Duval High School, Downtown: the Last Living Student (2011) of the Last Graduating Class (1927)

by Tim Gilmore, 6/17/2012

Every year hundreds of high school kids wander around in the Annie Lytle School on Gilmore Street in Riverside, the grand edifice that ceased elementary education more than 50 years ago. There are more rumors of ghosts and hauntings attached to this school than to any other place in the city. And it’s falling apart. Twenty years of fires and decades of neglect have proved a slow demolition.

Thousands of young people in the city want the Annie Lytle School, Public School Number Four, to be saved, but most of them don’t know about the old school building on Ocean Street, downtown, the city’s first high school building.

The Duval High School building came awfully close to demolition itself, but local architect Ted Pappas renovated the old school building into the Stevens Duval Apartments for the elderly between 1977 and 1980. The last graduating class in Duval High School was 1927. Some of the high school students who had graduated from the school 53 years before now became its residents.

The original Duval High School was built in 1877, but burnt down in the Great Fire of 1901. The present building was built of red brick and limestone in 1908. In 1920 and 1922, additions were built on either side to accommodate an increased student population. Only five years after the school was effectively tripled in size, the school was closed because wealthier white families were starting to move away from the Springfield neighborhood just north of downtown. The speed of the local school board’s changes in position still seems stunning almost a hundred years later. But maybe the pictures of white students wearing blackface for Vaudeville performances in the 1927 yearbook helps explain the rash reversals in thinking about the city’s first high school.

In 1995, 87 year-old Martha Wells attended a Duval High School reunion at the Stevens Duval Apartments. She walked through the door, she said, and 68 years of memories of what the school building looked like inside were instantly disrupted. As though things could really look the same, she thought. “Everything has changed,” she said. Some strange disconnect jarred between the fact of the school building still standing here where it was at 601 North Ocean Street and the fact that only her memories remained of the school itself. Of such paradoxes are ghosts defined.

And then, of course, Martha thought, a place is not just a place. A place is a place in time. 601 North Ocean in 1995 is the same place as 601 North Ocean in 1927, and the two 601 North Oceans are not the same place at all.

That contradiction reminded her of something that had happened to her at different times over her long life. It reminded her of times when she saw her own reflection in a plate glass window or a train window and didn’t recognize the image at all, thought the face was that of some stranger somehow too close, too private, a stranger too knowing. It was the experience of meeting herself as a stranger, or meeting a stranger who turned out to be her, Martha Wells. That’s what the experience of two times in one place felt like. Freud called it the uncanny.

The past becomes foreign even as it remains familiar, until even its familiarity is foreign. And the past changes. Even though the past is always present, the present was never present. And the past changes according to the way you’ve come and according to the way you’re going.

Martha never married. She belonged to one church for more than 80 years. After graduating from that final class at Duval High School, she went to the University of Florida and became a teacher and then a school principal, spending more than 40 years working for the Duval County Public Schools system. In 1927, Martha was a member of the Duval High School Senior Girls’ Club.

“TAP! A Junior Girl transformed! But this time the word did not have quite the same meaning as it had in previous years, for the Senior Taps were to be the last to graduate from Duval. A sad and mournful thought—but a sad and weep­ing club? No, never! September 28 found the last Senior Girls’ Club full of enthusiasm, vim and vigor.

“The girls chose for their mascot Jack Hughes, whom they very fittingly welcomed with open arms as ‘Just a Flower From an Old Bouquet.’ Mrs. Bowers was elected honorary member and presented with a beautiful bouquet to express the love of the senior girls for her.”

Marjorie Hirons, a senior who belonged to the Literary Club, the Spanish Club, the Latin Club, and the Chemistry Club, wrote for the 1927 yearbook, “The year 1926-27, overflowing with fun, joy, happiness and love, has been one that will never be forgotten by the last senior girls of Duval.” She died Marjorie Pridgen in 1997. She was 87 years old.

Marjorie Hirons’ senior quote was “Fair as lady ever thought of / Knight of a forgotten year.” Martha Wells’s senior quote was, “Volatile— / Impulsive, generous-hearted.” Senior quotes tended to be literary, but pompously so. They tended toward “purple prose.” A George Tedder’s quote: “For there was nothing base or small / or craven in his soul’s broad plans.” The quotes of male students boasted of their bravery, knowledge, or potential for conquest, occasionally comparing the graduating senior to Alexander the Great. The quotes of female students praised their beauty and compared them to flowers or extolled their kindness or general virtue. About Helene Cooke, we’re told, “And she was fair as is the rose in May.” Yes, she was, and she might remember her line from Chaucer many Mays later. Their senior quotes all came from high literature, often high literature now forgotten even amongst the highly literary, lines from John Greenleaf Whittier, from Franklin Pierce Adams, from Sir Walter Scott, from George Augustus Baker.

