When Zemla Doke and Rubie McClellan were classmates in Fort Meade, Florida, perhaps they weren’t aware of the future ahead of them in their long lives to follow—nor of the fact that their school-age friendship would continue for the rest of their lives.
How different life must have been for each of them, Rubie marrying a man from Tennessee and living in or traveling through almost every state in the union except for those in upper northwestern and northeastern reaches of the continental United States. Zemla married a man in Fort Meade, raised her family there, and moved, only later in life, to a nearby city in Florida.
And yet, upon the occasion on September 22, 1983, of a “Recognition Night” for the student body of 1912, Floridian Zemla—now Mrs. D. E. Griffith—was among those remaining of that celebrated student body still able to attend the festivities.
Zemla didn’t forget her school-days friend Rubie. Enclosed in one of her customary letters was a copy of the special evening’s program. Rubie, in turn, tacitly demonstrated to me, her granddaughter, what the token meant to her: she saved it, letter, program and all, among the few papers passed to her daughter upon her passing in 1993.
The back cover of the program outlined the history of the school itself. Reading the notes, I realized the photo included with the program—to my eyes today, what looked to be an old, outdated building—represented a new facility when Zemla and her classmates walked in the doors on the opening day of school in 1912.
HISTORYThe Ft. Meade School was built in 1912 at a cost of $25,000. An additional structure was added in 1915. These buildings were in continuous use until 1968, at which time the student body was moved into the current facility on Edgewood Drive. The original structure was torn down in the late ’60s and was located on the campus of what is currently Lewis Elementary School.The cornerstone and the bell from the original structure have been made into a commemorative marker in front of the present high school. The Student Council of 1982 installed a time capsule in a structure made from the bricks of the original school.* * *Refreshments and guides compliments of the Student Council.This program is sponsored by the Fort Meade High School Advisory Committee and the Student Council.