Today, although only seven out of the ten of them are still living, these ‘kindergarten crew’ friends who first met in 1946 at the Garfield Elementary School in Washington, DC, still live by some very basic underlining principles that have kept their bond so active.
After seventy (70) years of knowing each other, Arrington Dixon, 77; Hudie Fleming, 79, Ronald Chase, 77; William Hutchins, 79; Orlando Lee, 78; James Strickland, 79; and Norman Thomas, 79, are excited that just like their wives, many more people wish to have this kind of relationship of theirs.
And even though they have been friends this long, they have not always been this close. In 1988, after the members who went away to the military returned, the group made a lifelong commitment to getting together every month – on the second Thursday, for what they call a fellowship and fun.
And since then, their inspiring story of a lasting friendship has gone on and on, with no breaks at all.
“This day and age we’re more connected through social media but not as much through neighborhoods. Most of us don’t know our neighbors or the people around us. We’re connected but we’re not really connected. We have a lot of surface relationships. But I think it’s important for us to understand friends and the importance of the village. I’ve known these guys all my life. They’ve been at all the gatherings. They’re not just tight with my father they’re tight with my family,” Bill Lee, a son of one of the men, confesses to Black history site Because Of Them We Can.
Totally unaware of how well their commitment to the group had inspired many, especially one of their sons during a recent meeting, Bill Lee, a photographer, surprised them with a visit with his camera in hand.
According to Bill Lee, he wanted to be a part of what he believed is a “Black history” story to share, especially when his father and his friends did not grow up in the age of the boom of social media.
Mr. Lee, when asked the significance of their gatherings and why it has been so important to them, said, “There’s a journey that we’re all on and it’s better to be connected in that journey.”
Intrigued about what has kept their friendship so evergreen and still growing strong, they referred to how much stories they share as well as how easily they share jokes as well as a “few falsehoods every now and then.”
Because Of Them We Can spoke to Bill and his father, Orlando Lee to learn more about the importance of building relationships.
To make the surprise for photos a memorable one, Orlando Lee offered his house in Luray, VA, as the meeting space for the last outing and surprise photoshoot. He shared that the crew’s bond was as much about others as it was about them.
“We wanted to have some cohesiveness as a group. See what things we could do together to help the community and each other,” Mr. Lee said.
They recognized that together, given their success and commitment to community and youth, they could make a difference.
“We started career days. We had doctors, policeman and nurses going back and trying to better that school,” Mr. Lee shared about their efforts to impact their junior high school.