New Quarters Reunion brings ‘family’ back together in Demopolis

Published 3:18 pm Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Family reunions and summertime go hand-in-hand.

This year, however, Demopolis’ New Quarters community took the occasion to another level by making it a community-wide event, a first in the city’s history.

Demopolis resident Stephanie Oates grew up in New Quarters, located on the eastern edge of town along and south of Highway 80. She said neighbors began discussing ideas for a community reunion a few years ago. Then, last year, she received an e-mail from Albert Murdock Jr. about planning a reunion for this summer.

Oates then called upon Lenora Sams, Lucretia McCall, Ola Mae Nixon, Barry James, Donald Eaton, Termell Armstead, Cylese Hill Hinton and Derrick Carter to form a committee to make the event a reality.

The reunion took place during the Fourth of July weekend. On July 3, neighbors gathered for a social at the home of Barry and Freddie James. A banquet at the Theo Ratliff Center highlighted Independence Day festivities on the Fourth.

At the banquet, the reunion committee recognized 13 of the elder members of New Quarters for their role in establishing the foundation of the family bond that exists in the community today. Honorees included Eddie and Gertrude Carter, Lenora Ash, Virginia Lawson, Corine Mullen, Cellie Turner, Lucretia Jones, Luella Jones, Mary Alice Jones, Mary Wilson, Mary E. Daniels, Dorothy Fluker and James Witherspoon.

“It was lovely,” honoree Lucretia Jones, a New Quarters resident since 1951, said of the reunion.” People are talking about it everywhere.”

“I was overwhelmed with joy and excitement,” said the Rev. Major Burrell, the banquet speaker. “I saw people I had not seen in years. It seemed as though time stopped for three or four days.”

Burrell currently resides in Birmingham, but he still calls 1711 B Street home. He fondly remembers growing up there and playing with friends after school and attending St. Paul Baptist Church.

July 5 featured a parade followed by a block party, and reunion attendees worshipped at St. Paul, where many of the New Quarters residents grew up as members, on Sunday, July 6. The Rev. Nathaniel Carter presided over the service.

Hattie Oates Jones also enjoyed her return home. “It was a great experience,” she said. There was still that community connection. We were glad to see each other.”

Jones made the trip with her husband, Cornelius, who also grew up in New Quarters. They moved in 1980 and now live in Clinton, Md.

Christine Mullen, who grew up on B Street, feels a strong connection with her former neighbors. “We were all like a big family,” she said. “We all looked out for one another. If one didn’t have, someone else did.”

The reunion also gave Mullen the opportunity to see people she had not seen in several years. “I saw people I hadn’t seen in 30 to 40 years.”

Although she left Demopolis in 1972 and resides in Atlanta, she still visits regularly. “Before my mom passed away in September, I visited every two months,” Mullen said. She added that she still returns to Demopolis every three to four months.

The occasion not only reunited New Quarters neighbors, but also others who either visited or knew people who lived there. Demopolis Mayor Cecil P. Williamson also attended the July 3 and 5 events and saw old friends and acquaintances.

“It was just a delightful time,” she said. “The weather was perfect. The food was out of this world.”

Angernette Carter, a Demopolis native currently residing in Selma, has visited with friends in the neighborhood since childhood. The reunion provided the opportunity for her and others to relive those experiences.

“It was an energized moment,” said Carter, “to see people you’ve not seen since your teenage years. It was a blessing to see everybody.”

For Carter, even though she never lived in New Quarters, the community represented an extended family. “I knew someone on every street. We all went to the same church.”

This summer’s reunion will not be the last for New Quarters. Oates said the neighborhood plans to host another one in 2010.