With the establishment of the Franklin County K-12 School, Chapman Elementary School closed its doors June 2007. Faculty and staff walked away from a building they’ had spent countless hours in creating learning experiences and educating young minds, fostering special relationships and sharing wonderful times, which transpired into incredible memories that would span many years.
Ten years later, several of those faculty and staff members returned to their former school for their first reunion.
The Chapman Elementary Faculty and Staff Reunion on Saturday, April 29, featured two events, a brunch at their former school, now the Apalachicola Bay Charter (ABC) School, and a banquet later that evening at the Battery Park Community Center.
Twenty-seven former Wildcats attended the events, spending joyous and touching moments reminiscing of the good old days. Several returned to Apalachicola to be here, having moved elsewhere since their Chapman days, and all were enthusiastically greeted by the event coordinator, Elinor Mount-Simmons, a former Chapman who along with Dorothy Hill and Dolores Croom, both former teacher-aides at Chapman, comprised the event planning committee.
While enjoying a brunch catered by Tami Ray-Hutchinson & Co., that featured an array of delicious foods, the reunion attendees participated in a Memorial Candlelight Ceremony, paying tribute to over 20 former colleagues who are now deceased. They also got a chance to browse through a myriad of memorabilia from their CES days. The “that’s how I looked?” and the “I remember that!” were exclaimed by many, mixed in with constant bursts of exuberant laughter as they excitedly viewed the many items on display.
Barbara “Bo” Elzie, a former guidance counselor, read a special proclamation issued by Apalachicola Mayor Van Johnson, which honored the group by designating that weekend as “Chapman Elementary Faculty & Staff Day,” a designation that made each attendee quite proud. (Elzie, who retired from the Florida Department of Education, could only attend the morning event because her high school reunion was being held that very same evening in Tallahassee.)
Before leaving their former worksite, teachers and staff strolled the hallways, lingering near areas they’d spent so many years working, and peering through the windows to see the many changes. During this tour down memory lane, a “Passing the Torch” ritual was held. This involved the Chapman crew, who’d previously been supplied with notepaper to write messages to current occupants, taping their notes to the doors of their former room and on the following Monday morning, those current occupants would get their special message when they approached their doors, thus passing the torch from the former to the present.
The banquet later that evening, also catered by Hutchinson & Co., was a special time for all. Memories were shared by many in attendance, with Cathy Creamer reading the names of the Wildcats who were no longer with us, and those 20-plus being remembered as well. A lighter moment was the evening’s entertainment, performed by the reunion attendees themselves. Divided into small groups, each ‘chorus’ sang the Chapman School Song, using a different genre of music in their performance. The renditions were hilarious indeed, but fun for all. In fact, the reunion was such a great time, the attendees encouraged Mount-Simmons to coordinate the planning of another one next year. With that in mind, she and Hill began making plans to do just that at their reunion wrap-up meeting, held a week later.
Several local agencies lent their support and/or offered items that were used as door prizes, so big thanks to Apalachicola Chamber of Commerce, Apalachicola Police Department, Clipper Shop, Dolores Sweet Shoppe, Franklin County Health Department, Franklin County Supervisor of Elections Office, and the Franklin County Tourist Development Council. Also special thanks to Patty Creamer, Mayor Van Johnson, Chimene Johnson and the ABC School art students.