another hole and he stopped and headed for the Clubhouse, insisting we continue play. Dick’s back prevented him from playing that day, but I played the rest of the nine holes before quitting. It was just too nasty.
Golf Course, Elks Country Club, Lewisburg, West Virginia
As luck would have it, Carol, Mary Kathryn, and Kevin showed up just as I was climbing into Dick Salsitz’s Red Corvette to go back to The Brier Inn. I went with Carol and the gang, but we all agreed to meet down at Food & Friends for lunch. It was too bad in a way, because I wanted a ride in Dick’s pretty red Corvette. It was a neat car. Carol, Mary Kathryn, and Kevin had already been up to the Alumni Center and registered all of us at the desk. JoAnn Pearis was running the Registration, assisted by Sherry Philipps, as usual. Her records did not show that Kevin and Mary Kathryn had paid for the reunion events. I told them not to worry. I had paid it and had a receipt from Herb Pearis, our Alumni Secretary and JoAnn’s husband.
We headed on into downtown Lewisburg and got a nice table in the front window of Food & Friends Restaurant so we could look for Dick. He showed up, found a parking space right across the street from our window, parked the Corvette, and we had a very nice lunch. Dick had checked on Butch and he was fine, but promised to get his heart checked when he returned home to Grove City, OH.
Food & Friends
Karen Boles, widow of the late Sonny Boles, and their daughter, Toni Fitzwater, came in and joined us. Sonny was a good friend of mine from Parkersburg, WV, the city next to Vienna, WV, where I grew up. It was delightful having them with us for lunch. After lunch, we returned to the Brier Inn where I checked e-mails on my laptop, and Carol got a little nap. I had to be down to the school at 3:30 PM for the rehearsal of the Retreat Formation and Ceremony. It was our year to provide the people to run the Retreat. Marine Corps Colonel Beaman Cummings, our Association Vice President, was there to train us in what to do.
I had selected the people for our part long before we got to Lewisburg. I wanted our Cadet Officers from 1956 to be involved as much as possible. We had hoped our former Battalion Commander, Stanley Combs, would be back and serve as Battalion Commander for the Retreat, but he was nowhere to be found. He had simply disappeared. So we got Vince Crouse, former Adjutant and second in command, to function as Battalion Commander. Back in the day, we only had one Adjutant. This Retreat program called for two who would share responsibility for giving commands and addressing the troops. They had to read the Governor’s Proclamation, introduce VIP guests, like my friend, the West Virginia Secretary of State, Betty Ireland, who, incidentally, was married to my friend, Sam Haddad, a GMS graduate, Class of 1958, and read the very long list of our deceased, including a separate list of the 33 deceased from our class, the Class of ’56. We determined we could do this with one Adjutant instead of two, and recommended we have Bob Gamba (aka Vic Gamba) do this.
I hesitated to do this because I did not believe Bob was an Officer in 1956. I remembered him as the Battalion Sergeant Major with the enlisted rank of Sergeant First Class. He was the highest ranking Enlisted man in the Battalion. What I did not know, and didn’t find out until our dinner dance the next evening when Duke Schneider advised me, was that Bob had been promoted at the end of the year to 2nd Lieutenant. I apologized to Bob. Regardless, I knew Bob would be most appropriate to be the Adjutant for Retreat because he had gone to the Naval Academy after GMS, and had a long and distinguished career in the Navy and retired as a Captain (one rank below Admiral) like myself. Presenting documents to troops and greeting VIPs would be something this Navy Captain had done throughout his career. Bob would be most appropriate to be our Adjutant. Bob agreed to be our Adjutant and did a magnificent job.
According to Beaman Cummings, the Retreat Rehearsal had been the smoothest he had ever experienced. I had asked Dave Searles ‘56, former member of the Color Guard, to find three other ’56 people to assist him with taking down the State of Ohio, Greenbrier Military School, and National flags during the ceremony. He did this and got Ben Boxley, former Battalion Color Guard Sergeant; Bob Blair, former Sergeant and Squad Leader in Company “D” ; and the late Jim Fields, former Corporal in Company “E” (Peanut Company – 7 & 8 Grades) to assisted him in this task. After the rehearsal, we had the actual Retreat Formation in front of the school just as we had every day in 1956. We were honored to have as part of the ceremony the Greenbrier East High School Marching Band. The Band would play the Greenbrier official song “Greenbrier Forever” prior to Retreat. The High School ROTC Unit was also present and provided the Color Guard.
