What is the first thing people do when they spot a list of names, from the event they just attended, in the newspaper? Look for their own names, of course. It’s that fifteen minutes of fame syndrome.
A special event held to recognize the 1912 student body of Fort Meade Junior Senior High School in Florida merited its own newspaper article shortly after the event was held in September, 1983. Since my grandmother, who should have been part of that occasion, lived too far away to attend, her fellow classmate, the former Zemla Doke, had tucked a clipping of the article into a letter she sent to her friend Rubie McClellan Davis, by then living way up north in Columbus, Ohio.
I found that letter years after Rubie’s passing, among the possessions later kept by my aunt, Rubie's youngest daughter. The letter, as we’ve already seen, was full of news, as well as mementos of the 1983 event.
Including a newspaper report.
As my grandmother’s proxy, even I looked for her name in that newspaper list of high school classmates from 1912. At first, I was puzzled when I couldn’t find it in the newspaper clipping Zemla sent.
Then I remembered that Zemla and Rubie had discussed this strange omission in their letter. For whatever reason, Rubie was not listed among those attending the Fort Meade, Florida, school in that particular year.
The newspaper report regarding the event in September, 1983, honoring the representatives of that 1912 class, must have been yet another something Zemla hoped would help her friend feel a bit more like she had been among those in attendance.
“These grads might be in their 80s,” the article began, “but they’re bright, bouncy as teens.”
All sorts of local officials were on hand to greet the class members—making me wonder what the occasion commemorated. It wasn’t an event in May or June—typical graduation months. It wasn’t the anniversary of building—or even tearing down—the former high school. And yet, there was official fanfare, presentations with proclamations, and even a copy of the class photo from 1912, in front of the old school, for each attendee.
I never found a copy of that old photo in my grandmother’s belongings. At first, I thought, perhaps she didn’t care to save it—odd, though, since she had so carefully assembled all the rest of Zemla’s packet of memorabilia and saved it through the rest of her life.
Then I remembered: she wasn’t even counted in the list of those names. While Zemla did her best to make it seem like Rubie was there with the rest of them, some things take official involvement before they can be made possible.
Student Body Appreciation Week may not be too special in many places, but in Fort Meade it is, especially when the student body is students who attended the school more than 70 years ago.“I do hereby proclaim the week of Sept. 18 through 24, 1983, ‘1912 Student Body Appreciation Week’ in Fort Meade.” With those words Fort Meade Mayor W.J. Loadholtes welcomed 14 visiting former Fort Meade High School students, now mostly in their 70s and 80s, but looking as bright and bouncy as teenagers for the unusual reunion at Fort Meade High School last week. All were members of the school’s student body in 1912.Also present to honor the group were City Manager Bob Bullard, several members of the city commission, representatives of the Polk County School Board and former School Board Member Dan Moody.Moody expressed his appreciation and admiration of the former students as examples of the results of an education in Polk County. He assured them that Polk Schools are “doing exactly what they are designed to do—educate young men and women.“Polk County students attain the highest possible honors in colleges and throughout their lives,” he added.The guests of honor were given copies of the mayor’s proclamation and framed reproductions of a photograph of the entire student body taken in front of the school in 1912.The 14 former students attending the reunion represented nearly half of the 30 located and invited by FMHS principal Tom McDonald.Those present were Lawrence Adams of Arcadia; Edith McAuley Allen of Orlando; E. C. Botts, Zelma Doke Griffin [sic], Jeanette Rivers and Eva Rivers Sexton of Tampa; Austin Clifton of Sebring; John Enzor and John Wingate of Winter Haven; Wiley Rivers of LaCrosse; Don McAuley, and Fred Bobbett, Maude Lightsey Jones and Annabelle Wiggins of Fort Meade.Unable to attend, due to distance, previous commitments or other reasons were Ralph Botts, Naomi Griffin Drane, Julia Griffin Enzor, Inex Prine Garrard, Marion Herring, David Hill, Lena Hill, Walter Lightsey, Lucille Wingate Long, Mary Wingate Martin, Clem Moseley, Quessie Nobles Pierce, Mrs. S. L. Nobles Townsend, Pearl Prevatt Walker, Gordon Wilcox, Billy Williams and Warren Williams.