Countdown to brandon high’s 100th celebration stirs memories astrid y gaston lima menu prices


As the school counts down to its 100th anniversary celebration on March 1, forerunners like Young, Dick Stowers and Mary "Lulu" Noriega Denham, who helped shape the tradition of BHS, recall a simpler time of dress codes, respect, trains and snow.

In 1914, the approximately 500 residents of Brandon thought they needed one school to educate all the children in town so they constructed the Brandon Grade School, now McLane Middle School — named for E.F. McLane, who was Brandon’s principal from 1930-1964. It was the third school in the area, but the first to group grades one through eight.

"All that bullying that goes on today, to me, it’s almost like living in a different world," said Young, whose great uncle John Mulrennan came from Ireland at the beginning of the Civil War. He homesteaded 160 acres in 1874 around the area where the road and middle school bear the Mulrennan name today.

Young played clarinet in Brandon’s first band, when music teacher Sarah Tyler was hired for the 1938-39 school year. After graduation, at least three of her classmates went off to fight in World War II, while she got married to her first husband, Harold Powell, eight months after leaving Brandon.

Richard Alan "Dick" Stowers had 94 people in his 1947 graduating class including notable local names such as Lillian Falkenburg, Betty J. Gornto, Elizabeth King and Ruth Virginia Miller. He was born and raised in Hillsborough County and had his future foreshadowed a bit when he used the house that John Brandon’s son, James Henry, built in 1876 (now State Road 60) as his bus stop from the time he was 16 to 18 years old.

Stowers was supposed to attend Hillsborough High School because he lived on his own in a Tampa funeral home where he worked. But he thought the school was too big, so every morning he rode the 7 a.m. Tamiami Trail Bus from Union Station to Brandon where he got off at the Brandon homestead he would later purchase, in 1960, to operate at his own funeral home before retiring in 1997.

"I had a love affair with the old Brandon house," said Stowers, who still owns the land. "I lived in the woods and these woods are full. I can’t believe what a privilege it has been to witness it all. It has been one thing after another. I can remember when there were no fences for cows."

By 1954, elementary students were moved to the new Yates Elementary and four years later middle school students were moved to Horace Mann Junior High. During a population boom in 1957-58, the school truly became Brandon High School, catering to ninth through 12th grades.

About that same time, Justo "Bill" Noriega and his wife, Marie, moved from Ybor City to Brandon in 1954 and opened Bill’s Prescription Center in 1956. Four of their five children attended Brandon High, including Lulu (1977), William (1979), Albert (1980) and Felicia (1981), while John went to Tampa Catholic.

The Noriega children were among the first to attend the current high school, which was constructed in 1972, as cow pastures began to give way to strip malls and 2,549 students showed up for the first year in air-conditioned, carpeted classrooms. Lulu credited Peggy Hill, who taught leadership, as an inspiration to her life — teaching her how to handle problems and groups of people.

Raymond McCoy, class of 1954, taught driver’s ed for 42 years until 2000. John Jelsovsky, class of 1952, taught math and science for 40 years until 1996. After graduating from Brandon in 1936, Annie Belle Akins Thorp became a librarian through 1975.

Peggy M. Osborn taught English, speech, journalism and drama from 1953-1989 and then, after retiring, volunteered another decade in the English department. Her husband, Rod, was a dean and assistant principal and their sons are both Eagles: Tim, class of 1976, and Jamey, class of 1978.

Helen Mulrennan Young beams when she reflects on the simpler times of Brandon High. She is proud of her lifetime membership in the Brandon High School alumni association. The entire Mulrennan family has bricks with their names on them in the McLane Middle School courtyard. The pride endures.