We had all our Companies commanded by former Company Officers, except Band Company. Had Charlie Stokes returned, Band would have had an Officer leading them, but Charlie could not be there due to a schedule conflict. We did fine by having Jim Duncan, former Sergeant and Band Squad Leader command Band Company. We did have 1956 Officers in command of all other companies. “A” Company was commanded by Duke Schneider; “B” Company by Charlie Duncan; “C” Company by Bennie Williams; and “D” Company by Deak Roberts. These Officers had all been Cadet Officers in their respective companies in 1956. Bennie Williams had been the Commander of “C” Company. All the other former Company Commanders were deceased (i.e. Russ Smith – “BAND”, Thumper Coleman – “A”, Bo Queen – “B”, Johnny Smith – “D” The Officers in Command today had been one of two Platoon Leaders in their respective companies.
Company “D” in Formation at Retreat with Deak Roberts ‘56 in Command
The Battalion was called to “ATTENTION” by the Commander, Vince Crouse. The Commander ordered the Adjutant to take the Report. Adjutant Gamba ordered the Companies to “REPORT” and each Company Commander did so by saluting and reporting “All Present or Accounted For, Sir”. The grounds in front of the school were crowded with people, mostly spouses and relatives of those in formation. Digital cameras were clicking and film in the movie cameras was rolling. The Adjutant read the Proclamation from Governor Joe Manchin III proclaiming this day Greenbrier Military School Day in West Virginia; introduced the West Virginia Secretary of State, Betty Ireland (wife of Sam Haddad ’58) who spoke to all assembled; and the Adjutant read the lengthy Remembrance List of our deceased, including the 33 of our class that would never again stand in this formation. It was hard to hear the names of so many that we knew who were good friends, some of which had been standing in this formation just last year. Later this evening, we would honor each of those individuals at a special “Honoring of the Deceased of ‘56” ceremony in the Roland P. Sharp Alumni Center.
Greenbrier County East High School Marching Band and Color Guard
The retreat went exceptionally well. The Greenbrier County High School Band played the school song, “Greenbrier Forever”, the flags were lowered and folded as Myron Pierson, in his GMS uniform, played Taps and Retreat. After being dismissed by Commander Vince Crouse, we all assembled in the Quadrangle for the group Photo Session. This was followed by going up tho the Alumni Center for the Friday evening Bar-B-Q supper. The beef was provided by former Cadet George Lemon, ’58, who cooked large chunks of beef over a wood fire in his big , rolling, homemade iron cooker. It was just excellent BAR-B-Q, served with tossed salad, rolls & butter, baked beans, and potato salad. Dessert was a nice sheet cake. Wine and Beer were served coutesy of the GMSAA. Cash bar for anything stronger.
Myron Pierson and trumpet in original Greenbrier Military School uniform.
Myron will play retreat as he has for many years.
Taps was played on the bugle by Myron Pierson ‘71, who could still fit in his uniform and he wore it every year. He also sounded Retreat, the flags were lowered and folded, then we were dismissed by the Battalion Commander. We then all retreated to the Quadrangle for the annual group photo of everyone at the Reunion.
After Retreat, the Class of ’56 assembled for a class photo down on the Lee Steet Steps between the pillars that say “Greenbrier Military School”. Nearly 40 guys showed up for the picture. This was the largest number of classmates to ever appear at a Reunion. The Class of 1956 was something else, and here they are:
From there we took a short cut back through the school and noted the many changes to the interior. They had created state of the art tiered classrooms and medical school laboratories, and I said it would be nice if they gave us a tour of the school.
