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Alums relish Manatee High Centennial Celebration under the stars

BRADENTON -- When Lamar Graham was a student at Manatee High, it was mandatory for boys to wear ties and dress pants to class. Graham graduated in 1931. Back then, the school’s name was Bradenton High and there was only one building with three cars parked out front.

“I wasn’t a very good student,” Graham admitted in front of the Davis Building on Saturday.

Graham, who turns 102 on Thursday, was among about 300 guests who attended the school’s Centennial Celebration.

“It’s about the past,” said Tracey Swart, Manatee High teacher and one of the event coordinators. “And embracing all of what Manatee High is about in this community.”

The celebration kicked off with musical performances by the school’s chorus outside, along with appetizers and refreshments for the crowd.

Among the Manatee High alums walking outside their alma mater were Alice Tinkham Trice, 80, Doris Henson Yates, 81, and Sara Butler Baden, 80. The three women graduated in 1948.

The trio recalled being a part of the school’s orchestra and the journalism class.

“Just good memories,” Yates said.

During fire drills, the three women said, students exited the building -- the school’s only building -- by a built-in slide.

“It was great fun. ... That was a pretty good time in our history,” Baden said.

Back then, Yates said, there wasn’t a lot of misbehaving.

“You knew you couldn’t get away with anything,” she said. “You respected the teachers.”

Tickets for the event cost $50 each. All of the money will go toward Manatee High, said Swart, who graduated from the school in 1991.

Inside the Davis Building, guests glimpsed at old yearbooks, yellowed newspapers and old cheerleading uniforms displayed on two tables. About eight iPads showed slideshows with information on each decade since the school first opened its doors in 1912.

The event also marked the opening of the school’s new Davis Building Performing Arts Center. The chorus sang the school’s alma mater. Some of the guests mouthed the lyrics while the chorus sang.

Outside the school, white lanterns adorned the trees. About two dozen tables were set. Guests ate food from different local restaurants, including Pier 22, Moore’s Stone Crab Restaurant and Soma Diner.

Ben Velazquez, 16, was among the dozens of students who volunteered at the event. The sophomore said he likes Manatee High because it offers students a lot of activities.

Velazquez said the 100th anniversary of the school is “awesome.”

“It shows how much it’s been going on,” he said.

Several teachers and staff at Manatee High also graduated from the school. Among them is Cyndi McMahon. She graduated in 1991. Her fondest memories of high school include going to football games and the many friends she met and continues to stay in touch with.

Nowadays, she’s the school’s swim coach and technology specialist. Coming back to her alma mater to work “almost gives you a youthful boost,” McMahon said.

“It’s a great experience to be part of,” she said.

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