Three dozen octogenarians celebrate class of 1958 high school reunion

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Posted October 26, 2022 | By Marian Rizzo
Special to the Gazette

Hope Meffert hasn’t missed a single reunion held by Ocala High School’s class of 1958. On Saturday, Oct. 22 the class members gathered once more to celebrate 64 years since they graduated.

“We’ve had a reunion every five years since we graduated,” Meffert said. “Our class has always been very active in promoting a reunion. We diligently plan and look forward to it. We had a vote at the reunion last Saturday. Now, we’re going to have one once a year, because of our age.”

Meffert remembers when classes met in the former building on Fort King Street, now home to Marion Technical Institute. She said her class was the second to graduate from that building. Originally, Ocala High School was in a building near Eighth Avenue in the historic district, she said.

The name changed from Ocala High School to Forest High School in the 1970s, and in 2005 a new campus was built on Maricamp Road.

To Meffert and her classmates, however, it’s always been Ocala High School and it always will be.

“There’s still enough old Ocala and the popularity of that high school remains,” she said.

“It’s not Forest High School (to us). Our colors were green and white. Forest is green and gold.”

For months before the reunion, an informal planning committee of about 15 alumni met regularly to plan the event. Meffert admits the meetings were really social gatherings, and the plans were kept simple. People agreed to help notify former classmates, and the decision was made to order the food from Sonny’s BBQ, she said.

In previous years, the reunion spanned an entire weekend and included a Friday night banquet, a Saturday afternoon barbecue, and sometimes golf or tennis. Now, the festivities are limited to just the barbecue, she said.

“It’s a quieter event,” said Meffert. “When you’re 82, things calm down some. We used to jitterbug and have a live band. It’s more casual now, and there are a lot fewer people than we used to have.”

This year’s reunion was hosted by Anna and Larry Moody on their 10-acre farm in southeast Ocala. The afternoon barbecue tends to be less formal than the evening banquet when “you don’t get to talk to anybody except people sitting at your table,” Anna said.

She compared the afternoon gathering to a family reunion.

“It was kind of an all-day event,” said Anna. “People started arriving at 11 o’clock and left about 4. We moved from table to table and talked to just about everybody. Ocala was so small back then, if they didn’t know you, they knew about you. We were like family, like distant cousins.”

The Moodys’ pole barn served as a gathering place for 33 classmates, who came with spouses and children, bringing the total attendees to 55, said Anna. While most of the folks still live locally, some came from other Florida locations, such as Fort Myers, and one gentleman came all the way from Virginia, she said.

This was the third time the Moodys have hosted the event.

“Everybody knows how to get here,” Anna noted. “It’s convenient and we’ve got the place for it, so why not? If they had a long drive, they’d get one of their children to drive them.”

As high school sweethearts, the Moodys both graduated in 1958. Larry was quarterback with the Ocala Wildcats, and Anna was a cheerleader for one year. After graduation, they attended different colleges and married in 1961.

Larry, who also participated in track, has fond memories of playing football for Ocala High School. He said the team competed with other high schools all over northeast Florida from Gainesville to Tallahassee, adding that 1958 was a good year for his team.

“We were the northeast conference champions that year,” said Larry.

Playing regularly at Webb Stadium was much like what happens at the Jervey Gantt Recreation Complex every Saturday morning in the fall, only on a lesser scale, Larry said. “Cars filled up the parking lot and several blocks around it.”

Two other football players attended this year’s reunion—the center and the kicker, said Larry.

“We could have shown off a little bit, but we were just happy to be up and about,” he said, chuckling. “It was the biggest group of old people we’ve been with in a long time. It was a good day, just perfect. A light breeze kept everybody cool, and we ate good. God really blessed us that day.”