Nearly everyone has seen old movies where a schoolhouse bell signals the start of a new academic year. Although those days are all but gone, the tradition lives on. In fact, Blue Tide football fans soon will see — and hear — an old-time chime during games at Long County High School’s Veterans Stadium, where a historic bell recently was hung.
The bell, which hung in an old Long County schoolhouse in the early 1920s, was moved to the stadium to recognize the past, celebrate the present and symbolize a hopeful future, according to school officials. The Blue Tide Bell was donated by Jan and Ron Johnson, who both said they’re glad it now is back where it belongs.
Jan Johnson said she and her husband acquired the historic bell when they purchased the Buccaneer Club in 1974. Johnson said the bell had been placed in the restaurant in 1956 by the former owner, the late Minnie Lee Clelland. Clelland told Johnson that she got the bell after the old schoolhouse it hung in burned down. Clelland put the bell on a cinder block in front of the restaurant, where it remained until the eatery burned down in 2001. Johnson said she and her husband put the bell up but always felt it should be hung near a school.
Earlier this year, Johnson contacted the Long County School System, told administrators about the bell’s history and offered to donate it to the school system.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Glenn Purcell picked up the bell and the refurbishment process soon was under way. However, restoring the bell to its former glory was only part of the project. Officials also had to decide where to place the historic item. Veterans Field, where the high school football team plays Friday nights, was chosen so that students, faculty members, Tide fans and supporters could enjoy hearing it ring again during games.
Once the bell was refurbished, Johnson Land Clearing and Construction owner Wes Johnson volunteered to build a platform for it. Price Chapman, Dewitt Middleton and Cecil Stafford donated historic Ludowici tile to adorn the platform’s roof, and one piece of new tile from the current Ludowici Tile Company was added, indicating that Long County’s past, present and future always will be linked together.
“We’re very excited about the bell being at the football field, and we know that Ms. Minnie Clelland would have wanted it to be back at the school,” Jan Johnson said.
Middleton said that even though he was very young when the bell hung at the old schoolhouse, he does remember it.
“I can barely remember it,” he said. “I must have been in first or second grade, but I am so glad to have been able to help with the project. Seeing it here brings back fond memories.”
Board of education member Emma Strickland and Chairman Dempsey Golden attended Monday’s dedication ceremony.
“It’s wonderful how the community came together to put all of this together. With it being rung at the football games, it will begin a new tradition, and on behalf of the board, we’re thrilled to have it here,” Golden said.
According to Waters, at every home football game, a guest of honor will ring the Blue Tide Bell as the football team runs onto the field and every time a touchdown is scored.
Jan Johnson rang the bell Monday and, according to Waters, she will return Friday to be the guest of honor bell-ringer for another dedication ceremony at 7:10 p.m. and the Tide’s first home game of the season.
“We’re so excited and very proud,” Waters said. “We are thankful to Ms. Jan and all of the others who helped get us to where we are today.”