For the front of that last yearbook, Dana Summitt (“Angels are painted fair to look like you”), member of the Senior Literary Club, wrote the school’s eulogy.

Oh mightiest of mothers, Duval High,

To know that thy fair name shall cease to be,

Falls like a death-blow on our bowed heads—

Why must this end untimely come to thee?

But to thy ever-faithful boys and girls,

The task shall always be, “To Carry On!”

To honor by our lives thy memory,

When thou, beloved mother, shall have gone!

Sometimes the weight of the years fell heavy on Martha’s shoulders. Sometimes she didn’t feel like she’d lived one life, but several, sometimes three or four, sometimes dozens of lives. She was 87 when she came back to Duval High School for the 1927 class reunion, but she still had a number of years left to live. Astounding enough that officials with Cathedral Foundation, an arm of St. Johns Episcopal Cathedral, which operated the Stevens Duval, believed 100 former Duval High School students still lived in the Jacksonville area almost 70 years later. Martha found that the worst thing about getting old was that people you knew were always dying. That wasn’t the case in high school.

It could astound her how long things lasted, and it amazed her how fast things changed. She was born only a few years after the Great Fire. In fact, Martha was born the year the old Duval High School building opened. All the grand construction occurred so quickly, first the central building, and then 12 or 14 years later, the two grand annexes that winged it, and five years after that, the school held its last graduating class.

But the city was new. Technically it was just past 100 years old, new enough, but the city had been destroyed by the Civil War and destroyed by the Great Fire, and after each destruction, the city started over. So new, the city didn’t know in which direction it was changing.

Many of Duval High School’s students lived in Springfield, the lovely Victorian neighborhood just north of downtown. Springfield too changed quickly. In fact, in burgeoned into blossom and began to decay almost immediately thereafter. Maybe Springfield was like Helene Cooke who was “fair as is the rose in May.” What follows May in North Florida is a brutal season of the relentless weathering of all that became beautiful in the spring. Much such beauty has little chance of even making it into autumn.

And as with Duval High School, Springfield’s booming and declining demographics had everything to do with race. In 1895, Springfield was described as “exclusively for white persons” with magnificent Victorian homes “of a superior character at once artistic and ornamental.” Springfield escaped the 1901 fire that destroyed almost everything downtown, but by 1921 it was done, at least until renovations 70 or 90 years later. 1920 and 1922 marked the necessary expansion of Duval High School just south of Springfield into two new annexes winging the original central building. In 1931, four years after Duval High School closed due to demographic shifts, a city planner wrote, “Many former residents, during the past four or five years, have left Springfield to live in other areas where property is restricted. Tenement dwellers have entered Springfield and the property, generally speaking, is depreciating and when this state starts its rate of progress is rapid.”

The final Duval High School yearbook offers a fairly detailed description of a Vaudeville minstrel show sponsored by the Senior Fellows’ Club. The show incorporated all the usual racist minstrel schtick of blackface and pantomime.

“In the evening of March 25, the 1927 edition of the annual S. F. C. Vodvil and Minstrel was presented at the Temple Theatre. Mr. Wetzel as director was assisted by Miss Hazel Fuller and Miss Maude Wood­ward. Following the overture came an address in which James Nolan, the club’s president, introduced the program and thanked the merchants of the city and others who contributed to the success of the Vodvil. At the conclusion of the speech the curtain rose.

“The setting was a garden with chairs and tables at which sat the members of the chorus, who sang, ‘Because I Love You’ and a selection from ‘The Student Prince.’ The solos by Thomas Russell, James Moore, Clarence Smith, Irwin Roth, and Albin Hearing, were received with appreciation. The interlocutor, Stuart Richeson, acted as host, introducing the fun-makers. Their songs, excellently accompanied by the S. F. C. Orchestra, created much laughter.