I strolled across the old Parade Ground where we had played, drilled, and performed magnificent Parades on Sundays in the Spring so many years ago. I stopped briefly in the long grass in the center of the field and looked toward the old entrance to the Parade Ground that we had marched through so many times. As the cool breeze whipped the scarf around my neck, and the low grey clouds moved rapidly across the sky, I could almost hear the cadence of the Battalion coming up to the field (hut, two, three, four…. hut, two, three, four). I could almost see the Color Guard with their flags fluttering in the breeze, and the Company Guide-on flags flapping. The sun glinting off the Officer’s Sabers. The commands ringing out to bring the troops onto the Parade Ground (Column Left…Huh, Column right….huh) It was magnificent.
The Long Grey Line enters the parade ground
I could see in my mind the long gray line marching lockstep with the shouldered M-1 Rifles sticking up in the air (keep those elbows in) and hear the commands of the Officers guiding their troops onto the field. Somebody in each company was calling cadence (Hut, two, three, four, yer left, yer left, yer left, yer left, yer left, right, left.
I looked toward where the old grandstands used to be and the Reviewing Stand where Colonel Moore and other Officers and dignitaries would “Take the Parade” as we “Passed in Review” There was a small set of bleachers behind the Reviewing Stand that was filled mostly with faculty and wives. I recalled the many cars surrounding the Parade Ground and all the people standing beside them, including my own Mother, Iva Kathryn (Mangus) Roberts and Father, James E. Roberts, little Sister Suzie (Susan Kathryn Roberts, and Grandmother Esther Roberts. They were looking at me and they were so proud.
Battalion -- Parade Rest During Officer’s Front & Center
I remember “Officers Call” and us Officers being called “Front and Center” by the Battlion Commander, Cadet Major Stanley Combs, who occasionally, when we got up there, said things like “You guys look like shit.” Posts.”, and we saluted with our sabers, did an “About Face”, and returned to our Units. Stan knew how to get a smile out of us.
Then came the command “Pass in Review”. Each Company would be ordered to “Right Face. Right shoulder arms. Forward march.” We marched to the end of the field near ther Old Gym, given the order “Column Left,” Marched past the Band Company headed by Cadet Captain Russell Yates Smith and his Executive Officer 1st Lt Charles Stokes, and given another “Column Left” to Pass in Review past the Reviewing Stand where the Units were commanded “Eyes Right” and the Officers would Saber Salute those on the Reviewing Stand who would return the salute. They said we looked sharp. My Mother and Grandmother were standing beside the car. They loved that parade, and Dad was very proud of his Son. What great memories. I moved on across the old field lost in those memories of 50 years ago.
Company “D” Passing in Review Under the Command of Cadet Captain Hosea “Johnny” Smith (right), followed by the First Platoon commanded by Cadet 1st Lt James Edward “Deak” Roberts Jr. (left)
Up at the Alumni Center, I gave my daughter, Mary Kathryn, and her husband, Kevin Zuza, a tour through the Greenbrier Forever Museum. She saw my picture with the other officers in the Main Ballroom of the Greenbrier Hotel & Resort. It was the photo of the 1956 Final Ball. The Queen of the Brier, Judy Atkins (Steve Adkins ’58 sister) and her escort, Sgt. Mark Williamson, my roommate, would enter the Ballroom through the corridor of Officers with crossed sabers.
Within the circle of officers with sabers at Parade Rest, the “Queen of the Brier”, Judy Adkins (far left with tiara), of Williamstown, WV, and escort, Cadet Sergeant Mark Williamson of Marietta, OH, commence the dance along with the queen’s court and their escorts
Elliott Lawrence and his orchestra
In the photo above, we Officers had just completed the Crossed Saber entrance of the Queen and surrounded the dance floor with our sabers at Parade Rest watching the “Queen of the Brier” and her escort and her Court commence the dance to the music of famous bandleader from Philadelphia, Elliott Lawrence and his Orchestra. The Final Ball always had a famous Band.
Before that, the Officers did perform a special silent drill for the Queen. What an incredible event. The people….…parents, guests, Cadets and their dates…were all on their feet surrounding the dance floor. We performed the drill flawlessly and were rewarded with enthusiastic applause from the crowd. What a wonderful evening it was….. 50 years ago.
Back in the main room of the Alumni Center, we had a magnificent BBQ of beef furnished by old friend, Dr. George Lemon ’57. He cooked the beef in his big, black, rolling BBQ grill that burned wood logs in the bottom and cooked big chunks of meat on the grill in the top. A very excellent rig indeed.
