Its hard to find better friends then the ones you make in high school.
Things happen during those years that can shape your feelings and attitudes for the rest of
your life. Your high-school friends share these events and you create a bond.
In my freshman and sophomore years I was short, introverted, pimply-faced and
sheltered. I didn’t make friends easily. But suddenly, incredibly, there was Darrell,
stopping by to walk to school with me. Darrell Strong became my best friend and was also my
entry into the group that included Darrell, John McCray, Manny Mickel and Eddins McNealy.
In the summer of 1951 my family took a trip to Florida to stay at the Fisher’s house in
Winter Haven. Darrell was allowed to come with us and acquired the "Strong Boy"
nickname on that trip.
Manny was my "second best friend." He was the poster boy of our group. He had performed on live television while he was still in grade school and became the drum major of the high-school marching band. Many girls had their eyes on Manny, and he enhanced the stature of our little group.
Eddins’ dad was Superintendent of Texaco. Eddins' house was the Texaco mansion that overlooked the refinery. (My first date with Shirley, my wife to be, was at a party at Eddins’ house while I was in Junior College.)
John’s dad was Assistant Superintendent at Texaco. His house also watched over the refinery. Superintendents tended to move around the Texaco hierarchy, and it was a good thing that John and Eddins’ families stayed put for much of their high-school years. Eddins and John were off-the-wall and a bit nutty at times. Some of our best times were stimulated by their antics.
Darrell had two other friends that joined our group from time to time. "Topper" Hill lived two doors down from Darrell on Tenth Street. Topper’s older brother, Russell, was married to Darrell’s oldest sister, Shirley. Later on, Topper and I roomed together at Purdue.
And then there was Bob Cleary. Darrell and Bob did science-fair projects together and also installed an elaborate system in Darrell’s house that used dial phones to control almost everything. These were the mid-fifties. Later, in 1970, Bob and I would start KineticSystems Corporation and run it for 28 years until we sold the company in 1999.
In 1951 and ’52 bicycles were our mode of transportation. In 1953 we began to get driver's licenses and access to our parents’ cars. Our lives were changed forever.
Eddins and I were members of the class of ’54, while Darrell, Manny and John belonged to ’55. Since I attended JJC, it was like extended high school when I continued to hang out with Darrell, Manny and John during their senior year.