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South Florida Sun-Sentinel Palm Beach (Sunday) - - LOCAL -

It’s had its heyday, and its share of trou­bles. But through­out, Dixie Court has been a source of com­mu­nity, fam­ily and be­long­ing — home and heart. And in that vein, dozens turned out Satur­day for a fam­ily re­union­style gath­er­ing to cel­e­brate the 80th an­niver­sary of the com­plex gen­er­a­tions have called home.

Fam­i­lies past and present so­cial­ized, hugged and laughed. Ham­burg­ers and hot dogs were served. Boo­gie mu­sic stoked dance moves. Elec­tion­eer­ing buzz for the state’s first black nom­i­nee for gover­nor, Demo­crat An­drew Gil­lum, and Amend­ment 4, which would re­in­state vot­ing rights for cer­tain con­victed felons in Florida, en­er­gized the mood.

Matthew Bankston, 59, has lived in a bun­ga­low here for a year now. But his mem­o­ries go back much fur­ther than that. His 102-year-old grandma raised five chil­dren at 306 W. Dixie Court.

The apart­ments are sit­u­ated be­tween Broward and Sistrunk boule­vards and a cou­ple blocks west of Powerline Road. Walker Ele­men­tary School is right across the street and an­other cou­ple blocks east is New Mount Olive Branch Church, a cor­ner­stone of the city’s black com­mu­nity.

Nezzie Mar­ion and her hus­band, Pre­ston, came to Fort Laud­erdale from Ge­or­gia in the 1940s, Bankston said. Grandpa was look­ing for work. He jot a job with the county as a gravedig­ger and they stayed.

“It was a lot of close fam­i­lies and they looked out for each other,” Bankston said.

He re­calls birth­days, Christ­mas and Easter hol­i­days cel­e­brated at grandma Nezzie’s Dixie Court home. Fond­est mem­ory of all, he said, is the year all the kids got roller skates from Santa Claus.

“Yep, a new pair of dun­ga­rees — they call them jeans now — a long-sleeve plaid shirt and a pair of skates,” Bankston said. “We couldn’t af­ford noth­ing else.”

Satur­day’s event was a nice op­por­tu­nity to remi- nisce, Bankston said. “It was real nice. A lot of old-timers came out.”

In 2013, a mul­ti­mil­lion­dol­lar in­vest­ment fu­eled an up­grade and re­build of the 254-apart­ment com­plex. The units now come with en­ergy-ef­fi­cient ap­pli­ances, cen­tral air-con­di­tion­ing, garbage dis­pos­als and dish­wash­ers.

Mary Du­mas, 55, moved in right after the re­model. Her neigh­bor, Ver­tulie Fer­di­nand, 69, came along just four months ago from Pom­pano Beach. She’d been liv­ing there with her daugh­ter who re­cently moved to At­lanta.

This is the first time Ferdi- nand has ever lived alone, or as she put it, “this is the first time I’ve ever had my place to my­self.” And she likes it “very much.”

Es­pe­cially this Satur­day af­ter­noon. The air is cool and breezy. It’s nice sit­ting out­side on a chair next to her neigh­bor, chat­ting, lis­ten­ing to the mu­sic play, watch­ing the as­sort­ment of per­son­al­i­ties in­ter­act, feel­ing part of a com­mu­nity.

“They should do this more,” Fer­di­nand said.

tealanez@ sun-sentinel.com, 954-356-4542 or Twit­ter @ta­lanez

TONYA ALANEZ/SUN SENTINEL

Matthew Bankston's 102-year-old grandma raised five chil­dren at Dixei Court Apart­ments in Fort Laud­erdale.

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