Well, it has been about two weeks since we celebrated our 100th birthday, and the excitement from that day is starting to wind down. I must say that it was an awesome time. The gates opened at 3 p.m. and time flew by. We were regaled in days past by former teacher, now our superintendent, Mr. Ed Gonzalez. Mr. Beckett, the unofficial mayor of Dixieland, explained what it meant to him and his family to be a part of the tradition, and history, that is Dixieland.
We were visited by dignitaries from throughout the area, who in one way or another had some special ties to the site. For Mayor Poythress, it was about having to move “south” of the river, for school board member Michael Salvador, casting a vote to save Dixieland from closure. For longtime Dixieland area family member Bill Jantzen, about the community and its rich history. We received a recognition award from Madera County Supervisor David Rogers. We were visited by Velma Hansen, Dixieland Class of 1929 and her sister, Alta Jones, Class of 1931, (I hope I’ve gotten these names correct).
In addition, I walked around seeing people chatting and eating, and just having a good time in general, talking about old times. I was told stories about a prior principal Mr. Lucas, and his “discipline” procedures, much different than today’s methods. They laugh about it now, but I am sure they weren’t laughing at the time.
It was fun to watch the people walk down the halls and look at all of the old pictures, days of their youth, and run into someone they haven’t seen since those days. It was difficult to gather them up to start the proceedings they were having such a good time.
The common theme for whomever I spoke to, was one that Dixieland had a special place in their lives, and that still rings true today. Dixieland is a place of refuge from the hustle and bustle of city life. Where you can still be a kid and not have to worry about who is around the next corner. A staff that truly cares about each student, knows the family, and has had the siblings, and even the parents, in their class. A parent community that knows the staff and what it means to have their child attend Dixieland.
I often refer to Dixieland as Disneyland. I have been blessed with a wonderful staff, who took up this centennial celebration challenge as a staff. We were led by two outstanding teachers, Nancy Gage and Sharon Cotter, who made sure we were all doing our jobs.
In closure I would like to say thank you to all who donated time and money, and to those, past and present, who made Dixieland what it is today.
Kliff A. Justesen, principal