Big reunion planned for once-segregated school
Marc Valero | Highlands TodaySEBRING - The diehard attitudes existed during the days of segregation, an E.O. Douglas High School alumnus remembers.
Published: November 2, 2012
Published: November 2, 2012
He had some "encounters" with the City of Sebring as most black youth had at that time, said Robert Walker, E.O. Douglas alumni chairman.
Robert Saffold is another former student of the school that served black students from 1924 until the 1967-68 school year after which the school system became integrated.
He remembers playing basketball outside on a clay court that only had five lights, two on each end and one in the middle.
The boundary lines and other court markings had to be applied the day before each game with some kind of mixture they stirred up.
"It was a very good school, although it was a segregated school, but I think that helped to make it better," he said.
The E.O. Douglas High School reunion Dec. 21-23 will bring together former classmates who will share a host of memories and milestones during a weekend filled with events.
Walker said, "We've never, never had anything like this before; we are expecting a really big turnout; we've been planning the whole year."
There have been 12 E.O. Douglas reunions with the last being held in 2007, he noted. But, this reunion is different with a few extra things.
Walker, who was in the class of 1956, believes about 150 former students will turn out with some returning after many years. The reunion is happening around the Christmas holiday so a lot of people who want to come back to the area for the holidays can kill two birds with one stone, he said.
The weekend of events will start 11 a.m., Nov. 21 at the School Board of Highlands County's district offices, which is the former E.O. Douglas campus.
A one-hour program at the campus will include the dedication and unveiling of a granite monument, which will be installed before the event, under the "old oak tree" located between the George Douglas Administration and William Blanding buildings.
They will have a banquet on the evening of Nov. 21 at the Chateau Elan. Former E.O. Douglas student Roland Hart, an Oakland, Calif., surgeon, will speak at the event. He is the son of A.J. Hart, who was a teacher and assistant principal at the school.
A cookout will be held at noon, at Donaldson Park in Avon Park on Nov. 22 and a "prom dance" will be held at 7 p.m., Nov. 22 in the Chateau Elan Ballroom.
They will have a golf tournament. Sightseeing tours are being scheduled for those coming from out of town who want to become reacquainted with the area, Walker said.
"We are all going to church on Sunday [Nov. 23] in Avon Park at Saint Mark Baptist Church," Walker said. "After church we will have our farewell dinner at the Hotel Jacaranda."
Saffold remembers that as the only black high school in Highlands and Hardee counties, they had a lot of kids coming from all over, and the school received a lot of extra instructional materials
E.O. Douglas also had championship football, baseball and basketball teams.
Among the school's notable athletes were Bobbie Fraizer, who would coach football at Bethune Cookman University, and Hal McRae, who went on to a successful career as a Major League Baseball player, coach and manager. .
E.O. Douglas had a lot of people who went on to be successful in professional careers, Saffold said.
"That was a school that meant a lot to a lot of people," he said.
Walker said, "even though we had substandard books and substandard equipment, we were given the best education by the teachers because they loved and respected us and had the students at heart.
"I wouldn't trade that for anything."
For more information on the reunion, contact Saffold at 381-5166 or Walker at 382-9823
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