Hilton Head Prep Proves You CAN Go Home Again – Celebrate 50 Years of HHPrep!

Entryway to Hilton Head Prep

         Welcome to Hilton Head Prep

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.

Jon Hopman

Headmaster, Jon Hopman

Prep English teacher Peg Hamilton,

English Teacher

Teacher of English, Peg Hamilton

who attended the luncheon meeting – along with Margot Brown (Director of Development and Finance)

Margot Brown, bio

Margot Brown, Director of Development & 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.

Bethany Wilkinson

Bethany Wilkinson, Director of Communication & Alumni Relations

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.

Trophy Case

Hilton Head Prep Trophy Case in the Joe Fraser Athletic Building.

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.   


Invitation

Prep Alumni Social

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.


Girl Reading Statue

Student Reading Sculpture has Been on the Campus for Many Years.

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.

Yearbook Soccer Team

SPA Varsity Soccer Team, circa 1977

PrepBasketBallCourt

Present-day Outdoor Basketball Court, with Palmetto Tree in the Foreground

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).

Signs at School

Modern-day Directions Through a Sprawling Campus. Before the ’80’s, the School wasn’t Big Enough to Need Signage.

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.

School Gymnasium

Joseph Fraser Field House – Beautiful Gymnasium by the Forest Preserve

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.

Signs and statues

Always Putting Students First at Hilton Head Prep

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. 

School Cafeteria

Hilton Head Prep              School Cafeteria

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.

Call for directions, 843-671-2286, or visit their website for a calendar of upcoming activities and events, http://www.hhprep.org/.

Just remember to leave your cigarettes at home.  I’ve heard there’s no smoking allowed on the grounds, now.

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Hilton Head Prep Revisionist History

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)

cbf-1977-returning bell

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

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

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 CSI Van was Called in to Continue the Search

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.

Hilton Head Off-Season, Beats In-Season, All Day Long

Guys playing beach volleyball

Hilton Head Sports Enthusiasts Prepare for Winter

We, here in Always Paradise Isle, have known all along that Hilton Head is tops when it comes to, well… just about everything to do with living life fully, stylishly, outdoors, under swaying palms, while slurping frozen libations, and wearing flip-flops, regardless of where we fall in the Conde Nast Travelers, Readers’ Choice rankings (#8 this year, for Islands in the United States, in case you were wondering).

And that’s because you can’t beat the off-season down here for motivating you to do just about anything outdoors (or, for seemingly endless good hair days).  Or, for meeting locals and running into old friends that you thought had moved away, died, or were doing time in the can, because you haven’t seen them out and about in so long.  This is the time of year to hook up with our old buddies and laugh (or cringe) about the old days on the island, and talk about how Hilton Head has evolved so well into the new millennium, while we, adjust ourselves to changing development, cultural needs, politics, and another huge growth- spurt in the vacation rental and hospitality industries.

The up-shot of all this is that, no matter what we are doing, or who we are bumping into from around town and around time, it’s happening on the beach, on the golf course, and on the tennis courts.  Where else, in America, say you, is hometown so much fun?

When I went to college in New England, lo, those many moons ago, my friends all wanted to come visit my family with me.  I was suddenly, very popular in the middle of snow-crusted winter, Rhode Island.  While my college friends from the mid-west, and New England, had to go home to… well the mid-west, and New England for the holidays (I can’t name a mid-west town for an example in this blog, because then it would be like I’m saying Hilton Head is better than that town, which it’s not.  It’s just warmer and on the beach, which to some people, may seem better, but that’s not what I’m saying, okay?), I got to fly home to a sunny resort, to visit my family.  Then, I started dating Johnny D, who seemed to relish telling his friends he was going to Hilton Head for the RBC Heritage Golf Classic presented by Boeing every year (back then it was simply the Verizon Heritage, but we won’t split hairs), and that he had a perfect back deck view of the 11th tee, and all the pros walking by because his girl’s family lived right there on the course.  And his friends would say, “Eh – oh!  Who’s better than you, Johnny D?”  And Johnny D would say, “Nobody, because my girl’s father also gets us passes for the tournament, and I get to eat beer dogs with Brad Faxon.  How’s that?” (That last part is rhetorical).

Clayton sitting on the floor

Clayton Lewis, Dean, Sea Pines Academy, Back in the Day

And while I run into old friends on the beach with my beagle, Sam, I also meet new ones, like Peter Cooper, headmaster of Hilton Head Prep, while walking his dog, Vicki.  This brings up great memories because Mr. Cooper is a friend of Clayton Lewis, who was the Dean of Sea Pines Academy, back in the day when Hilton Head Prep was known as Sea Pines Academy, which is a long way back and we don’t need to get specific about the years; suffice to say off-season on Hilton Head is not only great vacation time, it’s also great nostalgia for those of us who dare to look back.  And, if you do dare, that is, you can take a look at the video we made last year to raise money for the HHPrep Alumni Fund.

You may recognize some islanders, you may see yourself, you might even cringe a little.  Which is a good thing, because it means you cut your hair since then, and you probably don’t wear your add a bead necklace anymore.  We had fun making this, and if you are a Sea Pines Academy, May River Academy, or Hilton Head Prep graduate reading this, we hope you enjoy the video.

And if you haven’t already, please go to HHPrep.Org, click on Alumni and start filling in your information. Really, I know it’s annoying to create these accounts and write your bio and all this stuff, but if you don’t, they have no choice but to identify you by the worst high school picture they have on file, and take a blind stab at where you are today, based on what you wrote when you were seventeen.  It’s not always pretty, what they come up with, so do yourself and us a favor, and go to the Alumni portal (I know, it sounds like you’re going to step into a pod that shoots you backwards in time, like, “Step aside from the Alumni Portal, I MUST REVISIT the Christopher Cross years!”), and update your bio, so we all don’t think you really did peter out in rehab after chasing the Dead for ten years.  And then, connect with everyone on Facebook.  Yes, you must do that, too.  Like, Tweet, and Pin; yes, you must.

And if you really want to impress us with your achievements since high school, how about contributing a pile of dough-ski to the Alumni Fund and make us all jealous.  Like, wow, you made so much money, you can throw THAT much back at your alma mater?  Eh – oh!  Who’s better than you?