“Carl Cesery sang ‘Sadie Green,’ accompanying it with a skillful dance. Johnny Bryson wasn’t in the mood for singing, but made up for it with a clever line of jokes. ‘She’s Still My Baby,’ by T. H. Johnson, received much applause. Jack McKinnon, seated on a toy fire wagon and singing, ‘Fire,’ came out amid a roar of spontaneous laughter. Jack Hugh brought out a jazz number by singing ‘Clap Yo’ Hands.’ Those in the audience rhythmically inclined wanted to get up and dance. The orchestra wasn’t needed when ‘Hank’ Ladd sang, ‘I Never See Maggie Alone,’ because his ukelele proved sufficient to entertain. Hank was given encore after encore. The curtain came down on the minstrel act as the chorus sang ‘Jacksonville.’

After the intermission, “‘Two Crooks and a Lady’ was presented next. Mrs. Simms-Vane, a paralyzed old lady, is robbed of her jewels by Miller, The Hawk, and his accomplice, Lucille, Mrs. Simms-Vanc’s maid. The clever old lady outwits the two and recovers her jewels, sending the thieves to jail. The entire cast showed unusual ability in acting this difficult play. The cast included: Miller, The Hawk (Garner Hammond); Mrs. Simms-Vane (Ashbel Williams); Lucille (Albert Barker); Miss Jones (Edwin Gay); Police Inspector (Stuart Richeson); and a policeman (Gerry Holden). The atmosphere then changed to comedy and dance by the Revue of 1927. ‘Dope With Lime’ started the revue, being presented by Carl Cesery and Johnny Bryson. These two ‘bell hops’ did a lock-step dance that would have done credit to any show.

“Henry Ladd showed the makings of a professional entertainer in a short curtain act, ‘The Perfect Fool.’ He held the attention of the whole audience, which received him with much applause.

“The S. F. C. Orchestra, attired in convict stripes, next gave a number of the latest song hits. They were accompanied by Jack Toomer, the only junior in the Vodvil, who did a novelty jig and buck dance. Chester’s dance, splendidly executed, was a great addition to the show as a whole. The members of S. F. C. Orchestra are: John Andrews, Kenneth Dyson, Elwood Hemming, Ed Norris, and Hill Wolfe. Henry Ladd came back for another round of applause and laughter when he and Garner Hammond appeared in a burlesque of the play, ‘Two Crooks and a Lady.’ Garner proved to he a ‘chic’ young flapper while Henry literally brought down the house as Miller.

“The Mascot of the club, Miss Annette White, was introduced to the audience as the minstrel chorus sang The Drinking Song from ‘The Student Prince.’ She was pre­sented with a beautiful bouquet of roses as the audience applauded. The ensemble of the chorus singing, ‘Cheer for the Red and White’ brought to a close Duval’s last Vodvil.

The last Duval High School Vaudeville sounds like a great time. The yearbook uses no racist epithets. It’s only when you see the official Senior Fellows’ Club Vodvil photograph, taken of the full troupe on stage in the school auditorium, and you notice the exaggerated racial Golliwogg features, the white teen faces painted black, the broad and bloated white and pink lips, the striped jackets, that you see the “darky” iconography normalized in the first high school in the city. Sometimes it’s not what’s said, but what’s not said. It was only a decade earlier that the Lubin film company was producing silent “Rastus” and “Zulu” movies within walking distance of the school.

Shortly after Martha Wells graduated, the economy collapsed and the Great Depression began. World War Two. The Civil Rights movement. The impeachment and resignation of Richard Nixon. The growing military hegemony of the country during the 1980s and 1990s, the seeds of which began with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, though presidential administrations claimed opposite intentions. Then, 68 years later, a high school reunion. Were there really 100 former Duval High School students still alive in the Jacksonville area? She was 87 years old when she came back and said, “Everything has changed.”

Ralph Lyle (“I may record thy worth honor due, / In verse as musical as thou art true.”) died in 1980, the year the former high school opened as Stephens Duval. Bernice Walston died in 2006. She was 97 years old. She was Bernice Richardson back in 1927 (“Blessed are they who have the gift of making friends.”). When she died, she had earned a doctorate and lived in Athens, Greece, and the Canary Islands. Some Stevens Duval residents died in the 1980s and the 1990s in the building where they had graduated from high school in the 1920s.

