WELL, WELL. WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BELL?
By popular request (exactly two people were very upset that they missed the printed edition), the following is the uncut version of the Legend of the Hilton Head Prep Bell, reprinted from the Island Packet, 4/29/15, to lift your mood from pleasure to boredom.
Submitted to the Island Packet on this Day, 29th April, in the Year of Our Lord, 2015
A Collaborative Work, By Erstwhile Prep Scriveners,
Carmen De Cecco (nèe Hawkins), and Charlie Fraser (nèe Fraser)
A Young Charlie Fraser Returns the Bell at Graduation, circa, 1977.
How difficult to research and write collaboratively, about the legendary class time ringer, when the most interesting thing about Hilton Head Prep’s lost bell, is that it rhymes with a four-letter word we were told not to use, back in the day.
So, we won’t say it here. But, we can ask the question, “Where the hell, is the Hilton Head Prep bell?” or, “Hell‘s bells, where’s the Hilton Head Prep bell?”
And, back in the day – by the way – means precisely, around the vague area of 1974 or ’75. An era in which we learned not to split hairs about dates, places, and buildings, that could identify our ages, a few decades later (e.g., “What happened to the math trailer?” See, the fact that I used the word, ‘trailer’, with regards to Hilton Head Prep classrooms, predates me to the ‘70’s).
But I digress.
To return to the original thought thread…
Back in the day, Clay Johnson’s mother from Atlanta (Clay Johnson, a Sea Pines Academy graduate from the class of ‘ 77) bestowed a glorious bell to the school, which was originally set on a post, on the Montessori side of the school.
Not satisfied with how it was being displayed – like some poor, lost, soul, – ringing out education all by itself. No sireeee, by the powers that be; a bell tower, was erected atop the gymnasium in 1976, and then re-introduced, with accompanying, appropriate aplomb, and ceremony.
It was at this point, that things got a little jiggy with the SPA Bell.
It disappeared. Who’d a thunk it?
Who, pray tell, would creep around a school, the night before seniors were graduating, preparing to blow off a full summer of steam before going to college and actually, steal something? Well, NOT seniors. That, we know for sure.
Parenthetically; High school seniors have far more important things on their minds like, “I need to go to bed early, so I can rise early, and work hard all summer, make money, and save the money. Then, I can help Mom and Dad with college expenses, textbooks, and extraneous technology, that I will need, so I can compete with my new classmates and learn how to be a productive, intelligent, student, and later on, be known in the world as an industry mogul.”
So, okay, maybe it was the HHPrep seniors who stole the bell.
Possible Bell-thieves from the Sea Pines Academy Cold Case Files
However, one thoughtful senior, Ricky Marscher, set a fine example of moral integrity, by returning the bell upon his graduation. He’s probably doing very well these days, somewhere, taking care of the less fortunate, doing things right, and falling into money over, and over. (That’s the way Karma works, in case you were wondering. We learned about Karma at Sea Pines Academy, along with trigonometry, and how to predicate an adjective. So, there. What did you learn at May River Academy?)
Now, how do I know Ricky Marscher set such a good behavioral example? Because Charlie Fraser, that stalwart alum of yore, returned it (“it,” being, the Sea Pines Bell), the following year, after his class stole it (“it”, the bell, again). Which set another precedent of good moral behavior for the next graduating class.
You’d think the seniors were getting back on the right track about now, wouldn’t you? Well NO. Apparently, the class of 1983, none to happy about the SPA/MRA merger, took it (yes, “It”…still the bell), and kept it amongst themselves, passing it (yes, the bell- PAY ATTENTION), around, ringing it angrily, from student to student for a few years, until they realized,
“Hey, this school-merger thing is even better for all of us than before!
“And my dad – who went to MRA – and my mom – who went to SPA – can rest easy in the knowledge that they did NOT concede to each other by sending me to a happily blended school.”
A Later Group of Suspects in the Missing Bell Case
Of course, that’s not what really happened.
No, what happened really, was that Charlie Fraser (presently mature, and having his own son Elliott, graduated from Sea Pi- I mean, Hilton Head Prep) remembered that it was donated to the school as a lovely present, and should be searched out, and resurrected.
