I was always a suburbanite. We came to Conyers on the weekend, so I was familiar with Conyers, but living here and going to school here was different.
It was funny, at that point, there were basically three groups of people. You had the country people, you had the city people and you had the Milstead people.
I came walking in the school, a middle class suburbanite from the metro area, and I didn't fit any of those three pegs. They weren't used to people coming in from the outside at that point. People kind of eyeballed you. The first year was kind of rough, fitting in and making all new friends. My best friends were at Smyrna Presbyterian Church, so that helped.
But things changed. By the time I graduated in '73, those lines had been greatly blurred... because now there were more suburbanites that lived outside of the town. When my sister came through four years later, it was more of a metro middle class kind of thing.
The following year (after I started in 1968) was when we integrated. What they did was take JP Carr and make it a junior high. Rockdale County Comprehensive High School jumped to 1,000 students that year. By the time I graduated in '73, we had close to 1,300 students.
That time period was when Rockdale really exploded in growth.
My memories of the integration were, of course, the fear and uncertainty of what was going to happen.
It's funny when you go back. I got to meet a lot of great people and friends. And they were afraid too. They didn't know what to expect coming over to our school. We didn't know what to expect out of them.
I was saying to Coach Stroud, you know what was funny about all that? All the good kids were good kids, whether they were black or white. The trouble makers at JP Carr sought out the trouble makers at Rockdale, got together to continue their trouble making ways and they're the ones who had the fights. For the rest of us guys, everything was wonderful, it was great.
Usually if you leave kids alone and don't teach them to be biased, kids will be kids and they'll get along and play. It'll all take care of itself.
The biggest thing that I miss...
I especially noted it when I started driving two years later. We were so small, driving down Ga. Highway 138 or 212, you still waved at people. You knew nine out of 10 people you passed on the highway. So you waved to people even though you were going 50 miles per hour on the highway.
Now, you rarely even have that going in and out of subdivision roads because there's so many people and so much changeover.
Another funny memory was when I got my driver's license. The courthouse was just this section that faces Main Street.
We were so small, the State Patrol came once a week to do driver's license tests. You still took the eye exam and written exam, like we do today. And then you took the driving exam.
They had you drive down Court Street, go into the turnaround in front of Pine Street school and go up Court Street and park. He said, "You got an 80."
My first impulse was to ask him, "What do you mean I got an 80? What did I do wrong?"
Like most kids my age, we had been driving since we were 13, either on the farm or to the corner store a mile away. If we needed gasoline or kerosene, it wasn't anything for my dad to say take the truck and get some stuff from the store.
I had taken driving class at Rockdale. Coach McCord was the instructor. I did everything perfectly like you were supposed to do. I knew I had aced this thing.
Then it clicked in my mind - keep your mouth shut. You passed. Go get your license and go home.
The tale at the school was all the boys got 80s, all the girls got 95s. So I got my 80, like the rest of the boys.