Martha Wells died in 2011. She was 102 years old. She was born the year the Duval High School building opened, she graduated the year Duval High School closed, and she died the very last student to have graduated from the oldest high school in the city. Things to be remembered forever were remembered no more.@font-face { font-family: “Cambria Math”; }@font-face { font-family: “Cambria”; }@font-face { font-family: “MS Minngs”; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }p { margin-right: 0in; margin-left: 0in; font-size: 12pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }.MsoChpDefault { font-size: 11pt; font-family: Cambria; }div.WordSection1 { page: WordSection1; }

Every year hundreds of high school kids wander around in the Annie Lytle School on Gilmore Street in Riverside, the grand edifice that ceased elementary education more than 50 years ago. There are more rumors of ghosts and hauntings attached to this school than to any other place in the city. And it’s falling apart. Twenty years of fires and decades of neglect have proved a slow demolition.

Thousands of young people in the city want the Annie Lytle School, Public School Number Four, to be saved, but most of them don’t know about the old school building on Ocean Street, downtown, that housed the city’s first high school.

The Duval High School building came awfully close to demolition itself, but local architect Ted Pappas renovated the old school building into the Stevens Duval Apartments for the elderly between 1977 and 1980. The last graduating class in Duval High School was 1927. Some of the high school students who had graduated from the school 53 years before now became its residents.

The original Duval High School was built in 1877, but burnt down in the Great Fire of 1901. The present building was built of red brick and limestone in 1908. In 1920 and 1922, additions were built on either side to accommodate an increased student population. Only five years after the school was effectively tripled in size, the school was closed because wealthier white families were starting to move away from the Springfield neighborhood just north of downtown. The speed of the local school board’s changes in position still seems stunning almost a hundred years later. But maybe the pictures of white students wearing blackface for Vaudeville performances in the 1927 yearbook helps explain those rash reversals in thinking about the city’s first high school.

In 1995, 87 year-old Martha Wells attended a Duval High School reunion at the Stevens Duval Apartments. She walked through the door, she said, and 68 years of memories of what the school building looked like inside were instantly disrupted. As though things could really look the same, she thought. “Everything has changed,” she said. Some strange disconnect jarred between the fact of the school building still standing here where it was at 601 North Ocean Street and the fact that only her memories remained of the school itself. Of such paradoxes are ghosts defined.

And then, of course, Martha thought, a place is not just a place. A place is a place in time. 601 North Ocean in 1995 is the same place as 601 North Ocean in 1927, and the two 601 North Oceans are not the same place at all.

That contradiction reminded her of something that had happened to her at different times over her long life. It reminded her of times when she saw her own reflection in a plate glass window or a train window and didn’t recognize the image at all, thought the face was that of some stranger somehow too close, too private, a stranger too knowing. It was the experience of meeting herself as a stranger, or meeting a stranger who turned out to be her, Martha Wells. That’s what the experience of two times in one place felt like. Freud called it the uncanny.

The past becomes foreign even as it remains familiar, until even its familiarity is foreign. And the past changes. Even though the past is always present, the present was never present. And the past changes according to the way you’ve come and according to the way you’re going.

Martha never married. She belonged to one church for more than 80 years. After graduating from that final class at Duval High School, she went to the University of Florida and became a teacher and then a school principal, spending more than 40 years working for the Duval County Public Schools system. In 1927, Martha was a member of the Duval High School Senior Girls’ Club.

“TAP! A Junior Girl transformed! But this time the word did not have quite the same meaning as it had in previous years, for the Senior Taps were to be the last to graduate from Duval. A sad and mournful thought—but a sad and weep­ing club? No, never! September 28 found the last Senior Girls’ Club full of enthusiasm, vim and vigor.

“The girls chose for their mascot Jack Hughes, whom they very fittingly welcomed with open arms as ‘Just a Flower From an Old Bouquet.’ Mrs. Bowers was elected honorary member and presented with a beautiful bouquet to express the love of the senior girls for her.”

Marjorie Hirons, a senior who belonged to the Literary Club, the Spanish Club, the Latin Club, and the Chemistry Club, wrote for the 1927 yearbook, “The year 1926-27, overflowing with fun, joy, happiness and love, has been one that will never be forgotten by the last senior girls of Duval.” She died Marjorie Pridgen in 1997. She was 87 years old.

