Reminder of happier side of reporting

Published 9:38 am Friday, October 23, 2015

Sometimes a reporter doesn’t have to look very far for a good story.

Last Saturday I found two — one less than a mile from the paper. The other was a little farther.

My first was at the City Park pavilion on Lee Street, where I spent time with the alumni of Warren County’s old county school system talking to them about life in the county when things were simpler and the schools were a lot different from what they are today.

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The people gathered at the City Park Pavilion on Lee Street covered several decades from the late ’40s and early ’50s to the early and mid-’60s. Some graduated from the schools, others attended the schools but later moved to Warren Central High and other schools when they opened in 1965. All of them had memories they will never lose and some were gracious enough to share some of those with me.

The 50-year Warren County school reunion was more than a gathering of old and middle aged people. It was a source to learn some of the county’s history and get a first-hand look at what it was like growing up in Warren County in a simpler time when everybody knew everybody, high school rivalries were friendly, and the schools were smaller. As one man told me, “We didn’t have 750 in a class. We had 450 in the entire school.”

While I was much younger, despite my advanced years, than many of the people attending the reunion, some of the recollections of the alums, even in casual conversation, hit close to home. In three years, my high school senior class will observe its 50th reunion, and I could identify with many of those people at the reunion.

About 10 miles to the west, World War II-era planes were crossing the skies and a silver P-51C Mustang drew the attention visitors and pilots alike at the Vicksburg-Tallulah Regional Airport in Mound, La. The airport was hosting a formation flying clinic to train pilots to fly in formations for air shows and other aerial demonstrations. It was also host to the Commemorative Air Forces’ Rise Above tour highlighting the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s only black combat fighter group of World War II. The tour featured a film on the airmen’s story and their battle to overcome tough odds to fly in combat. The P-51C painted to resemble the planes of the 332 Fighter Group drew a crowd, as Mustangs usually do.

I enjoyed talking to the CAF volunteers who manned the exhibit and the Mustang’s pilot who told me of his respect for the airmen and what they accomplished. The throaty serenade of the AT-6s’ Pratt & Whitney engines made talking with him and about the airmen all the more enjoyable. It goes without saying I have an addiction to warbirds and look for any opportunity to see them and learn a little more.

When you work as a reporter, you find yourself mired sometimes in the world of government meetings, crime and writing about the seedier side of life. So it is a welcome change and an enjoyable experience when I get the opportunity to get to talk with people like the county school alumni and visit pilots and exhibits at VTR as I did Saturday.

It restores my faith in human nature and reminds me of the diverse culture and friendly people we have in this area and across the south.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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