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Lincoln alumni still have that ol’ school spirit

PALMETTO — An old-school reunion. An old-time revival.

That’s what Wednesday’s kickoff to the Lincoln Memorial High School Grand Reunion sounded like at Lincoln Park.

A five-day celebration of the storied black high school, founded in 1949, its impact on the community during segregation, and its proud legacy since it closed in 1969 began in resounding style.

“Who are, who are, who are we?” cried Betty Rhodes, cheerleader and 1967 alum, manning a microphone and pom-pom at the pep rally.

“TROJANS!” came the response.

“Who?”

“TROJANS!”

“Who?”

“TROJANS!”

The event, which drew about 75 alums and is expected to quadruple as the reunion continues through Sunday, began with a symbolic walk through the tunnel, the chute under U.S. 41 through which coach Eddie Shannon’s Lincoln Trojans charged into history.

Shannon led the walk once again, this time with alumni.

Some, like the Rev. Lawrence Livingston, came from nearby.

“We’re all out of shape and our hair is gray, but this is awesome,” said the pastor of Eternity Temple, Class of 1961.

Some, like Julius Douglas, came from afar.

He lives in London, England, and plans to move back here.

“This is home and Lincoln is part of home. I love this school,” said Douglas, Class of 1966. “We were disciplined, moral, and teachers and us were like a family.”

After the tunnel walk, majorettes with their batons and cheerleaders with their pom-poms relived those days of their youth, doing routines from memory.

“It was the spirit of Lincoln,” Rhodes said. “It really was. I felt it again. All the words came back. You always remember. All this right here. Everybody was here at Lincoln Field on Friday nights. Everywhere else was a ghost town.”

Doris Yarn Jones had to leave the pep rally for work, but planned to return.

“It brings back memories,” said Jones, Class of 1964. “It’s just wonderful to see everybody, remember the good times and the teachers.”

Among those teachers present was James Lang, who taught 38 years, and drew widespread laughter when he recalled using the strap on his students at Lincoln.

“We came up the hard way,” said Lang, 82. “Had books handed down. Football (uniforms) from other schools. We’ve made tremendous progress since then.”

B.C. Pratt, Lincoln’s first band director, remembered the old days, too.

“We used second-hand books, but it didn’t matter,” he said. “We still learned.”

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055, or write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, FL 34206 or e-mail him at vmannix@bradenton.com. Please include a phone number for verification.

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