Marjorie Hirons’ senior quote was “Fair as lady ever thought of / Knight of a forgotten year.” Martha Wells’s senior quote was, “Volatile— / Impulsive, generous-hearted.” Senior quotes tended to be literary, but pompously so. They tended toward “purple prose.” A George Tedder’s quote: “For there was nothing base or small / or craven in his soul’s broad plans.” The quotes of male students boasted of their bravery, knowledge, or potential for conquest, occasionally comparing the graduating senior to Alexander the Great. The quotes of female students praised their beauty and compared them to flowers or extolled their kindness or general virtue. About Helene Cooke, we’re told, “And she was fair as is the rose in May.” Yes, she was, and she might remember her line from Chaucer many Mays later. Their senior quotes all came from high literature, often high literature now forgotten even amongst the highly literary, lines from John Greenleaf Whittier, from Franklin Pierce Adams, from Sir Walter Scott, from George Augustus Baker.

For the front of that last yearbook, Dana Summitt (“Angels are painted fair to look like you”), member of the Senior Literary Club, wrote the school’s eulogy.

Oh mightiest of mothers, Duval High,

To know that thy fair name shall cease to be,

Falls like a death-blow on our bowed heads—

Why must this end untimely come to thee?

 

But to thy ever-faithful boys and girls,

The task shall always be, “To Carry On!”

To honor by our lives thy memory,

When thou, beloved mother, shall have gone!

Sometimes the weight of the years fell heavy on Martha’s shoulders. Sometimes she didn’t feel like she’d lived one life, but several, sometimes three or four, sometimes dozens of lives. She was 87 when she came back to Duval High School for the 1927 class reunion, but she still had a number of years left to live. Astounding enough that officials with Cathedral Foundation, an arm of St. Johns Episcopal Cathedral, which operated the Stevens Duval, believed 100 former Duval High School students still lived in the Jacksonville area almost 70 years later. Martha found that the worst thing about getting old was that people you knew were always dying. That wasn’t the case in high school.

It could astound her how long things lasted, and it amazed her how fast things changed. She was born only a few years after the Great Fire. In fact, Martha was born the year the old Duval High School building opened. All the grand construction occurred so quickly, first the central building, and then 12 or 14 years later, the two grand annexes that winged it, and five years after that, the school held its last graduating class.

But the city was new. Technically it was just past 100 years old, new enough, but the city had been destroyed by the Civil War and destroyed by the Great Fire, and after each destruction, the city started over. So new, the city didn’t know in which direction it was changing.

Many of Duval High School’s students lived in Springfield, the lovely Victorian neighborhood just north of downtown. Springfield too changed quickly. In fact, in burgeoned into blossom and began to decay almost immediately thereafter. Maybe Springfield was like Helene Cooke who was “fair as is the rose in May.” What follows May in North Florida is a brutal season of the relentless weathering of all that became beautiful in the spring. Much such beauty has little chance of even making it into autumn.

And as with Duval High School, Springfield’s booming and declining demographics had everything to do with race. In 1895, Springfield was described as “exclusively for white persons” with magnificent Victorian homes “of a superior character at once artistic and ornamental.” Springfield escaped the 1901 fire that destroyed almost everything downtown, but by 1921 it was done, at least until renovations 70 or 90 years later. 1920 and 1922 marked the necessary expansion of Duval High School just south of Springfield into two new annexes winging the original central building. In 1931, four years after Duval High School closed due to demographic shifts, a city planner wrote, “Many former residents, during the past four or five years, have left Springfield to live in other areas where property is restricted. Tenement dwellers have entered Springfield and the property, generally speaking, is depreciating and when this state starts its rate of progress is rapid.”

The final Duval High School yearbook offers a fairly detailed description of a Vaudeville minstrel show sponsored by the Senior Fellows’ Club. The show incorporated all the usual racist minstrel schtick of blackface and pantomime.

“In the evening of March 25, the 1927 edition of the annual S. F. C. Vodvil and Minstrel was presented at the Temple Theatre. Mr. Wetzel as director was assisted by Miss Hazel Fuller and Miss Maude Wood­ward. Following the overture came an address in which James Nolan, the club’s president, introduced the program and thanked the merchants of the city and others who contributed to the success of the Vodvil. At the conclusion of the speech the curtain rose.

“The setting was a garden with chairs and tables at which sat the members of the chorus, who sang, ‘Because I Love You’ and a selection from ‘The Student Prince.’ The solos by Thomas Russell, James Moore, Clarence Smith, Irwin Roth, and Albin Hearing, were received with appreciation. The interlocutor, Stuart Richeson, acted as host, introducing the fun-makers. Their songs, excellently accompanied by the S. F. C. Orchestra, created much laughter.

