What is expected to be the final Bonny Oaks School Reunion is planned for Saturday, July 16.
Christine Haven said, "A lot of discussion and thought went into whether this would be the last organized reunion, pooling from many alumni who were there from the 1940s to closing 1985. Everyone questioned, not just a few, and agreed it, sadly, would be the last. However, there may be some mini-reunions when out-of-town alumni visit or at a funeral of an alumni to show our support and love as we did for Gene Hill last week. But a full-blown organized reunion that happens on average every 10-20 years will not be.
"Some factors actually mentioned by the slumni were (1) Bonny Oaks closed over 25 years ago, (2)age, average alumni is over 60 years old, and many have passed away, (3) in talking with someone who was college-educated with the help from Bonny Oaks, leaving there in 1980, he agreed it would be the last reunion as 'his generation' was not as 'tightly knit' as previous generations and he did not believe the involvement would be there for an organized reunion, and (4) the 1940-1970 generation came from a different time of unity and bond and continued to keep in touch with the school."
Ms. Haven also noted that Malcolm Adamson, who was the superintendent for 31 years, died in 2008. She said, "He was a Methodist minister who instilled that unity and bond in the children to come back and visit and be productive citizens and serve others. Mr. Adamson was a strong force of discipline and was behind the influence of Bonny Oaks both on the children and in the administration of it. We felt his loss deeply, and the children still keep in touch with his beloved wife, Mrs. Geo Adamson, who will be at the reunion."
She said Ken Clay, the last superintendent, "is a remarkable, Christian man and continues to care and love all the children. He is retired, lives in Chattanooga but is in ill health and we hope to see him at the reunion too."
Ms. Haven, who was at Bonny Oaks from 1959-1966, said, "The summary reason for this being the last reunion is that Bonny Oaks closed so long ago that people today ask me to repeat the name when I talk about it, most of the alumni are over 60 and the younger generation is not involved with the school or its website like the older generation. Interest has waned to the point that another large organized reunion 10-20 years from now is not a reality."
Ms. Haven is the creator of the website, www.bonnyoaks.com. She said it "will always be there for the alumni. The website is to find alumni and to provide an outlet for them to visit their childhood friends, see the pictures, and maybe even for some to start the healing process they need to come to grips with why they were placed in a childrens home. A childhood looks different when viewed from an adult's understanding.
"On a thankful note, I have talked to many people with Hamilton County who remember Bonny Oaks and they have been most generous in their care, interest and response to us. So that's not saying Bonny Oaks has gone away, we will be active in serving others and will continue our love and gratitude to the Bonny Oaks School and Hamilton County."
She said the group hopes to be able to erect a bronze statue of children in the Bonny Oaks arboretum "when we raise the funds as we all want to see children running on Bonny Oaks grounds again."
The Bonny Oaks School took in Hamilton County youth from 1895-1985. The children were usually determined to be neglected and dependent by the courts, not delinquent or criminal.
Ms. Haven said, "Every child deserves a fighting chance and Hamilton County and the Bonny Oaks School provided just that - an education and religious foundation that served them well throughout their years."
“...and the boys and girls go out from here happy, productive citizens, glorifying God and serving others…” Malcolm M. Adamson -
The reunion schedule for July 16 is:
Morning Location: (No Charge) The Dent House and Chapel on Adamson Circle (original campus on Bonny Oaks Drive) from 8 a.m. to 12 noon.
Activities, Dr. Harry R. Jackson (Alumnus) will MC the morning activities:
(1) Arboretum Adamson Circle: Raising of the flag in the Circle. The flag will be raised by the original Bonny Oaks boys that were in the Boy Scouts and had the honor to raise the flag many times when living at BO),
(2) Chapel (Chattanooga Church): Opening Ceremonies, Welcoming Alumni, family and friends.
(3) Arboretum Adamson Circle: Dedication of the Memorial made from materials reclaimed from Bonny Oaks, and
(4) The Dent House: Mrs. Mary Helms, head of the genealogy department at the downtown Hamilton County Bicentennial Library, will bring the original scrapbooks to the reunion for all to view.
Ms. Haven said, "Now referred to as the 'Bonny Oaks Collection', the pictures were saved over the years by the school then arranged in scrapbooks during the tenure of Superintendents Malcolm M. Adamson and Ken Clay. The scrapbooks contain thousands of photos and are always the highlight of the reunions. Everyone loves to look at pictures of themselves and friends as they are the closest thing to having family albums. Everyone is indebted to Mrs. Helms for personally bringing the scrapbooks for all to enjoy and we thank her immensely."
Afternoon Location: (No Charge) Chester Frost Park Pavilion from 3-7 p.m.
Activities, Bobby Smith (Alumnus) will MC the afternoon activities:
(1) Pavilion: The afternoon get together will be for food and family activities.
(2) There will be a band for entertainment led by a talented Bonny Oaks alumnus, Bobby Smith,
(3) Door prizes,
(4) Food will be catered and est at $4 plate,
(5) Coca Cola has donated sodas and water.
Ms. Haven noted that several weeks ago a tree fell in the Bonny Oaks Arboretum and it took down the flag pole with it. The county determined the flag pole could not be repaired so a new one was ordered. The Bonny Oaks Alumni envisioned creating a memorial to the school with materials made from the downed flag pole and wood from an oak tree on the campus.
Ms. Haven said, "The flag pole held special memories for the Bonny Oaks children as it always signaled that it was finally “Christmas!”. For almost 40 years, beautiful lights were strung from the top of the flag pole to the ground in an outline formation of a Christmas tree. Additionally, the flag pole flew a flag over Bonny Oaks each and every day. Notably, in 1954 and 1961, Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver gave a flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C., to Superintendent Adamson, which he brought back and flew over Bonny Oaks."
She said the Bonny Oaks Alumni filed a formal request to take possession of the broken flag pole with Gail Roppo and Lee Green and received approval.
When the storms hit an enormous limb of the Post Oak tree on the campus fell. Permission was also granted to use it for the reunion and the memorial.
On June 8, permission was obtained through Paul Parker, manager of the Hamilton County real property office, to erect the Memorial in the Bonny Oaks Arboretum.
The memorial will acknowledge the Bonny Oaks School and Hamilton County "for restoring the hope in its neglected and dependent children placed there."
All reunion information can be found on the website www.bonnyoaks.com‘s 2011 Reunion page, and on its “Bonny Oaks Chattanooga” Facebook page.