Thomas Wolfe once wrote a book called, You Can’t Go Home Again. He was my favorite novelist when I was a teenager on Hilton Head in the late 1970’s. It was very romantic, nostalgic, and sad I recall, when the young protagonist, George Webber, came home to the United States, only to find that things had changed while he was away in Europe, and nothing was as he remembered.
And that is very similar to my experience as a youth on Hilton Head in the 1970’s, leaving for college later on, staying away for seventeen or so years, and then returning to find that my high school alma mater has changed quite drastically, and yet, in quite an exceptional way.
Recently, I was invited to lunch at the new, improved, Hilton Head Prep to introduce me to the newest headmaster, Jon A. Hopman, and re-introduce me to what Hilton Head Prep offers the Island community. Which is quite a lot, I have to say.
Prep English teacher Peg Hamilton,
who attended the luncheon meeting – along with Margot Brown (Director of Development and Finance)
Bethany Wilkinson (Director of Communications and Alumni Relations), and Headmaster Hopman – reminded me that Hilton Head Prep is entering its fiftieth year, as a private island school.
Rather alarmingly, it occurred to me that I was also into my fiftieth year. Hmmm…..
“The Super Bowl began officially, in 1965,” said Ms. Hamilton. As did, “the movie, Dr. Zhivago, the Voting Rights Act, the Pillsbury Doughboy, the song, I Got You Babe (Sonny & Cher, in case you forgot), Medicare/Medicaid was enacted, the Grateful Dead was touring, and the Beatles played at Shea Stadium to adoring crowds,” she noted with pride. Yours truly, was born then as well; apparently this was an auspicious time for first-year, Gen-Xer’s. Yeahhh.
All that was going on, while a little building in Sea Pines, was gearing up for classrooms, so that the few residents of Hilton Head at the time, could send their kids to a private school located on the island. In those days, most kids like Mike Lynes (Islander extraordinaire – see Island Packet, Only On Hilton Head – August 22, 2015), had to trek by boat, or school bus, or in some cases, carpools, all the way to Beaufort, Savannah, and Bluffton (before the Cross Island Parkway) – that was a haul, to traverse this island back then.
Don’t forget Prep, SPA, and MRA Alumni, this Fri. 10/09/15 is HHPrep Homecoming. Dolphins vs. Thomas Heyward Rebelsbegins at 4:30. Alumni Social starts at 7 pm at the Lucky Rooster in South Island Square.
In the seventh grade, we had to drive to Savannah in late August, to buy back-to-school supplies and clothes. It was also cool in the 1970’s to smoke cigarettes while driving (just watch any film made during that decade). And Sea Pines Academy (known as SPA prior to 1985; the year May River Academy – of Bluffton – merged with SPA to form Hilton Head Prep) was right up there in the ‘cool’ sphere, when seniors were allowed to smoke at the picnic tables by the lagoon, next to the parking lot, where they were also allowed to park their cars. So, they could drive to school WHILE smoking (a 1976 ‘cool’ bundle), park, and stroll into the rear door just in time for morning meeting. I couldn’t wait to be a senior, so I could drive, smoke cigarettes, and park by the lagoon.
This was also back in the day, when we were proud to have as an alum, one of the famous Heritage Golf Course streakers, whose name nobody would give up to the authorities, not even today. And not even now, would I tell you what I know, because this is a well-guarded Prep Alumni secret, along the lines of where Jimmy Hoffa is buried and where Whitey Bulger was hiding out all those years.
As you can imagine, times have changed somewhat, and of course, there is no longer a sequestered place at the school for seniors to hang out, and smoke… anything. Yes, you will be glad to know, the Sea Pines family culture has evolved to healthier past times here on Hilton Head Isle (or so I’m told).
We have also moved forward from, doggin’-it outside to the math trailer, to ‘integrating to an online curriculum at the Digital Learning Academy’. Wow. They’ve got way more technology and learning programs than we ever did, back in the day.
Not only that, but Hilton Head Prep has a boarding school for international students, and also assists qualifying families with financial aid procedures, and there’s even an Alumni Legacy Scholarship.
And, this year, Hilton Head Prep implements the American College Testing (ACT) and SAT Prep Courses for high school students who want to amp up to college with all kinds of elevated aptitude test scores. Also new, Prep gets to utilize the generous donation of the Main Street Theater for performances during the school year. That, along with outreach programs that work with Smith Stearns and Van Der Meer Tennis Academy students, Junior Players Golf Academy (JPGA), and Lawton Stables Riding Academy students, has brought Prep standards to greater new heights.
Boy, it’s come a long way from walking to a math trailer after lunch, and smoking cigarettes by the lagoon. Looking back, I would have to say that most Prep changes are definitely for the better. I think I’ll make it to a couple of football and basketball games this season, just to see how much the campus has changed and grown.
There will be a lot of commemorative events this upcoming 2015-16 school year, especially during February, 2016 – HHPrep’s Official Jubilee Celebration Month – as Hilton Head Prep celebrates fifty continuous years educating Hilton Head children. If you’re new to the island, or coming home again, stop by and check it out.
And below, you might enjoy a trip down memory lane. The whole student body joined together in 2012 to shout out, “Thank you for making a difference,” for the making of an alumni dvd.
Just remember to leave your cigarettes at home. I’ve heard there’s no smoking allowed on the grounds, now.