The class of ’56 all ate together at Reserved tables in the north alcove off the main room. Deak was busy getting ready for the evening Special Progam to Honor the Deceased of the Class of ’56, so Mary Kathryn graciously got him some wine and a plate of food. The wine was so good, I sent her for another glass. I was very grateful for the help. Mary Kathryn was really enjoying herself. Her name tag read “Deak’s Daughter”. She and Kevin were beginning to experience “The Greenbrier Spirit” and they made a lot of new friends that night.
Before eating during the cocktail hour, Tony Sadler got the Power Point presentation ready, and Charlie Duncan and Herb Pearis moved some tables and people out from in front of the pull-down screen, and brought over the podium for our Presentation. The presentation to “Honor the Deceased of the Class of ‘56” got underway with Tony flashing the great logo of the Greenbrier Military School Alumni Association up on the screen.
The music with it was good, but it was rather loud in the alcove and I don’t think many heard it. Charlie Duncan made some excellent opening remarks from the podium before introducing me. Then, with Tony flashing the photo, name, and hometown of each deceased individual up on the screen, Deak Roberts narrated remarks for each of our 33 deceased classmates. The remarks about the deceased were about them as we knew them back then. It was not intended to be a solemn occasion. Some of the remarks were quite humorous. When we came to their loved one, we introduced the widows and family that were present (Karen Boles, wife of the late Otto “Sonny” Boles, & daughter, Toni Fitzwater; and Lois Denny, wife of the late Jack Denny, and her daughter Joy Dodson with her husband James and children, Will & Logan. Also introduced was Bo Queen Jr, son of the late Bo Queen). The widows and Bo all gave very good extemporaneous talks. Deak was ably assisted by Rose Marie Collins, who carried the microphone to the speakers.
We also had Carol Miller, Deak’s future wife, stand in and read a message from widow, Jeanne Murry, wife of the late Jack Murry, who wanted to be there so much, but could not because she was with the family of her son who had been sent to Iraq. The “Honoring of our Deceased” was an outstanding event and something new that had not been done at previous Reunions.
We also introduced the women present from the Greenbrier College for Women, Class of 1956. We were blessed to have four cheerleaders back who gave us a little cheer. Present were Welby Hamilton Loane, Sue Moore Matheny, Susan Greenwald Chaskin, and Nancy Woodrum Clark. It was so wonderful to have them with us once again. Before we retired for the evening, we opened the Microphone for any who wanted to tell “the rest of their story” after they left the Brier. We also asked Bob/Vic Gamba to read a message from former Cadet Band Executive Officer Charlie Stokes ‘56 who also wanted to be with us, but could not.
We returned to the Brier Inn after the BBQ and Special Events. The BBQ was superb. As was my custom, when the business of the day was over, I repaired to the Briar Patch Saloon with old friend, Vince Crouse, and others, for a libation or three before turning in. It had been a long and fascinating day, but I was glad it was over. All the preparation and hard work that went into it was totally worth while.
DAY THREE --- SATURDAY……
The General Lewis Hotel, Lewisburg, WV
Saturday morning, we were up early to get over to the historic General Lewis Hotel by 07:00 AM. Deak Roberts would host the annual Life Member Breakfast and was honored to do so for the 50th Anniversary of the Class of 1956. He had requested to do this long ago. Son-in-Law, Kevin, was right on time and drove us over. The dining room was packed with Life Members. What an incredible turnout. This event had been billed as an excellent opportunity to “get Deak back” for all the demerits he had given out back in 1956, which usually meant “walk the beat” time for whoever got the demerits. This caused several guys to join as a Life Member and every seat in the dining room was taken. We had an excellent breakfast from the menu that everyone enjoyed. It was an Honor and a Privilege to host that great traditional event. I encourage every member of our Association to become a Life Member.
At 09:00 AM, all the ladies went out to the Elks Country Club for the Ladies Champagne Brunch hosted by my good friend Rose Marie Collins. They would have as their guests Rose’s young guitar playing Nephews (or was it Grandchildren). Whatever, they were outstanding musicians and entertained the ladies. Charlie Duncan again donated a valuable gemstone ring for a door prize. This brunch is always very popular with the ladies, and this year was no exception. The guitarists would entertain all of us later on during the cocktail hour before the Dinner / Dance.
