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Frisco's Newest Graduate: Cletus Bristol (October, 2005)

Cletus BristolCletus Bristol kept the fact that he had dropped out of high school a secret until he let it slip a few months ago during an interview for a book being produced by the Frisco Heritage Association. Even some of his family members didn’t know that he left school early.

“I walked into the Latin class and there were about six questions on the board and I didn’t know any of them,” Bristol told a gathering of friends and family at the Frisco Senior Center Thursday after accepting an honorary diploma from Dr. Rick Reedy, Frisco Independent School District superintendent. He wore a traditional blue cap and gown and even sported the traditional blue and gold tassel.

Bristol, 103, began school in Denton but transferred to Frisco schools in 1914. He doesn’t recall the exact year he quit, but he thinks it was around 1919. He was already working as a grocery delivery boy for McCauley’s Grocery Store on Main Street when he decided to just quit rather than have his friends discover he might not get promoted for graduation, he said.

Buddy Minett, president of the Frisco School Board, added his congratulations to Bristol, noting that Latin is no longer a required subject in Frisco schools but that Bristol has learned other life lessons that FISD tries to instill in students such as the importance of “hard work and good character.”

Sandy Simpson, wife of Mayor Mike Simpson, and Val Maso, wife of council member Maher Maso, attended on behalf of their Cletus Bristol graduationhusbands and other council members who were unable to attend. Mrs. Simpson read a letter of congratulations from Mayor Simpson.

Connie Yates, director of public relations for Tom Thumb, presented Bristol with a letter from the CEO of Safeway. Bristol moved to Dallas in the 1920’s to continue his grocery career. He worked for Safeway for more than 40 years, starting as an onion shucker and working his way up to store manager. Yates, noted that even though now Tom Thumb is owned by Safeway, she was sure Bristol spent many years working hard to keep his Safeway Stores competitive with the Tom Thumb stores. Tom Thumb also presented Bristol with a graduation cake and blue and gold baskets of mums to brighten the Frisco Senior Center where he goes every day.

When most seniors graduate their tassel ends up on the rearview mirror of their car or truck. Bristol no longer drives but he admitted while being fitted with his graduation gown that in his younger days he worked hard and “burned the midnight oil,” he said pausing and grinning, “mostly in a Model-T.”