The feels

These Men in Their Late 70s Have Been Friends Since Kindergarten and Get Together Once a Month

These Men in Their Late 70s Have Been Friends Since Kindergarten and Get Together Once a Month

A group of men in their late 70s have remained connected since kindergarten, and they’ve done it without the help of social media.

They call themselves the Kindergarten Crew. In 1946 they started out as a group of ten boys who met one another through various interactions back at Garfield Elementary School in Washington, DC. 

While three of their members have passed, seven remain: Arrington Dixon, 77, Hudie Fleming, 79, Ronald Chase, 77, William Hutchins, 79, Orlando Lee, 78, James Strickland, 79, and Norman Thomas, 79. 

In 1988, after the members who went away to the military returned, the group made a commitment to get together, every month, on the second Thursday for fellowship and fun. 31 years later, their standing date is still intact. 

During their most recent gathering the group was surprised by the son of one of their members, Bill Lee. As a photographer he knew that it was important to document what he called “Black history.” Because of Them We Can spoke to Bill and his father to learn more about the importance of building relationships. 

“This day and age we’re more connected through social media but not as much through neighborhoods. 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.

His father, Orlando Lee, offered his house in Luray, VA as the meeting space for the last outing and surprise photoshoot. He shared that the crew’s bond was as much about others as it was about them.

“We wanted to have some cohesiveness as a group. See what things we could do together to help the community and each other,” Mr. Lee said.

They recognized that together, given their success and commitment to community and youth, they could make a difference. 

“We started career days. We had doctors, policeman and nurses going back and trying to better that school,” Mr. Lee shared about their efforts to impact their junior high school.

Mr. Lee said they also work to “try to get people to be responsible and run for office and give back.”

Each month when they gather, time stops for a few hours for them to reconnect and eat lunch.

“We just tell stories and tell jokes and a few falsehoods every now and then.” 

When we asked Mr. Lee why their gatherings are still important and what others who see their photos or hear their story can learn, his answer was simple.

“There’s a journey that we’re all on and it’s better to be connected in that journey.”

In case you’re wondering, the Kindergarten crew has the full support of their wives.

“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.”

A friendship that spans decades between a group of men seems rare, but Mr. Lee and the Kindergarten Crew have given us a solid example of how we can strive to rebuild our village and do the same.

Photo credit: Bill Lee Photography