By Kevin Kelley
It wasn’t around in the Civil War days. Nor was it around during the 23 previous Civil War Blue and Gray Balls at Lee Burneson Middle School.
The new Lee Burneson Middle School, which opened this year, does have air conditioning. The temperature Friday night, when this year’s ball took place, was a comfortable 72 degrees, so the lack of air conditioning in the new building’s gym might not have been an issue. But during some previous balls, the old Lee Burneson gymnasium provided the authenticity of an August heat wave in the Deep South.
The traditions of “Fort Lee Burneson” continued at this year’s ball, albeit in a new venue. Eighth-graders dressed up as ladies and gentlemen of the era. Soldiers and their dates danced the waltz, and the ladies danced the Virginia reel. Several students performed a play written by teacher Brad Behrendt entitled “Civil Encounters.” In the story, soldiers from the North and the South meet at a river crossing to trade supplies as well as ideologies.
Eighth-graders Alex Rujawitz, Audrey Lyle and Rachael Kaiser were recognized as this year’s winners in the Jon Thompson Civil War Poetry Contest, named after the retired language arts teacher who launched Lee Burneson’s Civil War ball. Sponsored by the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable, the contest asks students to write poetic interpretations of “The Widow,” a painting showing a Confederate widow comforted by the ghost of her husband as she grieves at his grave.