SPRING LAKE — Spring Lake is often referred to as "God's country" because "it's so beautiful," Fred Blackburn says.
Blackburn's family has lived in the rolling hills of southeast Hernando County since the 1870s, and, like many families in the area, the Blackburns have held onto their roots. Several generations have grown up and grown old in the rural community.
All of which makes Saturday's first-ever Spring Lake School reunion a family reunion of sorts.
"It's for everyone who ever went to school there," said Blackburn, who has helped organize the event.
Spring Lake School was founded in 1884, and classes were held in an old Methodist church until Frank Saxon donated an acre in 1889 for a schoolhouse. The school had three classrooms and initially housed grades 1 through 12. Later, only students from first through eighth grades attended, and eventually first through sixth grades. The building was demolished in 1919 and replaced by another school. Spring Lake School closed in 1967 because of consolidation, and students were sent to finish their education in Brooksville.
The property was purchased and maintained by the Methodist church. The school building eventually was torn down.
Blackburn, 66, said that over the past few years, several longtime Spring Lake residents began talking about having a reunion, "while we're all still around."
Among those who have worked to put together the event are George Lee, who has written a history of the school, and Alice Black.
For students who attended Spring Lake School, the reunion will be an opportunity to recall their youthful days — a time when Hernando County had far fewer people and the local economy was driven by agriculture.
Blackburn said attending a small school in a place like Spring Lake was quite different from the educational experience students get today.
"Everyone knew everyone else," he said. "They become lifelong friends. In a small community, there's a closeness, a spirit among the people that you don't have in bigger schools and bigger classes."
Many former students have remained in the area. Those who left and became successful in other places did so, Blackburn said, because of lessons learned in Spring Lake: "to be self-reliant, self-disciplined and self-dependent."
The reunion will be at the historic Spring Lake Community Center building, which served as the school's cafeteria. It will begin at 10 a.m. and run until 4 p.m. People will have an opportunity to mingle from 10 a.m. to noon. At noon, there will be a group photo and then lunch, which will include chicken pilau, coleslaw and green beans. The afternoon will be spent reminiscing, eating watermelon and swapping stories about "the good old days," Blackburn said.
There is no cost to attend the reunion, but donations are being accepted to help with expenses. Anyone planning to attend is asked to call Black at (352) 796-0023.