What is expected to be the last reunion of Bonny Oaks School alumni is set for Saturday, July 16.
“Although there may be some mini-reunions among alumni, we expect this to be last organized full-scale reunion because our alumni average over 60 in age and the interest of the youngest alumni has not been there,” said Christine Haven, event organizer.
Bonny Oaks School was a children’s home that sheltered youth from 1895-1985. Children placed there were usually deemed neglected or dependent by the court, said Haven, not delinquents.
The children’s home was located on property that is the site of The Dent House and Hamilton County Agricultural Extension Service. The former Bonny Oaks School chapel now houses Chattanooga Church.
All events are free unless noted.
8 a.m.-noon at former school’s site on Adamson Circle
* Flag-raising by alumni who were Boy Scouts and raised the flag while residing in the home.
* Opening ceremonies in chapel, followed by dedication of memorial.
* Mary Helms, Bicentennial Library genealogist, will have scrapbooks in The Dent House containing photos made during the years that Malcolm Adamson and Ken Clay were superintendents.
3-7 p.m. at Chester Frost Park Pavilion
* Picnic for alumni and families, catered food $4 per plate
* Music by Bobby Smith and band
For more information: Email Christine Haven at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Bonny Oaks School reunion July 16
New memorial to be dedicated on grounds of former children’s home
Haven said the reunion will be highlighted by the dedication of a new memorial honoring children who grew up in the Bonny Oaks School. The memorial’s reclaimed materials, a downed campus flagpole and wood from one of the site’s oak trees, hold significance to Bonny Oaks children, she said.
“The flagpole holds special memories for Bonny Oaks children as it always signaled that it was finally Christmas,” she explained. “For 40 years, beautiful lights were strung from the top of the flagpole to the ground in the outline of a Christmas tree.”
Haven said alumni received permission from Hamilton County Real Property Department to take possession of the materials and to erect the memorial in the Bonny Oaks arboretum.
The memorial was created by Mark Cabeen of Ringgold, Ga., and his son, Ben. The elder Cabeen said they donated about 30 hours of manpower to the project.
He agreed to make the memorial in honor of his wife, Betty Chambers Cabeen, who is an alumna of Bonny Oaks School. Cabeen said the couple married in the Bonny Oaks chapel 41 years ago.
Father and son planed an oak limb to the desired shape, routed an inscription into the wood, detailed the lettering in black paint so it stands out, then sanded and finished the wood.
“It’s about 30 inches long, 18 inches wide,” said Cabeen.
Using the flagpole as the stand, the two will erect the memorial today. The final step will be covering the wood in plexiglass to prevent deterioration from vandals or weather.
Haven said the long-range goal of alumni is install a bronze statue on the campus that depicts children playing in an oak tree.
Even though next Saturday marks the end of an era for alumni, they will still access to the website, www.bonnyoaks.com, said Haven.
“The website is designed to find alumni, provide an outlet to visit their childhood friends, and for some, maybe start the healing process they need to come to grips with why they were placed in a children’s home. A childhood looks different when viewed from adult understanding,” she said.
Contact Susan Pierce at email@example.com or 423-757-6284.
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...