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          Dr. Jerry Beavan

"Jerry Remembers" ... in which Jerry Beavan, at age 93, recounts events from his experiences in a wide ranging field of endeavors, which include being a college and seminary professor ... a corporate executive in the insurance and pharmaceutical industries ... a federal lobbyist in Washington, DC ... and as Billy Graham described him, "the architect of world evangelism as we know it today."

Now retired and physically handicapped, restricted to a wheel chair, Jerry has been Senior Editor of the weekly American News Commentary, now in its 10th year of publication.

 

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I Remember the Way My Home Town Used to Be

An email from a friend—getting along in years like myself—told of his trying to remember changes in the curriculum of his first and second grade classes. And that directed my thoughts back to my own early school days. It is amazing how many details come to mind at age 93.

In my home town, Oneonta, NY, I started at what was called "East End School." I lived on Fifth Street, which was about 5 or 6 blocks from the school, and an easy walk in those days. There were no facilities for meals, so we all experienced a nice walk during the noon time period.

The main building accommodated grades 1, 2, 3 and 5, with 4th and 6th grades in a former store building adjoining the school property. I finished grades 1 and 2 ... and then it was deemed that I should skip the 3rd grade, and go instead into 4th grade. My teacher was Mrs. Bull, and in later years her son, Stephen (always called "Pete") became a close friend.

After finishing the 6th grade, we all went to Academy Street School for grades 7 and 8, and the noon time walk became quite a challenge. It was a good 3 miles, each way. But we managed, and after 8th grade, we moved into High School, in a building next door on, what else: Academy Street. So for 6 years, still with no dining facilities, I had a 6 mile walk at mid-day, five days a week, Summer and Winter, and in up-state New York we had some pretty severe Winters.

After the 4 years of High School came college, graduate studies, etc. High School soon faded into forgetfulness, until an invitation to come back to Oneonta for the observance of the 40th anniversary of the Class of 1936 in the Bicentennial year of 1976. I drove up to Oneonta from Philadelphia, and spent a long evening getting reacquainted with former class mates, all 40 years older than we remembered each other.

The former class glamour idol, whom every guy wanted to date, but who bestowed her favors only on our star athletes, was now an overweight, unmarried municipal employee with considerable authority in a major metropolitan city ... the most popular guy in our class, son of a successful physician, was now a detail salesman for a pharmaceutical company, and married to one of our class beauties, who drank too much, got sick during the dinner and had to be taken home early. As for me, like most of the out of towners, I stayed at a motel fairly close to the Country Club where the event was being held. Also staying there was my old high school girl friend, and her husband invited me to ride with them to the affair so his wife and I could reminisce. (Incidentally, I got a ride back to the motel with another classmate.)

Footnote No. 1 – 10 years later I began writing letters to ask about a 50th anniversary. Two of the letters came back as undeliverable; one writer said some time ago she had heard talk about such a gathering, and the other two were never acknowledged. And so that link with my old home town ended.

Footnote No. 2 – in 1990, after remarriage, on a trip through New York State, I wanted to show my new wife and daughter my old home town. Big mistake. Fifth Street, and the house where I grew up, no longer existed, but had become part of the parking lot for the regional medical center. East End School was now a Burger King drive-in restaurant. Academy Street School was now an apartment complex, and where the High School had stood was now a parkland.

My conclusion? Give some thought to the farewell of Arthur in Alfred Lord Tennyson's Morte d'Arthur: "The old order changeth, yielding place to new." And unless you are prepared to accept such changes, give careful thought to any return. Be content to remember things the way they were. The memories are often much better than the actualities.

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