Lakewood OH

The Blue and the Gray avoid the heat and humidity

Lee Burneson Middle School history teacher Brad Behrendt draws a fake mustache on Gianni DellaVella Friday night before the school’s annual Blue and Gray Civil War Ball. at which eighth-graders take on the roles of Civil War soldiers and proper ladies of the era. The ball and a field trip to Gettysburg National Military Park, the site of the famous battle, are the culmination of the eighth-graders’ study of the Civil War. (West Life photo by Kevin Kelley)

Paige Ramach, Drew Redinger and Gina Haders enter “Fort Lee Burneson” during the Grand March of the Blue and Gray Ball.

Mreedul Koirala, Adam Goyetche, Sean Rossander, Griffin Fox and other soldiers demonstrate their musket skills during the manual of arms drill. (West Life photos by Kevin Kelley)


By Kevin Kelley


Air conditioning.

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.




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