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Plant City High School reunion set for 1956-72 Planters

The July 26 Plant City High School reunion set for the Expo Hall at the Strawberry Festival fairgrounds will have memorabilia to celebrate 17 graduating classes, from 1956-72.
Published May 22, 2013

PLANT CITY — It can't be said Lynda Fuller Rogers lacks school spirit.

Even today, the Plant City High graduate exudes enthusiasm for her days as a Planter.

So it wasn't surprising when Rogers, class of 1960 and a retired nurse, offered to head a reunion organizing committee three years ago. She had overseen the previous five-year reunions dating to 1975.

Now, she's taking her loyalty to her alma mater to new heights. Rogers and two dozen other alumnae are planning a reunion for 17 graduating classes.

"When I got into this I started thinking, 'I must be the craziest person in the world," Rogers said. "What was I thinking?' It's is so big."

Nevertheless, she plowed ahead. The Planters Reunite reunion, covering the 1956-72 graduating classes, is set for 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. July 27 at the Expo Hall at the Florida Strawberry Festival fairgrounds.

Tickets are $40 per person. Teachers and administrators are invited as well.

Rogers started planning the event a year ago after approaching LaVerne Burkett Cribbs, class of '72.

Cribbs had organized a reunion for the 1969-72 graduating classes. The two hit it off and decided to pool their efforts to cover the years after Plant City High relocated to what now is Tomlin Middle School but before it moved to a new campus in 1972-73.

Rogers said alumni from those years share a bond.

After the 1972 move — necessitated by the consolidation of several area high schools — Plant City High became a magnet for students regionwide. The Planters team name was dropped in favor of the Raiders and classroom sizes swelled.

But before that point, only Plant City kids attended the school and classroom sizes were smaller. As a result, a camaraderie developed that endures even today.

"Everybody knew each other," said Rogers, noting her own graduating class comprised only 158 students, of whom most still live in the Tampa Bay area.

"We just had such a great time," she said. "We all got along real well and we all loved each other."

It was also a time before the onslaught of huge indoor malls and electronic gadgetry to consume teens' attention.

On weekends, students zipped over to the Sunny South Drive-In on State Road 39, near the present-day Lowe's store, for a burger and a Coke. Servers hung trays on the driver's door window.

There were proms and basketball practice and scores of dances. After home football games on Friday nights, students attended dances in the gymnasium.

"Girls wore high heels and dresses. The boys wore sport coats," Rogers said. "At homecoming you always had a corsage, a big mum."

In later years, the crowd gathered at the Burger Chef and the Dipper Dan ice cream shop about a half-mile south of the drive-in. Sundays were set aside for church.

"It was a simpler time," Cribbs said.

Trying to pull off the reunion hasn't been easy. The biggest obstacle: finding those who moved and fell out of touch with classmates.

Two dozen volunteers are involved in the effort. A group of them meet monthly at the First Baptist Church in downtown Plant City.

Cribbs created a Facebook page, Planters Reunite, to spark interest in the reunion.

Organizers regularly comb through yearbooks, contact sheets from past reunions and old phone books to track fellow graduates.

A registration form is available on the Facebook page. Click the PDF tab. The deadline is July 6.

Cribbs said she expects 400 grads and spouses to attend the soiree. The menu includes a choice of lemon chicken or burgundy mushroom beef tips.

Among the decorations will be old cheerleading outfits and letterman jackets, yearbooks, newspaper clippings, megaphoness, seat cushions, buttons and scores of old photos, including pictures on loan from the Plant City Photo Archives & History Center. Each graduating class will have its own table of memorabilia.

"We still value those friendships and most of those people back then were your friends," Cribbs said. "Back then you had school spirt and, of course, you had all that camaraderie."

Rich Shopes can be reached at rshopes@tampabay.com or (813) 661-2454.

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