Hundreds Attend 22 | News, Sports, Jobs
They remember when Fort Myers ended in Colonial when it was a dirt road.
They remember the time when the city center was the center of social life, with three or four theaters.
They remember each other and what a different place Lee County was when it had a small town feel and everyone knew each other.
Nearly 700 of these people sharing memories came from all over to the Tinsley Pavilion at the Lee Civic Center on Saturday to come together and reminisce about the Pioneer Picnic, which was held for the first time in three years after COVID canceled the gatherings planned for 2020 and 2021. .
The event, hosted by the Pioneer Club of Lee County, was experienced in Lee County at least 50 years ago. The event began in 1950 to celebrate those who were in the county all those years.
Pat Mann, who chaired the event, said he was worried many people would show up – and he was glad so many people came.
“COVID has been tough on us, but it’s nice to see the turnout. We had planned 700 and it looks like we are full. It’s about getting together, hugging a friend, shaking their hand and being there with their friends,” Mann said.
Due to the hiatus, all high school classes of 1970, 1971, and 1972 were honored. Randy Parrish, of the Fort Myers Class of 1971, said he hadn’t been to the event in a few years, but wanted to come and celebrate a 50-year reunion that hadn’t happened the last year.
“It’s good to see a lot of people who have been here so long because normally you don’t meet them. It’s good to have them in a congregation like this. Parris said. “I remember when downtown was where everyone went to shop. We had Sears and Belk’s and the Edison, Lee and Arcade theatres. It was Fort Myers. I miss it.”
Parrish said most people don’t understand what this area looked like decades ago because it has grown so much. Debbie Burks, North Fort Myers Class of 1972, and her cousin, Michelle Burks-Grimm, Class of 1987, remembered a smaller Fort Myers.
“It was a great school and a great town to grow up in. I lived on Durrance Road when it was dirt and that’s where I lived when I was 5 until high school,” Burks said. “Most of these people are from here and they see how important this has become.”
“I love being here. This is a beautiful city. I am proud to be from this area and we have seen it grow over the years. As big as it is, the heart of Fort Myers is still there and it’s great to see all these people who are natives coming together,” said Burks-Grimm. “I think everyone wanted to come see each other again.”
Charles Watson, Class of 1953, was Principal of Alva Middle School and is amazed at how much the area has changed.
“I get lost trying to find my way here. These are all trailer parks and apartment complexes and I don’t know where all these people are from,” said Watson. “My promotion only had 153 people. There were only three or four high schools, and Boca Grande only had three graduates and Alva had about five.
Pam Pritchett-Naylor, Class of 1968, was with some of her neighborhood friends, who remembered the old days a lot.
“We remember when Colonial was a dirt road, with potato farms on either side. My dad was in real estate and my friend’s dad was a Coca-Cola bottler,” said Pritchett-Naylor. “It’s changed so much, but when you put all these people together, old Fort Myers is still there.”
Stephanie Sirianni, whose father and brother coach legends at Fort Myers High School, said her parents came to the area from West Virginia instead of playing AA baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates. After briefly returning to West Virginia, they returned to stay.
“They love the Green Wave. They came here in 1967 and we have been here ever since. It is the house. My brother and I were both born here and it’s a great place to grow up and raise your family. Sirianni said. “My father didn’t want to be associated with just one school. He cared a lot about youth and was involved in many things.
The event also honored the oldest man and woman and the oldest couple. Katherine Ingram-Nolan was the oldest woman at 93, while James Sciple, 97 and a World War II veteran, was the oldest man. Hardy and Sheila Silcox were one of three couples who had been married for 63 years, but won the tiebreaker when they were split in months.
While most of those who attended still live in Lee County, a few traveled from elsewhere. Lee Sapp O’Hare, Class of 1961, is from Alaska.
“I used to live in Fairbanks, but now I live in a fishing community. I was born here and my parents had a business here, Tice Supermarket. I was the first twin born at Lee Memorial Hospital,” Sapp O’Hare said. “I come back because I grew up here and my best friends are still here.”