By Rich Pollack
It was a virtual who’s who of “Old Delray,” a collection of folks with last names linking them back to the earliest families who settled what was then a small town.
There’s was Dr. Fred Love, whose family owned the drug stores in town. There was Rose Machek Sloan, whose family grew flowers and whose father was a beloved scoutmaster. There were McMurrians and Simons, family names that bring back memories of general stores and of the days when the community was a major producer of winter vegetables.
All gathered last month for what was billed as Delray-Seacrest High Reunion XIII, an event that takes place every three years and brings together students who attended Delray Beach Elementary School or Delray Beach High School during or before 1949.
The more than 85 former students who attended the reunion had a chance to catch up a bit and reminisce about the old days, when the buildings that now make up the Delray Beach Center for the Arts at Old School Square were actually functioning schools — filled with kids who were not above a little mischief that today seems tame.
“Those buildings hold thousands and thousands of memories for all of us who are here,” says Sloan, class of 1957, who was a student at Delray Beach Elementary School in the 1940s. “It was the most wonderful time.”
It was a time, Sloan recalls, when it wasn’t unusual for teachers to come to dinner at one of their students’ homes or when students with good grades could earn a chance to work in what was essentially Delray Beach’s first community garden — an area on the school campus where each room had a patch of soil to cultivate.
It was also a time when a prank or two was tolerated.
Love, now in his 90s, graduated back in 1938 and remembers the Halloween when a bunch of students took the small imported car belonging to the principal, Mr. Landers, and carried it up the steps to the second floor of the high-school building.
“He figured out pretty quickly who did it and made them bring it back down,” Love recalls.
Back then it wasn’t unusual for students to climb into the rafters of the old gymnasium and write their names on a wooden beam. Some are still visible if you look carefully.
Ernie Simon, who leads the committee that organizes the reunions, says he never climbed to the rafters but one of his friends, Pete Cole, did and wrote Ernie’s name on a beam.
“But he spelled my name wrong,” Simon said. “He wrote Erny instead of Ernie. At least my mother could see that I didn’t climb up there.”
While many of the faces at the reunion are familiar ones, the event itself has evolved.
This year, for the first time in a while, the event was held on a Sunday, rather than over two days, and it took place mainly in the daytime, since driving at night can be a challenge for some of the visitors.
Also this year, the entire event was held on the grounds of the Delray Beach Center for the Arts at Old School Square, giving the visitors a chance to wander through the restored buildings that once held their classrooms.
For former students like Love, the trip down memory lane is one that has been changed ever so slightly by time.
“It’s nostalgic,” he says about the reunion. “You remember the good things and can forget the bad.”