Jim Paige, 87, attended what was then known as Brandon School during the Great Depression when the school housed children in grades kindergarten through 12. Paige, who says he was the only first-grader who wasn't tardy or absent in 1932, said he wouldn't miss the 100th anniversary of Brandon High School taking place March 1, 2014.
"I have a lot of memories," said Paige, who lives in Lakeland. "I started there in 1932 in the first grade. My first grade we only had six months of school because the county ran out of money so they closed all the schools and sent all the teachers home. From then on it was regular nine-month sessions."
Brandon School opened in 1914 on the current site of McLane Middle School. Then, in 1972, the high school moved to its current location, 1101 Victoria St. in Brandon.
Cheryl Stanbro, one of the members of the Brandon High School 100th Anniversary Committee, said alumni as well as other community members are invited to take part in the festivities.
Stanbro said the planning committee gathers the first Monday of the month at 6 p.m. at Beef 'O' Brady's on Kings Avenue, just south of Robertson Drive.
"We are making really good progress and we will have T-shirts on sale in various retail locations all over the Tampa Bay area beginning in August," Stanbro said. "They have been specially designed for this celebration and will help to bring awareness for the event and also start helping us fund all the wonderful events we are planning for the day."
She said BHS club members and athletes will also wear the special logo for the 2014 100th anniversary school year.
Stanbro of Valrico said the March 1 festivities will begin with a 5K and opening ceremony. The celebration will take place on the grounds of the BHS McLane Stadium, both the main field, practice field and the area in-between.
"There will be tours of both schools during a two-hour window on March 1 and students will act as docents and will have a fast history of the buildings and Brandon history," she said. People may visit the food trucks or take part in class, alumni and club competitions.
"We are also planning an old-fashioned 'calendar couple' contest where the couple has to dress in a decade over the last 100 years," she said. "Finally the night will end with the opening of the time capsule and closing ceremony and followed by a live band and fireworks."
She said the time capsule, to be unveiled during the closing ceremonies, is in a secret compartment in the commons area.
Stranbro said the event should attract many generations of families with stories to share about what it was like to attend the school.
She said it is not a fundraising event.
"It is a time for alumni and the community alike to celebrate the wonderful milestone in Brandon's history and bring awareness to the rich history and tradition that is Brandon," she said. "There will not be an entrance fee and we are doing everything possible to keep the prices as low as possible so everyone will feel they can participate."
Paige, who in June got together with about a dozen of his former classmates for their 69th BHS reunion, said many of the alumni now live throughout the country. He added that nearly a third of the 63 people in the Class of 1944 have passed away.
Paige said he remembers his first-grade teacher's name was Mae Walden.
Even though many of the students were poor during the Great Depression, they didn't realize they were poor, Paige said.
Paige grew up on a 10-acre orange grove owned by his grandparents. He said former grove is now home to the Brandon post office.
"It was a nice time of life back in those days," he said. "The basketball court was concrete so you can imagine how the knees got up on a concrete court. Sports weren't as organized. Most people worked and didn't have time to play around with sports and that sort of thing. Many of the people were farmers and had to get home and work on the farm. It was a great time."
Paige, who went on to become a principal at Fort Meade High School in Polk County, said he was the first member of his family to graduate from college.
His half-brother, Orlan Briant, served as the principal of BHS from 1974 to 1985.
"Highway 60 was a little two-lane road," he said. "That was the only school in the whole area. Now they have schools every block or two it seems like. It was sparsely settled and very rural."
For more information on the anniversary celebration, email firstname.lastname@example.org.