Two dozen people gathered inside the Cherry Hill School on Hilton Head Island at midday Saturday, some leaning against the dark wood walls, others by the brick chimney that still displays a dusty school bell.
People continued to trickle in over the next hour, the door creaking with each swing just as it's done for the past 77 years, since the one-room schoolhouse was built in 1937.
Most of the 40 to 50 people who eventually crowded into the room were former students and teachers at the old, black elementary school or at half a dozen other segregated schools on the island that remain only in their memories and stories.
For many attendees, the reunion was long overdue.
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Just as Julia Bailey hoped, the Old Island Schools of Hilton Head Island Committee gave the community a chance to remember a time when an education was something to celebrate and fight for.
"So much magic took place in these rooms," said Connie Houston-Hall, a member of the Savannah-Chatham County School Board, who attended the island's old Jonesville Middle School.
"It seems like eons ago," Julia Grant Thomas said of her own education on the island, which she had to continue in Savannah after finishing the eighth grade at the old Robinson Junior High School.
At the time, in 1950, there was no black high school on Hilton Head.
"For all intents and purposes, my education should have stopped at ninth grade," Thomas said. "But what we learned in these schools, where we had two or three classes in one room, it stood us in good stead to go on and study harder and make something of ourselves."
Other attendees remembered their times at the old Chaplin, Honey Horn, Spanish Wells, Pope and Hilton Head Island schools.
Some spoke of discipline for any mischief or misbehavior that was echoed by their mothers when they got home, or creative techniques that might land teachers in trouble today. One young teacher taped up the mouth of a particularly chatty pupil, a former student said with a laugh.
Mostly, the students remembered their passion for learning.
Phoebe Driessen, first a student at Cherry Hill and then a teacher on the island, said commencement ceremonies were not always about a featured speaker.
Instead, children would solve long-division problems on the chalkboard at the front of the room or display other skills they'd acquired over the year.
"The parents would be so proud of us," Driessen said. "We'd just show our stuff."
Bailey, who was one of Driessen's second-grade students, said she and other members of the committee began planning the reunion last year. She scoured her phone book for the familiar names of classmates and mailed about 200 invitations.
After the gathering finished sharing memories of the eight school houses and broke for a meal, Bailey stood outside the Cherry Hill School, where a historic marker was unveiled in September. She was pleased by Saturday's turnout.
"Next year, we're going to make it bigger and better."
Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.