Wednesday, July 7, 2010

2010 Douglass-Slater Reunion: "Proud Traditions Forever United"


Neither Fred Delaney with the Douglass High School Alumni Association in Bristol, Virginia, nor John Hogans with the Slater High School Alumni Association in Bristol, Tennessee expected a big turnout at the 2010 Douglass-Slater Reunion. The economy and dwindling alumni numbers were obstacles difficult to overcome.

They were wrong.. and pleasantly surprised at the same time.

The reunion was a huge success, with numbers that were up over the last reunion in 2008.

"When the folks arrived, they immediately started looking for their friends," says Mr. Delaney. "They start asking about everybody and talking about what they used to do. Some great memories are brought back, by old friends just getting back together."

"Nobody ever reads the newsletters we send out," laughs Mr. Hogans, "so the first thing they want to know is 'where is such-and-such event happening, what do we need to do, where do we need to go?' The only thing that really sticks in their minds is 'when do I need to be there?"

For years, Bristol, Virginia's only African-American high school and Bristol, Tennessee's only African-American high school held separate reunions, despite the schools being less than a mile apart. The state line has always divided the school districts, but not the black community of both Bristol's.

"Both Douglass and Slater held separate reunions since the 80's," says Mr. Hogans, "but since our families were always visiting the other school's reunion, we decided to join both reunions in the year 2000. We've been having reunions together ever since."

Both schools still hold separate business meetings while together for the combined reunion, and are fortunate enough to still have their old school buildings to celebrate, although both buildings have different purposes now. The Douglass building on Oakview Avenue is now the "Douglass School Apartments" and the Slater building on McDowell Street is now the Slater Community Center. Both buildings have undergone extensive renovations, but still resemble the learning institutions of old.

Please click here to see a slideshow of the 2010 Douglass-Bristol Alumni Business Meeting.

Please click here to see a slideshow of the 2010 Slater Alumni Business Meeting.

One cannot look at the buildings, and not think of fellow classmates.

"We also look back at the ones we have lost over the past two years," says Mr. Hogans. "I can think of at least 4 right now that are missing, that have passed. At our picnic at Steele Creek Park, we have a memorial service for the ones who have gone on. It's the last thing we do before we all go home."

A special treat for the reunion attendees was the 2010 Bristol 4th of July parade. This year, the Douglass-Slater Reunion group was in the huge parade.

Please click here to see a slideshow of Douglass-Slater in the 2010 Bristol 4th of July parade.

Click here to see downloadable pictures of Douglass-Slater in the 2010 Bristol 4th of July Parade.

"Last reunion, we had our own parade by ourselves, that went from Slater through downtown to Douglass and then back, but this past year, the city invited us to have a few cars in the big Bristol 4th of July Parade downtown," Mr. Hogans says. "We'd never done that before, and appreciated the invitation. We had three cars and it worked out really well. This year, they invited the whole group to be in it. We usually have a lot of people in our separate parade, so to have that many in the big parade was really good. The whole community got to see us, and it was a great experience."

And then, there was the big banquet. It is always a dress-up affair that reunites all the alumni at one time for a wonderful dinner.

Please click here to see a slideshow of the 2010 Douglass-Slater Reunion Banquet.

Click here for downloadable pictures of the 2010 Douglass-Slater Reunion Banquet.

"There's one of our alumni who brought her daughter and son to the reunion this time," says Mr. Delaney. "She said she just wanted to bring them to a black affair, because they had never been to one. Before the reception was over, I went up to the young lady who was about 21 or 22, and I said 'how do you like this event, and she said 'man, this is all do this all the time?' I told her we do something this big every two years. She said, 'she was so excited about being there and she was out there dancing and having a good time. Her mother told me she knew she'd enjoy it."

Both Mr. Delaney and Mr. Hogans say, getting the young people interested in continuing the traditions of the schools, is always a challenge.

"Some of the young people are receptive to what we're trying to do," Mr. Delaney says. "Of course, once you start talking about it, they don't realize it....they just don't understand the history of the school, so what I've been thinking about, is having a tye of career club for the young people. We can help them with their careers, plus introduce them more to our history. If we did that and get them involved, hopefully they'll think 'well, we just can't take things for granted. Somebody sacrificed for us to be able to be here in Bristol to be and do what we want to do."

"We always had a tradition when we were in the black school, and we think it is important to carry on that tradition," says Mr. Hogans. "We're more cohesive now than we were back then, 'cause when we played basketball and football, it wasn't really like it is now. It's a better sense of cooperation now, and we love it."

And the message to the alumni from the other African-American school alumni in the area? Mr. Hogans has a quick answer to that one.

"I hope they're having as much fun as we are."

Lillian Davis, National President
Fred Delaney, President
Margo White, Vice President
Mary Hardin, Recording Secretary
Verdia Bradley, Correspondence Secretary
Norman Cook, Treasurer
Mae Duff, Chaplain & Historian
Frederica Cook, Scholarship Chairperson

John Ed Hogans, President
Rita Howard, Vice President
Penny Walker, Secretary
Hattye Broady, Treasurer & Historian
Thomas McDaniels, Chaplain
Drucilla Hogans, Scholarship Chairperson

COMING UP IN A FUTURE ARTICLE: Proposals for the "REUNION OF ALL REUNIONS" that hopefully will reunite all of the African-American schools in the area at one big gathering to talk over shared times, old rivalries and wonderful traditions. Please watch for the article.

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