Merlene Davis: '60, '64 Dunbar High grads plan get-together

Although the biennial Dunbar Alumni Association reunion won't take place this year, members of the 1960 and 1964 classes are inviting anyone who has walked the halls of the old Dunbar and Frederick Douglass high schools to bring their families and some food to Douglass Park for a picnic on Aug. 28.

"We decided to let everybody know to pack their own lunch," said Betty Morton Young, class of 1964. "We want to get together and fill up the park like we used to a long time ago, when I was a little girl.

"You couldn't find a space on the ground to put your blanket out for your lunch. It was packed. If you didn't go to the movies at the Lyric (Theater), you went to the park," she said.

Back then, there were vendors selling souvenirs, homemade ice cream, sandwiches and candy. And that was on ordinary weekends with nothing special like the upcoming Picnic in the Park with the 'Cats — Dunbar Bearcats.

"It's like an old-fashioned potluck," said Bill Bingham, class of 1961. "1947 was my first one."

Bingham recalled that those who came to Douglass Park knew they would become part of an unofficial style show. They wore their finest and strutted a bit. Although the fancy clothes are not required this go-round, the organizers want to fill the park.

Eli Brown, vice president of the 1964 alumni chapter, is credited with getting the ball rolling, after reminiscing with friends. His class always meets at the biennial reunions anyway, so pulling together a special gathering despite the larger group's cancellation wasn't a big deal.

Brown rented the shelter and called on Diane Marshall, president of the 1964 alumni class, for help. She said the 1960 class asked to help sponsor the event, and a few leaflets and e-mails later, it looks as if the park will be similar to old times.

"We're getting a good response," Marshall said. "We've had it announced in churches and word of mouth."

Bring your chairs, blankets and tents. A disc jockey will spin some old and new tunes, and people can eat and dance the night away.

One special guest who plans to attend is Robert Green, a native of Lexington who moved to Michigan decades ago and retired as a public schoolteacher. Green fell in 2005 and was paralyzed. He has minimal movement in his right hand, but he was blessed to have hometown friends living nearby.

A trip to Lexington had been scheduled for Aug. 21, but when those friends and Green heard of the picnic, they changed travel plans so he could join in the fun.

"It worked out beautifully," Bingham said. "We were having problems finding a place big enough" to hold all of Green's friends who still live in the Bluegrass. "Douglass Park is plenty big enough."

Organizers have opened the reunion to alumni of all classes and to all students of any class who attended Frederick Douglass High School. Douglass and Dunbar were the segregated high schools for blacks before integration.

Although the schools were fierce sports rivals, Young said none of that matters now. "We're just one big happy family now," she said.

Organizers are asking former students and former faculty, coaches and staff of both schools to attend.

So gather the family and prepare to retrieve nearly forgotten memories from decades ago. Come early, Young suggested, to stake out the best spots.

For more information, call (859) 537-9321 or (859) 227-0005.