A group of old men all in their late 70s have been buddies since childhood and have been getting together at least once a month for the past 30 years.
After the members who went away to the military returned in 1988, the group made a commitment to get together, every month, on the second Thursday for fellowship and fun. Thirty-one years later, their standing date is still intact.
Called the ‘Kindergarten Crew’, these men started their friendship which has lasted for decades in 1946, then a group of 10 teen boys who met one another through various interactions back at Garfield Elementary School in Washington, DC.
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“We have debated when we first met,” said Hudie B. Fleming Jr., 78. “I recall it starting when we were about 4 years old.”
“These are guys I can call at 2 a.m. in an emergency and I know they will come,” said Arrington Dixon, 77.
One of the men, William Hutchins, 78, also said, “It’s not complicated. Being around these guys makes me happy. Plus, I have difficulty remembering names and these guys are good for helping out with that.”
Amazingly, their friendship has persisted without the use of social media. The hallmarks of their friendship from the start has been modeled around good behavior and reinforcing good habits.
“There was a grocery co-op on Alabama Avenue, in the basement of a house where our mothers would shop,” Fleming, a swimming champion at Howard University recalled to the Washington Post. This is when he first met some of them, in Anacostia, in the 1940s.
According to him, “The boys would wait outside with our red wagons, the kind with the wood paneling on the side when our mothers came out, we would help load the groceries into the wagon and haul them back home.”
They started out as 10 friends. Three have died over the years remaining seven: Arrington Dixon, 77, Hudie Fleming, 79, Ronald Chase, 77, William Hutchins, 79, Orlando Lee, 78, James Strickland, 79, and Norman Thomas, 79.
“One of the things we did for each other as friends is learning how to treat people, how to show respect to others by first respecting ourselves,” said Orlando Lee, 78. “We wanted to set a good example. Treat people the way you’d want to be treated. We worked hard to improve ourselves, and we needed each other’s help in doing it.”
At a recent gathering as reported by Because of Them We Can, the group got a surprise from the son of one of their members, Bill Lee, a photographer who decided to document what he called “Black history.” The friends of his dad, Orlando Lee were meeting in his father’s residence so he took them through a photo-shoot section.
Unfortunately, one of the friends could not attend the late meeting in which they had the surprise photo-shoot due to illness.
“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 said.
According to them, each month when they gather, they reconnect and eat lunch, tell stories and tell jokes and a few falsehoods every now and then.
Asked the importance of their gathering, Mr. Lee said: “There’s a journey that we’re all on and it’s better to be connected in that journey.”
He added: “A lot of our spouses say they wish they had this type of connection. We are in constant contact with each other communicating throughout the month. The wives support us.”