After the Life Member breakfast, we went directly to the Alumni Center and got seated for the annual Regular Meeting of the Alumni. Visitors were welcome and Kevin sat in on the proceedings. During the meeting, we had election of new members to the Board of Directors. I was nominated and approved along with a couple of others. During our meeting, our Class of 1956 was called forward and presented with their 50 Year Pin to commemorate this great milestone. After the general meeting, we had a short Board meeting in the south alcove. Following that, Kevin and I left and went back to the Brier Inn to pick up the women and drove down to Pipestem State Park. We would have normally gone over to the Greenbrier Hotel, but they closed it to the public. We wanted to see the Ohio State game against Indiana, but it was on ESPN-U, a special pay channel and nobody had it. We listened to the game on satellite radio in the car. Ohio State, one of my other Alma Maters, had no problem handling Indiana. We took the beautiful drive down along the Greenbrier River through Alderson and Hinton. I told the story of my experience at Hinton. We were playing Hinton High in football. I was playing wingback and was out on the right end to block the player across from me. When I went at him, he hit me with his fist right in the face and broke my nose. There were no face guards in those days. It was bleeding and my nose was smashed over on the side of my face. I went to the sideline and with my hand I put my nose back over in place. It stopped bleeding and coach put me back in the game where I scored a touchdown on a pass from the Quarterback. We did win the game. My repositioning of my nose left one air passage large and one small. It has remained that way all my life. We stopped and took pictures at the Bluestone Reservoir on the way.
Pipestem State Park, West Virginia
At Pipestem, we had lunch at Mulligan’s down by the golf pro-shop overlooking the golf course. It was beautiful. The cheeseburgers were good with the deep fried onions and Miller Lite on tap, but way too much to eat. The golf course looked so good and we wished we could be out there.
From Mulligan’s, we went to the Gondola Ride that went down to the river and back up the mountain. Pipestem was fun, and we said we wanted to come back next year. We shopped in the gift shop before heading back to the Brier Inn to get ready for the Dinner/Dance.
We got dressed up for the Dinner / Dance. Carol looked lovely. I wore my new togs I had picked up over in Bangkok, Thailand. Navy blue pants with light grey sports coat. We looked cool. Kevin and Mary Kathryn came down (they both looked marvelous) and we all headed for the Alumni Center. When we arrived, the two guitar playing relatives of Rose Marie Collins were entertaining everyone. They were excellent and provided the perfect musical background for our cocktail hour. The tables out in the center of the room behind the dance floor had been Reserved by Charlie Duncan for the Class of 1956. I had my saber with me and found Herb Pearis, our Secretary, to get more sabers. Herb found me six more sabers over in the museum to use if we needed them.
1956 “Queen of the Brier” Judy Adkins with Escort Cadet Sgt. Mark Williamson and U.S. Army Major Praeger, GMS PMS&T, and members of the Queen’s Court
We would use them for the presentation ceremony for the ’56 “Queen of the Brier”, Judy Adkins Segall who was there with her husband, Jay, who would escort her through the corridor of crossed sabers to be greeted by our Alumni President, Vice Admiral Ted Parker, who would escort her to the podium where he would greet the Class of ’56 and she would say a few words to the class. I got the sabers distributed to our other former Cadet Officers, Vince Crouse, Bennie Williams, Paul Pringle, and Lee Hadley. Duke Schneider had two sabers, one for himself and one for Bob Gamba. Charlie Duncan had his with him and I had mine. Our eight Officers present from 1956 were ready to go. This was amazing we had so many of our Officers back. Of the 17 total Officers in 1956, 6 were deceased [Hosea “Johnny” Smith (“D” Company Commander); Russell Yates Smith (Band Commander); Dave Breeden (2nd Platoon Commander in “B” Company); Carroll “Thumper” Coleman (“A” Company Commander); Crayton “Bo” Queen (“B” Company Commander); and Jack Denny (2nd Platoon Commander of Company “A”)], three were absent (Dave Sayre, Stan Combs, Charlie Stokes), and the 8 mentioned above were present.