So, in 2005, after many years of no-bell-in-the-bell-tower above the gym, Charlie Fraser (nee, Fraser, of the original Clan Fraser, son of the late Joseph Fraser, namesake of late brother of Charles, founder of Sea Pines – the Resort, not the school), went off in search of this once-precious gift.
After trying many closed, locked doors, which remained locked, and following empty clues and loose ends – which seemed to get looser – and resorting to threats about getting his, just-out-of-the-can, no-neck, good-buddies, Guido and Sal (not to be confused with his, just-out-of-the-clink, red-neck good buddies, Bubba and Earl), to fine-tune some thumbs, until somebody finally said, “Again, with the bell, Charlie? I’m sure there are twelve-step programs for obsessive-compulsive bell-seekers, out there. I’ll even go with you to your first meeting.”
To which his wife, Linda (nèe Steadman, also of Sea Pines Academy pedigree) said, “Do they also have programs for the wives of obsessive-compulsive bell-seekers? Can I at least get a martini at the wives’ meeting?”
This last query got a response out of none other than Sam Bauer, esq, ’84, who asserted, “That’s it. My conscience is bothering me too much. I can’t bear to see dear Linda Steadman Fraser traipsing her way to Bell-seekers Anon, especially because I know they don’t serve martinis at those meetings. (Don’t ask me how I know that, it’s a lawyer/client privilege-thing).” And Mr. Bauer summoned Mr. Fraser to his very lawyerly office, forthwith, where the bell had been residing since – guess when? – 1984. Duh.
Eventually, the Prep CSI Van was Called in to Continue the Search
Sam Bauer, as legal representation of said class of 1984, agreed to return the bell to Charlie at that point, on the condition that nobody was to ever find out where it had been all that time, and that they (they, being the class of’ 84,) had not used the bell as a punch bowl for annual class reunions during the years it had been, ‘disappeared’.
“Ha, ha, ha!” Charlie had crossed his fingers behind his back during this conversation.
Finally, the day came when Charlie’s son, Elliott Fraser, presented the bell to HHPrep’s 2005 Headmistress, Sue Grosbeck, at his graduation. Ms. Grosbeck was so happy; they had another ceremony at the beginning of the following school year, restoring the bell to its rightful place in the bell tower above the gym. Indeed, so much elation inspired a new scholarship, Bell Tower Foundation, to pay a dwarfed hunchback to guard the bell after all that brouhaha through the years. Sadly, nobody could find a dwarfed hunchback who would sacrifice his life for a bell in such a way, in this day and age.
One would think, after all this time and travail, that the bell would be highly prized and respected and honored and would not need such high-level security anyway, wouldn’t one?
Well, apparently the Karmic lessons of yesterday have been lost on today’s ungrateful ingrates. Because almost as soon as it was rediscovered, it was stolen again the next year by the class of 2006, and not returned, but actually, given covertly, to the next graduating class of – you guessed it – 2007! Who, in turn, held onto it and secretly snaked it over to the class of 2008, never once bringing it back to hang elegantly in the now-empty bell tower above the gym.
Way to go, guys.
Finally, someone found the bell, which had been submerged for two years in a pond, hiding from gators and stray golf balls, no less, and paid to have it restored, and this person gave it back to Charlie who, rightly, wasn’t too excited to bring it back to the school immediately.
It is here that the legend gets fuzzy again, having read Charlie’s last correspondence, which had become slightly vague, as though written by a wizened, yet enlightened genius on a quest, from a fog-cloaked rowboat in the North Atlantic (just after his last expedition heading south, into the Sea Pines Club Course marsh sunset). Finally, a compassionate woman, so named Leslie Richardson, stepped into the picture and extrapolated the SPA Bell from Fraser’s frozen hands, which had become clawed from holding onto this bell-seeking dream too tightly for so many years. It (yes, “it” the bell), now rests undisturbed, in the breezeway at Hilton Head Prep, where millennials race by laughing, talking, and paying no mind to the cracked relic of yore that once rang them gloriously into the next class. For they not know, for whom the bell tolls.