Tonya McGee-Stevenson, (Reluctant) North Side Class of 1973, guessed wrong on the year of the picture in her hand that was supposedly from the first all-city reunion held in 1983.
The year could not be the year because her dress in the picture was too new. “I remember that dress, that wasn’t that long ago,” McGee-Stevenson said.
When Central High School, the grandfather of Fort Wayne high schools, was shuttered in 1971, its students were splintered and bused to the remaining high schools and to the then brand-new Wayne and Northrop High Schools, mirror schools with same architectural design schemes.
McGee-Stevenson (North Side High School), Brenda Warren (also from North Side), and Lawrence “Larry” Kennedy (Northrop), all three from the Class of ‘73, attended Harmar Grade School, Memorial Middle School and were at Central for only one year, their Sophomore year, before the closing.
The three almost-graduates of Central, and other students displaced after the 1971 shuttering, started the all-city reunion to celebrate what could have been. Central was the destination school, a family school, for many younger kids back in the day.
The weekend of August 3, 4 and 5 will mark the forty-fifth anniversary of that could-have-been ‘73 Central class. The event has been so popular that students who don’t have any direct connection to Central will attend.
The reunion weekend starts on August 3 with a free meet and greet at the American Legion Post 148, followed about by the real party the next day, a dinner and dance at Link’s Wonderland that needs to be paid for. A $50.00 per person, non-refundable fee, is due by July 23. Pre-order T-Shirts at $15.00 are also available to purchase. Send payments to Larry Kennedy, 1901 McKee Street, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46806 or pay via PayPal or Zelle: SpecialLK20@yahoo.com. For more info, call (260) 414-1180.
A Saturday morning breakfast and another social gathering on Sunday is also planned.
McGee-Stevenson has never attended a high school reunion at North Side. The potential connection severed when she was bussed to Northrop was too strong to just brush off her shoulder.
McGee-Stevenson told the story of how she attended every class with best friend Karen Scott Patterson since Harmar Grade School, only to have the two attend different high schools.
Students who lived across the street from each other couldn't attend the same high school, after the closing. If you lived on the north side of Lewis Street, you went to North Side High. The south side Lewis Street kids went to Northrop.
Central kids were also moved to Snider, some went to South Side, and a few went to Wayne and Elmhurst, according to McGee-Stevenson and Kennedy.
“I think my best year of high school was my one year at Central,” she said. Kennedy echoed McGee-Stevenson. Central was his best year too. It was easier for him; Kennedy was a star athlete so racial harmony was more attainable, especially for a two-a-day practice football squad with the shared goal of winning. Kennedy was one of four African-American footballers on the team.
Kennedy didn’t even know about the fight in the stands back when he was dominating on the football field, at a Northside versus Northrop game eye-witnessed by McGee-Stevenson. A black man showing up a bunch of white guys in the early 70s…something ugly is bound to happen.
Race riots (riots, plural) occurred at North Side a couple of years after the merger. One time, black students were locked in the gymnasium and another time, students got locked in the cafeteria.
McGee-Stevenson was active at Central when school let out for the day. Then she walked home. “At North Side, you had to figure out how to go to school.” She had to catch that bus.