An interesting thing happened that I was totally embarrassed about. I referred to this earlier. I was trying to keep the “Queen Introduction” ceremony, with sabers, an all-Officer event. After all, it was only Officers that had sabers, and the original coronation ceremony, as conducted in the main ballroom of the Greenbrier Hotel & Resort, was with all the 1956 Officers. Throughout the 1955–56 school year, my good friend, Bob Gamba, held the high enlisted rank of First Sergeant and held the position on the Battalion Staff as Sergeant Major, the highest enlisted position in our school. I went up to Duke Schneider to see if he needed a saber for the ceremony. He had brought his own saber and one other. I mentioned we only had seven Officers and needed eight for the ceremony. Duke said “What about Gamba?” I said, “Well, he was an enlisted man in ’56, but I suppose I can make him an Officer for this ceremony. I have already made him the Adjutant for the Retreat Ceremony in front of the school.” Duke said, “You don’t have to, he was an Officer. They promoted him to Lieutenant at the end of the school year.” I said “fantastic”, I had no idea, and went right over to Bob Gamba and apologized for not being aware that he had become an Officer, gave him a copy of the script I had given to all the others, and invited him to get Duke’s other saber and join us on the dance floor for the ceremony. Bob was very gracious and said “Deak, you do not need to apologize to me for anything.” and he went to get his saber. This was wonderful. I now had eight actual former Cadet Officers from 1956 for the ceremony and we were ready to go. I had given each of them a copy of the script (commands) that Al Chopey, our most able Emcee, would follow for the ceremony, so everybody was prepared and knew what to expect.
We had an excellent sit-down dinner of filet mignon (8 oz.). The Alumni Association had provided two bottles of wine (one red, one white) on each table. Charlie Duncan and Rose Marie Collins were at our table. Charlie had his saber under the table and was ready to go. The great Bobby “The Voice” Nicholas and his Band were on stage and played dinner music throughout dinner and Bobby sang with that beautiful voice. What a wonderful evening. I went to check on our Queen, Judy, and husband, Jay. They were seated at the first table off the dance floor, which was perfect for her introduction ceremony later. They would not have to weave through a bunch of tables to get to their position on the dance floor.
After dinner, our most able and entertaining emcee, Al Chopey, Class of 1954, took the podium and announced for all to stand and that Deak Roberts would lead us in our Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. I went to the center of the dance floor, faced the flag in its stand by the podium and began the Pledge. All present joined me in saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Al then invited everyone to sit down, and he made a few announcements, told a few jokes he had been gleaning off the internet, and then announced there would be a “Special Event” this evening. In accordance with the script, Al asked all the members of the Class of 1956 to stand behind their chairs. It suddenly got very quiet in the room. All ’56 Cadets got up and stood behind their chair. Al then told them to stand by for commands and he called the Class to Attention (Class of ’56…..At-Ten-Hut”). The class snapped to Attention. Al then issued the command “Officers…. Posts”. Our eight officers picked up their sabers and moved to the dance floor carrying their sabers at their shoulder.
Although this is not our queen, this is what the queen’s entrance looked like on the floor of the main ballroom at the Greenbrier Hotel and Resort, White Sulphur Springs, WV
On the dance floor, they formed a corridor of four officers on each side facing each other and standing at Attention and arranged in height from tall down to short. Charlie Duncan and I were the shortest and we were facing each other just the same as we had 50 years ago in the main ballroom of the The Greenbrier Hotel. A photo of that event was found and was on display in our museum. Al Chopey then announced “Prepare to Salute the Queen”. Judy and Jay got up and moved to the end of the dance floor and faced the corridor of Officers. Vice Admiral Ted Parker, President of our Alumni Association, moved to the opposite end of the corridor and prepared to greet the Queen and her Escort. The Bobby Nicholas Band played “Greenbrier Forever” (our Alma Mater) and Al Chopey issued the command “Officers..…Present Arms”. The Officers render the saber salute to the Queen by raising the saber up in front of the face then sweeping down to the side with the blade facing up. By this time, the crowd had silently gotten up from their seats and started crowding around the dance floor. Al barked the command “Order Arms”, and the Officers returned the sabers to their shoulders. The next command was “Raise Sabers”. The Officers raised the sabers into the crossed sabers position. Al then announced “Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the 1956 “Queen of Brier”, Judy Adkins Segall and her Escort, Jay Segall, of Marietta, Ohio”. All present applauded the Queen, and Judy and Jay then proceeded through the Officer corridor of crossed sabers and stood in front of Admiral Parker who warmly greeted them and escorted them over to the podium.
