A Sign with History by Ashton Bowling

News and Announcements
White sign with blue text Mulberry High School

The first thing to catch an eye upon driving up to Mulberry High School is the blue and white sign that stands at the front of the school.  For more than 50 years, Panthers have hung out or taken pictures by that Mulberry High School sign at the bottom of the hill. However, not many know the story behind the sign. The graduating class of 1957 wanted to leave something special behind for the Panthers that would succeed them. They decided on the concept of a sign thanks to a young man with a special talent for drawing and design, Richard David Stavely (Class of 1957). After graduation, Stavely went on to serve in the Vietnam War and was in Germany from 1958 to 1959. In Richard’s absence, his father, Carl Stavely, enlisted the aid of Richard’s brother, Ansley “Buddy” Stavely ( class of 1961), to bring the concept to life. The sign was built in the summer of 1958. Ansley refers to the sign as “A family pride thing.” He says, “It is even more so now, since it has been there for all these years. Hopefully, it will stay there forever.”

Something that makes the sign unique is its cutout. While most people don’t know that the hollow square was meant to be filled with an image of “Peppy”, our mascot, it has turned out to be the perfect photo space. Countless students have been photographed throughout the years with their heads in the square and those photos have always held meaning for the student body of Mulberry High School. There is just something special about that historic sign. When asked how that made him feel, with a chuckle Ansley Stavely said, “It makes me feel good. That’s something that would make my brother feel good as well, and if my dad was alive, he would feel the same way.”

So many Panthers, past and present, feel a sense of pride and nostalgia connected to that sign. Abigail Chaney (Class of 2021) says, “That sign is what makes the school noticeable, that it’s our school!” Several other alumni feel the same way and hope to see the sign stay. “I don’t think anybody that has ever graduated from Mulberry High School, since that sign was put up, would like it to be torn down,” said Ansley Stavely.

As 2020 comes to a close, the little school on the hill that so many know and love will be moving on up! Mulberry High School will be receiving a much needed upgrade that will encompass so much more than just shiny new walls. Although most of the new school won’t be located on the hill, students will benefit from state of the art classrooms, uniquely designed common areas, the most modern athletic facilities, and much more. Because of the sign’s significance to the community and the Mulberry pride that it symbolizes, Mulberry High School is making sure to preserve it for future generations.

Alumni, we would love to hear any stories you have from your time on the hill, or any information you have about the school. Please reach out to our yearbook adviser, Mrs. Sarah Titak via email at sarah.titak@polk-fl.net or via phone at 941-815-5137 to share your story.