“Carl Cesery sang ‘Sadie Green,’ accompanying it with a skillful dance. Johnny Bryson wasn’t in the mood for singing, but made up for it with a clever line of jokes. ‘She’s Still My Baby,’ by T. H. Johnson, received much applause. Jack McKinnon, seated on a toy fire wagon and singing, ‘Fire,’ came out amid a roar of spontaneous laughter. Jack Hugh brought out a jazz number by singing ‘Clap Yo’ Hands.’ Those in the audience rhythmically inclined wanted to get up and dance. The orchestra wasn’t needed when ‘Hank’ Ladd sang, ‘I Never See Maggie Alone,’ because his ukelele proved sufficient to entertain. Hank was given encore after encore. The curtain came down on the minstrel act as the chorus sang ‘Jacksonville.’”

After the intermission, “‘Two Crooks and a Lady’ was presented next. Mrs. Simms-Vane, a paralyzed old lady, is robbed of her jewels by Miller, The Hawk, and his accomplice, Lucille, Mrs. Simms-Vanc’s maid. The clever old lady outwits the two and recovers her jewels, sending the thieves to jail. The entire cast showed unusual ability in acting this difficult play. The cast included: Miller, The Hawk (Garner Hammond); Mrs. Simms-Vane (Ashbel Williams); Lucille (Albert Barker); Miss Jones (Edwin Gay); Police Inspector (Stuart Richeson); and a policeman (Gerry Holden). The atmosphere then changed to comedy and dance by the Revue of 1927. ‘Dope With Lime’ started the revue, being presented by Carl Cesery and Johnny Bryson. These two ‘bell hops’ did a lock-step dance that would have done credit to any show.

“Henry Ladd showed the makings of a professional entertainer in a short curtain act, ‘The Perfect Fool.’ He held the attention of the whole audience, which received him with much applause.

“The S. F. C. Orchestra, attired in convict stripes, next gave a number of the latest song hits. They were accompanied by Jack Toomer, the only junior in the Vodvil, who did a novelty jig and buck dance. Chester’s dance, splendidly executed, was a great addition to the show as a whole. The members of S. F. C. Orchestra are: John Andrews, Kenneth Dyson, Elwood Hemming, Ed Norris, and Hill Wolfe. Henry Ladd came back for another round of applause and laughter when he and Garner Hammond appeared in a burlesque of the play, ‘Two Crooks and a Lady.’ Garner proved to he a ‘chic’ young flapper while Henry literally brought down the house as Miller.

“The Mascot of the club, Miss Annette White, was introduced to the audience as the minstrel chorus sang The Drinking Song from ‘The Student Prince.’ She was pre­sented with a beautiful bouquet of roses as the audience applauded. The ensemble of the chorus singing, ‘Cheer for the Red and White’ brought to a close Duval’s last Vodvil.”

The last Duval High School Vaudeville sounds like a great time. The yearbook uses no racist epithets. It’s only when you see the official Senior Fellows’ Club Vodvil photograph, taken of the full troupe on stage in the school auditorium, and you notice the exaggerated racial Golliwogg features, the white teen faces painted black, the broad and bloated white and pink lips, the striped jackets, that you see the “darky” iconography normalized in the first high school in the city. Sometimes it’s not what’s said, but what’s not said. It was only a decade earlier that the Lubin film company was producing silent “Rastus” and “Zulu” movies within walking distance of the school.

Shortly after Martha Wells graduated, the economy collapsed and the Great Depression began. World War Two. The Civil Rights movement. The impeachment and resignation of Richard Nixon. The growing military hegemony of the country during the 1980s and 1990s, the seeds of which began with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, though presidential administrations claimed opposite intentions. Then, 68 years later, a high school reunion. Were there really 100 former Duval High School students still alive in the Jacksonville area? She was 87 years old when she came back and said, “Everything has changed.”

Ralph Lyle (“I may record thy worth honor due, / In verse as musical as thou art true.”) died in 1980, the year the former high school opened as Stephens Duval. Bernice Walston died in 2006. She was 97 years old. She was Bernice Richardson back in 1927 (“Blessed are they who have the gift of making friends.”). When she died, she had earned a doctorate and lived in Athens, Greece, and the Canary Islands. Some Stevens Duval residents died in the 1980s and the 1990s in the building where they had graduated from high school in the 1920s.

Martha Wells died in 2011. She was 102 years old. She was born the year the Duval High School building opened, she graduated the year Duval High School closed, and she died the very last student to have graduated from the oldest high school in the city. Things to be remembered forever were remembered no more.