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Come Home to Cradock 2003


Virginian-Pilot, The (Norfolk, VA) - October 5, 2003
Corran Cradock Laurens, the great-great niece of the British naval hero for whom Cradock was named, will be a special guest at the community's Oct. 16-18 celebration of the 85th anniversary of the World War I planned community.

Built by the federal government to house shipyard workers coming to Portsmouth for defense jobs, it was named in honor of Sir Christopher Cradock , a British admiral who went down with his ship in a 1914 confrontation with the German squadron led by Adm. Graf Spee.

Laurens will journey from Cowes in Isle of Wight, England, for the annual gathering known as "Come Home to Cradock ," an event sponsored by the Alumni and Friends of Cradock .

Contact with Laurens began when the 55-year-old English woman was surfing the net and discovered there was a Portsmouth in Virginia, said Bev Sell, a Norfolk resident who is president of the alumni group.

"She lives near Portsmouth, England, and she contacted the city for more information," Sell said. "Then she found out there was a community named for her ancestor."

Becky Myers Cutchins, a Cradock High School graduate who works in the Portsmouth Convention and Visitors Bureau, put Laurens in touch with Sell and they began an e-mail correspondence about six months ago.

Laurens, who has a doctorate in contemporary French history from the University of Southampton, has been a teacher and art curator.

Among her special interests are maritime history and sailing. That gives her two reasons, in addition to the Cradock celebration, for planning to spend five days in Portsmouth.

A reception for Laurens will be held at the Renaissance Portsmouth Hotel and Waterfront Conference Center with city, state and military dignitaries invited to meet the descendent of the community's namesake. While the party is "by invitation only," others who want to attend may ask for a bid.

Laurens will be the center of attention on Saturday, when she will cut an 85th anniversary cake, big enough to serve all who show up at the Afton Square party. A paver honoring the special guest will be installed in front of the gazebo by the Cradock Preservation and Revitalization Group. She'll be honored with a mini concert by former Cradock choral members led by Harriett Heath, a retired choral teacher. They'll sing the British national anthem as well as the Star-Spangled Banner and the Cradock alma mater.

Laurens, wearing a homecoming mum in the old school colors, also will be the marshal for a homecoming parade down Afton Parkway.

The outdoor Saturday celebration on the square will start at noon and continue through the afternoon with Bluegrass music noon to 3 p.m. by Amy Ferebee and Charlie Austin. Tables for each decade will be set up under a tent so it will be easy for those who attended school together to find each other.

A Classic Car Show, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., promises much conversation. But, for those not into cars, the committee will display " Cradock trivia" in storefront windows, while exhibits of Cradock architecture and other memorabilia will be set up in the Community Center.

The nostalgia will continue Saturday night with a party at the old high school with food from Rodman's, the venerable barbecue vendor with a place in everybody's memory because of its one-time drive-in, a favorite hangout for teenagers. The dinner will feature roasted oysters as well as barbecue and chicken, all with Rodman's corn bread.

Gary Lassiter, a local DJ, will be spinning sounds from the past 50 years for dancing. Coach Richard Huneycutt will show old football videos of Cradock games.

Party-goers have been encouraged to dress in gold and maroon, the school colors, and a contest to pick those who best display the Cradock Spirit is scheduled at 9 p.m.

The committee is pulling out all the stops for this fifth annual homecoming that usually draws hundreds of folks, especially those who graduated from Cradock High. In years past, as many as 1,200 have shown up.

"The high school classes plan their reunions around it," Carol Galford Edwards of Virginia Beach said. For instance, the Class of' '53 will have a half-century gathering this year and others with dates ending in three also will be on hand.

The ties among Cradock grads are strong, she said.

"A lot of us still hang around together," Edwards noted. "This year a group of us have been celebrating every time somebody has a 60th birthday."

The old school ties will be most evident at the Friday night event dubbed a "Welcome Pep Rally." Cheerleaders, band members and majorettes of all ages will be strutting their talents. Athletes, class presidents, faculty members and "other notables" will be recognized. The "Dutch treat" party on the second floor of Paddy O'Brian's in Olde Towne will be open to all with ties to the community, not just old grads.

All events are open to the public. The committee has emphasized that not only alumni of the school should attend but also everybody who ever lived in Cradock , ran a business there or attended one of the community's five churches, "all who have a connection to Cradock ."

"We will honor those who started and have carried on the Cradock Spirit," the invitation reads.

Bev Sell
President Alumni & Friends of Cradock
Class of 1969