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At city reunion, memories wash over Safety Harbor

(ran E)

Even the rain was nostalgic.

Last weekend, hundreds of people who grew up here in the '50s and '60s returned to the historic small town for a reunion.

"The rainiest times were the best when we were kids because that's when the cops weren't out," said Dolly Baker, with raised eyebrows and the sheepish grin of a teenager. "The rain is not a problem."

Baker was one of several hundred former and current residents who spent the wet weekend mingling with old friends and reminiscing about their childhoods in Safety Harbor. The reunion, born from a coffee table conversation, was organized by resident Patsy Brown and a committee of about a dozen others.

"We were talking about missing old friends and then we just started brainstorming names and figuring out who could get in touch with who," Brown said.

The rain moved certain events indoors, such as a street party planned for Saturday night that was instead held in the town's recreation center. Other things went on as scheduled, such as an afternoon stroll down Main Street, right through the wetness.

Nearly 75 people ate lunch Saturday at the Whistle Stop on Main Street, an old-fashioned ice cream and burger stand known for decades as the Frostee Harbor. Reunion organizers placed a banner with the old name over the new sign _ the Frostee Harbor it was again, at least for a day.

Ducking the raindrops in the covered eating area outside, attendees talked for hours about old memories. They remembered going to Safety Harbor School from first to ninth grades together. One of the group, Earl Denton, ended up as a town police officer when there was still a Safety Harbor Police Department.

News of some of the town's biggest families of the '50s and '60s was passed on. What ever happened to the Bakers, Grinders, Schinholsers, or Grimsleys? Several of the children of these families, now grown, were present to fill people in firsthand.

"This is great. We are seeing people we haven't seen in years," said Roxanne Bryson, the renamed matriarch of the Grimsley clan. Two of her eight children, Vikki and Donna, came from out of town for the reunion.

Organizers charged $30 for attendance at the various events. Commemorative T-shirts, featuring the Frostee Harbor under a canopy of trees, went for $15. Proceeds will be used to erect a concrete picnic table and chairs by the marina. A plaque set into the table will commemorate the first _ and last _ Safety Harbor Reunion.

"This is a one time deal," Brown said.

Ex-Safety Harbor resident Tempe Frank lives in Atlanta now. Her husband's business necessitates it. But as she stood licking an ice cream cone at the stand Saturday afternoon, she found herself reminiscing about her grandfather.

"He ran the train depot right across the street from here," Frank said. "They shipped a lot of oranges out of here. He'd put me in orange crates and push me down the rollers."

Frank said she misses living in Safety Harbor and hopes to move back here after retirement. "The reunion's a great idea," she said. "It's nice to know you've still got roots somewhere."