Summer has arrived! High Pointers are once again celebrating our city. The High Point Rockers are rocking. People are picnicking in our parks, fishing in our lakes, and soon they will be “Dancin’ and Shaggin’ at the Station”!
The High Point Arts Council barely missed a “beat” during the pandemic as it adapted to the circumstances to support the local musical artists. It offered virtual concerts, turning the David R. Hayworth Centennial Station into a recording studio. Even the annual summer Art Splash Series was held virtually and brought in more listeners, and as a bonus reached listeners from many states and even brought in more donations! As Executive Director Debbie Lumpkins told me, “We even had people listening from Mexico, making the High Point Arts Council’s concerts international!” I guess the appropriate summer adage for that is, “When you get lemons, make lemonade!” What great lemonade they made!
One of the first events of the High Point opening was held by the High Point Arts Council. It was “Speakeasy at the Station.” This was such a fun event. Patrons donned costumes reminiscent of the Roaring ‘20s that included fedoras, spats, sequined dresses, lots of beads and feathery boas. Of course, one mustn’t forget the moonshine, the blackjack table or the cigar bar outside!
To add that touch of ambience upon arrival, there was a sparkling, pristine-white, retro Roll Royce courtesy of Mark and Rena Norcross parked at the entrance. As I entered, the doors into the dance/dining hall were mysteriously closed. Aha! It was a speakeasy, so a secret password was needed. I knocked softly. The door opened slightly just so I could say the magical words, “Little Debbie (as in Debbie Lumpkins) sent me!” Whew, the door opened.
It was a fun night with music by the WW & the Prohibition Band, special dances performed by the Three Graces Dancers, and the dinner by Plain and Fancy. As they say, it was a roaring good time!
So many in-person events were postponed during the pandemic, and one of those was the annual Arts Awards Banquet. This year, the awards were doubled up. Before the doors were opened (a recurring theme?) there would be a special unveiling. It was to be a surprise for Mr. “About Town” Jim Morgan. It was a surprise that had been scheduled to occur last year but, again, because of the pandemic had to be postponed.
Although it was to be kept a secret from Jim, his wife, Ann, knew all about it, and her “job” last year was to get Jim to the surprise unveiling on time. It was a bittersweet moment this year as the lobby filled with arts patrons. Ann Morgan, the love of Jim’s life, passed away earlier this year on April 27.
With the lobby filled, Jim arrived looking a bit perplexed as to why the doors were still closed.
Then Tom Blount, chair of the board of directors, stood in front of the closed doors and began paying tribute to Jim, “for building our program as capital campaign chairman through a tough seven years, never giving up. When our council finances have gotten tight, Jim and Ann Morgan put up the money to keep things moving. We had asked Ann in 2020 to make certain that Jim would be here for this occasion and are grateful that she knew how much we appreciate her support for the arts center. So tonight, we are privileged in the room you were about to enter, the Ann and Jim Morgan Dining Car Theatre.”
As the sign was unveiled a solemn Jim Morgan said, “Thank you, thank you. Thank you.” He would say this many more times during the evening. Then added, “I have found that all of us go through difficult times. When we know that God is with us. I couldn’t do without you and my family during these very difficult times.”
Jim continued, “Ann made a big impact on my life, and if she would have lived until June 29, we would have been married 58 years. Can you imagine anyone putting up with me that long? (laughter) Thank you, Ann, for doing it. I don’t want to talk too long because we’ve got some great awards, but some things I wanted to share with you. We have all been so blessed, and I feel like God has blessed me. There are times when things knock you down. And so I’ve been reflecting on how do I deal with those times when I’m knocked down.”
Jim recalled that after his father died, he was asked to teach his Sunday School classes. He said, “That’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever done. I wasn’t a very good teacher, but I learned a lot. I used to pray that I could win a case, win a volleyball game or win this or that. And over the years with the input from the class. I learned the best prayer you can say is, ‘God, what do you want me to do?’ Not pray for anything per se. The other thing I started was making a list of things that I’m so thankful. At the top of the list has been my family and my friends because I couldn’t get through this (losing Ann). God, I want to thank you for Ann. Listen to what God wants you to do instead of praying for what you want.”
Jim Morgan, High Point is with you and is thankful to you and Ann for your support of the High Point Arts Council and its affiliates of Carousel Theatre, High Point Community Concert Association, High Point Ballet (Broadway beautiful!), and High Point Community Theatre! The names of the award recipients will be released later by the High Point Arts Council.
The High Point Ballet performed to selections from the musical “Hairspray.” They truly are amazing!
Our hearts go out to you, Jim Morgan, supporter of the arts. You have also given us a message for us all to hear.