Al barked the command “Officers Posts” and we retuned our sabers to our shoulders and marched off the dance floor. Al then issued the command “Seats” and the Class of 1956 returned to their seats. At the podium, Admiral Parker issued a greeting to the Class of 1956 and asked the Queen if she would like to say a few words. Judy did an exceptional job of speaking to the Reunion, including a short, and very humorous, roasting of Deak Roberts, who had given her rather detailed instructions on what to do and say during this momentous occasion. She read a few excerpts from some of my e-mails which were actually quite funny, especially the one where I suggested she might want to tell us where she was and what she was doing when she received word that she had been chosen “Queen of the Brier”. She advised she couldn’t remember what she was doing yesterday, let alone 50 years ago. Everyone enjoyed her remarks, including myself. A lot of photographers gathered around the podium snapping pictures. What an incredible event this was.
Al then asked our Queen if she and her Escort would like to commence the dance. They did and they moved to the center of the dance floor and started the dance with the music of the wonderful Bobby Nicholas Band. After a short time, Al invited the Class of 1956 to join them on the dance floor, and then a short time after that, he invited all present to join the dance. What a magnificent event and evening it was. Many of our Alumni mentioned how much they enjoyed seeing that. My good friend and fellow reunion committee member, Herb Pearis, said “Deak, you pulled it off, and it was good.” Well….. it was good. Every body in attendance loved what we did. Nothing like that had ever been done before, and is was accomplished through the wonderful cooperation, teamwork, and performance of all involved including the Reunion Committee, Emcee Al Chopey, Association President Vice Admiral Parker, Bobby Nicholas the Bobby Nicholas Band, our eight marvelous 1956 Officers, and the “1956 Queen of the Brier” Judy Adkins Segall and her husband, Jay. They all deserve a big “Bravo Zulu” (Navy talk meaning “Well Done”).
Carol and I left the dance shortly before it was over. It had been a marvelous event thanks to the beautiful voice of Bobby Nicholas and marvelous sound of the Bobby Nicholas Band. On the way out, we talked with Judy and Jay Segall and Admiral and Anne Parker. All agreed the reunion has been superb so far, and all that remained was church at the Old Stone Presbyterian Church, the oldest active church east of the Mississippi River. It was something to look forward to, for as Herb Pearis puts it, “Church is what we do best.”
We returned to the Brier Inn. Carol hit the sack, and I repaired to the Brier Patch Saloon to solve a few world problems with fellow alumni Vince Crouse and Duane Parsons, both deceased now as are many of the Class of ‘56 Then Herb Pearis dropped by and Charlie Duncan came in. The Miller Lite went down smooth in the smoky bar. That smoky bar was one of a handful still left in the United States of America. Vince congratulated me on having the greatest reunion in the history of our reunions. I told him it was due to a lot of fine work by a lot of outstanding people, including himself, and especially the other members of our ’56 reunion committee, namely Charlie Duncan, Herb Pearis, and Bob Blair. It had been a genuine pleasure and honor for me to work with these gentlemen over the past several months.
A FITTING ENDING…… DAY FOUR --- SUNDAY MORNING……
Sunday morning came soon. It was a very pretty day. There was that Appalachian snap in the air, and it was a nice, quiet Sunday morning in the Greenbrier Valley reminiscent of those Sunday’s many years ago. Remembering back then, we would all go to the Church of our choice in the morning. In the evening, the Battalion would form in full dress uniform in front of the school. The Officers, resplendent in their long grey capes with bright red lining, would proudly lead their units through the town. The Band drums would roll and beat the cadence, and the battalion would “Forward March” south down Lee Street, west across U.S. Route 60, and south again down Church Street to the Old Stone Presbyterian Church for evening services. The Road Guards would shut off the main highways U.S. Route 60, and Route 219, and all streets coming into town. It probably backed traffic up half-way to White Sulphur Springs, but no traffic would enter the town until the Battalion swung onto Church Street. The Battalion would “Column Right” onto U.S. 60 and the long grey line would march precisely down the center of the highway west to the other side of town. People would line the sidewalks to see the parade.
