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Porterdale reunion a blast from the past

History was made and remembered Saturday as old friends, neighbors and classmates gathered in an old building with no roof that glowed with the past. Some had not seen each other since the same day last year.

The 2014 Annual Porterdale Reunion returned attendees to the childhoods they look so fondly back upon as they reunited in the Porter Memorial Gymnasium Sept. 6 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., celebrating the unveiling of a commemorative historic marker and recently completed rehabilitation to the building.

The gym burned in October 2005 to be unused until a group formed the collect funds for its reconstruction. On May 8, Phase I was completed, and the gym reopened to the city, allowing folks at the reunion to tell stories of growing up within its four now-restructured walls.

“When the gym burned down on Oct. 20, 2005, we came together and said we weren’t going to lose any more of our buildings,” said Kay Coggin, president of Friends of Porterdale Inc., the group driving the effort to rehab the gym. “There’s not a facility, even like it is now, there’s not a facility anywhere around like the Porterdale Memorial Gym.”
Coggin said the next step is to begin Phase II, which is to put a roof back on the building.

“I want to see Porterdale revitalized so it can be a vital part of the community,” Coggin said. “I want people to know they can come out here and they don’t have to be afraid.”

Janice Denny Johnson, whose grandfather was an overseer at the old mill, remembered Porterdale as it was when she was a child: the perfect place to be.

“I was born at that hospital, I went to school in those two schools, I was married in that church,” said Johnson, simply pointing in the direction of her memories.

She moved to Jacksonville, Florida, when she was about 25 years old but moved back to Porterdale and said she loves seeing old friends at the reunion every year. She couldn’t even get one sentence out without waving excitedly or noticing someone new.