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News Story
Updated: 11/08/2012 08:00:02AM

Grand reunion,

grand friendships

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S.L. Frisbie

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When you are undertaking an event that occurs only once every 125 years, there are a couple of caveats to keep in mind:

(1) It’s probably best to get it right the first time, because your friends will be talking about your mistakes for the next century-and-a-quarter, or at least for as much of that time as they remain vertical.

(2) You can’t rely a whole lot on how they did it 125 years ago, assuming they did it 125 years ago. Videos from 1887 are hard to find.

And we should add Frisbie’s Theorem to the mix: Nothing — absolutely nothing — is as simple as it seems. This event took a lot of work.

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On Friday and Saturday, Summerlin Institute celebrated its 125th anniversary, dubbed its Grand Reunion.

For reasons that I choose not to delve into here, the place is now called Bartow High School, but to the Old School Faithful, it’s still Dear Old Summerlin.

Could I have an Amen? Thank you.

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It was 125 years ago that the cornerstone was laid for the institute founded with a generous donation of real estate by Jacob Summerlin. He chose to have his gravestone at the old Oak Hill Cemetery reflect only one of his numerous benevolences: “Founder of Summerlin Institute.”

Actually, local historian extraordinaire Lloyd Harris reported at the graveside commemoration for old Jake on Saturday morning that a small frame schoolhouse bearing the same name was established in Bartow 145 years ago.

But it lacked the permanence of the one dedicated 125 years ago — the first brick schoolhouse south of Jacksonville.

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Graduating classes dating back to the 1930s were represented at the Grand Reunion. As a member of the Class of 1958, I was a middle-aged participant.

Middle-aged is a distinction I have not enjoyed for quite a number of years.

As Mary and I walked to the Friday night football game — the first I have attended in 20 years or so — we exchanged greetings with Anne and J.D. Raulerson. He was a member of the Summerlin Class of 1939.

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Our class’s semi-decorated entry was positioned about midway through Friday afternoon’s parade, which was organized by graduation year.

At 71, I chose to ride, while many of my classmates walked the three or four miles from what we all remember as “the Y in Bartow” to the high school.

I felt badly about riding until I noticed that two fellow riders were a couple of the better athletes in our class, Jim and Lucretia Bond.

Among the Senior Notables of 54 years ago, I was voted Least Athletic, and I deserved it.

At the end of the parade, as I walked past the entry of the Class of 1965, I wondered aloud, “Who let these kids into our parade?” “Thank you,” one of them replied.

A.J. Jackson, for the first time in his life, got to ride on the American La France fire truck that his grandfather, who died before he was born, once drove as a volunteer firefighter.

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Random observations:

— Conrad Schuck, 100, Class of 1931, is believed to be the oldest surviving Summerlin alumnus.

— One of the great things about reunions is that there are no hot shots, no Big Men on Campus. The cliques are gone. We meet as friends, good friends, old friends.

— The arrangements committee, of which I was not a member, did a fantastic job, with support from more community organizations than I dare try to name.

— When he sang the alma mater . . . ending with “dear old Summerlin”
. . . Lloyd Harris injected a “Hallelujah, brother” after “and ever may she reign.” Those words were inserted by a choral director a decade or two ago. It was a great addition. Try it.

— And for the alumnus who saw me in the museum at the old courthouse and asked if I was one of the relics on display, hey, friend, there are 50,000 unemployed comedians looking for a job. Let’s not add to their burden.

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(S. L. Frisbie is retired. Remember that there actually was a small frame school named Summerlin Institute here 145 years ago? He figures maybe there should be a 150th reunion in five more years.)




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