The Greenbrier Military School Corps of Cadets On Parade Marching to Church on Route 60 Across the Town of Lewisburg, WV
The fomation would turn left onto Church Street to go to the Old Stone Presbyterian Church across the street from the Greenbrier College for Women. We Cadets were, of course, very familiar with the girls school and those of us who sang in the combined GMS / GCW choir practiced and performed in Carnegie Hall directly across the street from the church. After the service, the procedure was reversed and we marched back across town to our school. In the winter, the Officers wore their red lined, long grey Capes to stay warm. The Capes also served to wrap our girl friends closer on those cold date nights. Don’t tell me rank doesn’t have its priviledges.
We had the car packed up and had a little breakfast at the Brier Inn dining room. We were prepared to return home after church service from 11:00 AM ‘till noon. Mary Kathryn and Kevin had made reservations to tour “The Bunker” over at the Greenbrier Hotel at 01:00 PM.
The Old Stone Presbyterian Church & Graveyard
We all went down to the church and had to park on the street on the other side of the cemetery beside the church. We walked through the cemetery to get to the church. I took a couple of pictures of Carnegie “ us down to a pew down front where we sat right behind Admiral and Anne Parker. The church was crowded. The balcony was filled with old GMS boys and their ladies. The choir had old GMS boys Butch Jennings ’55, Ron Snyder ’57, and Marvin Conley ’67 singing with them. Some members of the Greenbrier River Brass Jazz Ensemble were up next to the choir and occasionally played along with the organ. All of them were not there this year, and that was disappointing. Regardless, the service was outstanding as usual. We sang the old songs “The Church in the Wildwood” and “Onward Christian Soldiers”, Bobby ‘The Voice’ Nicholas sang “the Lord’s Prayer” beautifully, as usual, and one of our former GMS faculty members, Rev. Ed Shackleford, delivered an excellent sermon. We sang “The Recessional”, as usual, and at the end of the service, “Lest we Forget.”
We sang the Greenbrier Military School Alma Mater “Greenbrier Forever” (Key of C, please):
Her name will never die.
Fight for her colors.
We’ll raise them to the sky.
When foes approach us, it’s Ready, Aim, Fire.
Fight for her colors, men
It’s Old Green Brier.”
After the service, we said our Goodbyes to everyone and hit the road west across I-64 and back up I-77 to Canton, Ohio. We would stop, shop, and have lunch at the Greenbrier Hotel restaurant at Tamarack (purveyor of only West Virginia made products, except one) over near Beckley. We also got some Katies Korner ice cream, the only product in Tamarack that is not made in West Virginia (it comes from the Youngstown/Warren, Ohio, area and it is the best. That is why The Greenbrier serves it).
Driving west across the highway, my thoughts returned to the last few days, and it was rather sad that the 50th Golden Anniversary Reunion of the Class of ’56, had come to an end. What a magnificent and incredible reunion it had been. I knew it was the finest and largest reunion in the history of Greenbrier Military School reunions. So many wonderful guys and gals had returned. Out of the Class of ’56 members still alive that we have found, we had a 40% return. That, in itself, was amazing, but what was even more incredible was that we were still having such marvelous events 34 years after the school ceased to exist and the importance of what had happened there at Greenbrier Military School was still being talked about, and our tangible legacy, the “Greenbrier Forever” Museum, had been created and was there for all to see and touch, remember and reflect, and imagine the possibilities.
As we drove across the seemingly endless ribbon of modern highway at 70 miles per hour, my thoughts kept wandering back to the old school still sitting there in the stillness of the misty mountains of eastern West Virginia, surrounded by the colorful cloak of leaves of reds and golds, waiting again for the Boys of the Brier to return. It felt good. It felt good leaving and knowing full well that the “Greenbrier Spirit Lives On.”