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Hundreds of students from historic school hold first reunion

LAWTON, Okla._More than 500 former students who attended a historic Lawton elementary school are holding a reunion for the first time this week.

Dunbar Elementary School first opened its doors in 1937. The school, near Southwest 17th Street and Douglas Avenue, shut down in 1974. Starting Friday, dozens are gathering to fellowship and remember the teachers and classmates who helped shape their lives.

The park where they gathered, just yards away from the school, is named for Dr. Lemuel Harkey. He was the only principal the school ever had. While at the picnic, former students reminisced about their glory days at the school and the rich heritage that was Dunbar Elementary.

From 1946 to 1950, Collis Allen attended Dunbar. He says it makes him very emotional to see the school in its current state with busted windows and a crumbling roof.

"Well, it's a relic of yesteryear. You wonder just how much you really have missed by the transition that we have made from the times that we were in school until now," Allen said.

Looking at the collapsing building, Allen remembers when it was full of life as he looked forward to chapel services being held at school.

"Every Friday, they would open up the middle doors from the third- and fourth-grade. Open up the doors and fill up the room with chairs and we would have chapel, and now that is a thing of the past," Allen said.

Reunion secretary Carol Andrews-Ferguson says her fondest memory at the school was when she was in 3rd-grade, helping to cook lunch in the cafeteria for her classmates.

"We had the best dinner rolls in Lawton. I mean, the best dinner rolls. I don't care. Any school in Lawton…they could not touch those cinnamon rolls," Andrews-Ferguson said.

Andrews-Ferguson says the person she is most looking forward to talking to at the reunion is her sixth-grade teacher, who was one of her first childhood crushes.

"His name is Tyron Davis and he was the basketball coach, and he was gorgeous. All the girls had a crush on him. Curly hair, bowed legs, and we just had a lot of fun in his class. I mean, we were just like family. It's just like a family," she said.

Andrews-Ferguson says she has spent the last year planning for that family, her school family, to come home to Lawton.

"It's just amazing how many people have just came from all over the United States just to come home to do this. It is so many of us and we are just ecstatic about all of this. We really truly are," she said.

Andrews-Ferguson's aunt is the oldest living student of Dunbar Elementary. Faye Anderson-Bean is 90 years old. She attended Dunbar in 1938.

Dunbar Elementary School was named in homage of nationally-recognized poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, born in 1872, who was one of the first influential African-American poets.

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