CLEARWATER — Pinellas High School Class of 1965 held their 50th class reunion Oct. 2-4. This three-day stroll down memory lane consisted of a meet and greet on Friday, a banquet on Saturday and church services on Sunday.
Saturday night’s banquet, held at the Countryside Country Club, was a time to fellowship and remember what made their educational experience so great, if they could remember.
“How many of you have forgotten someone in the class and when you saw them last night you said: ‘I think I know her or him,’” said Mistress of Ceremony Isay Bynum-Gulley, as she joked about class members “shakin’ a leg” and having to use Bengay the next day.
Not only were former students present, but also teachers who taught the Class of 1965 was there as well to reminisce about the good old days.
“I didn’t think I was going to be able to make it, but God showed me I could,” said Eleby Frazier, who taught tailoring and designing and retired in 1993 after 32 and a half years of teaching. “I want you to understand that what you are doing is great work,” he said as he praised them for all the hard work it took to reunite the class.
“I feel like I’m really apart of this class,” said teacher Arlington Nunn who taught business education and retired as the director of school operations with the district in 2003. Coming from a small school where there were only 15 graduating seniors, he has adopted the Class of 1965 as his own.
“You left Pinellas High School and the challenge was before you, and you didn’t falter and you didn’t waver. You pursued it with vigor,” said shop teacher Lawrence Poindexter to his first graduating class. “Some of you stayed here and made an impact on the community. You did Pinellas High school proud. The ones that that taught you and are no longer here, you did them proud also. I’m proud of you and I’m proud to be a part of this. I’m overjoyed.”
“I’m very proud of this class and the event here. I’d like to thank all of you because you set the reference for the city of Clearwater and will always be remembered,” said Samuel Hayward who was the band director and retired in 2003 from Countryside High School.
Bynum-Gulley remarked how Haywood pulled her to the side and corrected her attitude. She said she made a purposeful effort to improve her attitude. “For that Mr. Haywood I say thank you,” she said.
“I’d like to see you all here in another 25, 30 years,” said Solomon Davis who taught art. According to him, his good DNA will allow him to be at the 75th reunion.
Sammie Garrison-Rayner led the class in a candlelight vigil for all of the students and teachers who passed away. “In memory of all the teachers and classmates, we just want to say: ‘Hello, we’ll see you one day,’” she said with tears streaming down her face.
About Pinellas High School
Pinellas High School closed in 1968 when the county school system mandated that schools stop being segregated. Most of the students were bused to Clearwater, Dunedin and Largo High Schools. Now that same building is Clearwater Intermediate.
Black students that lived in Clearwater, Largo, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Dunedin and Oldsmar all attended Pinellas High.
Outside of the courses that prepared students for college, trades were also taught such as industrial arts, shoe repair, architectural drawing, masonry, home economics and cosmetology to name a few.
James Feazell, chairman of the Class of 1965, spoke proudly about the time he spent at his old alma mater. He was taught by some of the great educators in Pinellas County such as math teacher Joseph Carwise, who Carwise Middle School in Palm Harbor is named after.
Some other notable names that taught him were Robert Anders, who helped form Academy Prep in St. Petersburg. Dorothy Thompson, who sued the county and won equal pay for black teachers. Cecil B. Keene, whose name sits on one of St. Petersburg Colleges’ buildings and the list goes on and on.
Feazell said Pinellas High School had bionic educators. He uses the acronym BIONIC to mean Believe It Or Not I Care.
“We had those kinds of educators. People that were concerned more about what we learned in terms of academics. They were concerned about us growing into productive citizens. They gave us great examples and they made us know that our color or the neighborhoods that we can from were only temporary and that they were not to be used as hindrances to our progress,” he said noting that he met his wife of 47 years at Pinellas High School.
In fact, most of the teachers lived within walking distance of their pupils, so the students had those teachers all day, not just in school.
Pinellas High School had top-notch educators even if their materials were outdated.
“We got books from Clearwater High School once they got through with them. What’s happening now is a repeat performance of what happened before,” Feazell said of the current re-segregation of schools in Pinellas County. Anytime that you have all of us—one race school and it’s black—equity is not going to be there.”
Living in times of segregation, Feazell said from kindergarten to graduation, he never had a white classmate or teacher. In athletic competitions they had to play other all-black schools in Arcadia, Sebring, Palmetto, including Gibbs here in St. Pete.
“Segregation was something else…I was able to go ahead and find my niche because I knew as an eighth grader I wanted to become and educator. The people that helped me in my life were my parents, doctors, lawyers, preachers and then we had teachers,” he said explaining that his early years were spent right on the Deuces, 22nd Street. “I knew that if I were ever going to be able to help anybody, I was going to have to do it as a teacher.”
Feazell taught social studies and started black history in the school district. He taught for 23 years at Largo High School from 1969 to 1993. He also taught African Studies and had a Black Culture Club. He credits the principal he worked under for helping integration go smoothly.
From 1993 until his retirement, he became a minority-recruiting specialist for the Pinellas County School District to bring in African-American educators. In that position he brought in more than 650 black educators from colleges such as Florida A&M, Bethune-Cookman and black colleges outside of the state.
“We made networking a 24 hour job,” he said crediting Vryle Davis, Louis Williams and Dr. Seymour Brown to name a few.
Feazell continues to work with students in north Pinellas County with a group he and his wife started called Bridging The Achievement Gap, which is in its 12th year of helping students achieve academic success.