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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Summer of '42

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Remembering young romance

Storm Lake High School has been an important part of the lives of thousands of graduates through the years - and the memories even more so.

The graduates of 1942 have remained close since they walked out of the high school and on the average, they get together every five years - in fact, the local members of the class usually get together one Tuesday a month for breakfast. If an out-of-towner classmate is in the area, the breakfast date is switched to include him or her, as well.

Seven members of the class came together over the weekend to reminisce again and to celebrate their 65th year of graduation.

Present were Storm Lakers Ray Mittelstadt, Don Elk and Richard Anderson; Herb Behrens, Wakefield, RI; Barb (Rhinehart) Harjes, Sac City; Dorothy (Hughes) Whalen, Tucson, Ariz.; and Anita (Prichard) Martin, Waukon.

The group spent time at the new King's Pointe, toured the historical museum, posed for a picture in front of their old high school (now South Elementary, about to be replaced with a new school). The visiting was spirited.

Friendships, whether separated by a few weeks or many years, resume right where they left off. Spouses have also come to know each other as well. "I've never seen a class so close," said Marilyn Mittelstadt, Ray's wife.

"The first reunion I came to was our 45th," said Dorothy. "We were beyond that age then of comparing our differences.

"All those things like jobs and other things we've done in life. We talked about what we did in school. It's all about reminiscing. It seems the older we get the more meaningful these 'young' friends are. They are still special because we became friends when our lives were still being shaped. There were cliques but we all knew and respected each other."

Anita commented, "I can't remember where I put my glasses 15 minutes ago but I can remember what happened with these people 65 years ago! We have always been close. We had one of the smallest classes with 59. It's not the quantity but the quality!"

Richard agreed. The one thing that sticks out the most in his mind is "that we were the best!"

The classmates talked about being involved in sports - "I was average," shared Ray; and cheerleading - "Green and white, fight, fight," chants cheerleader Barb - and about the music program - "Mr. Owen was really good looking and everyone idolized him," said Dorothy. "He was so kind and encouraged us, never discouraged us." (That's why the numbers of participants, girls especially, was so high.)

The classmates recalled when the school colors were pink and green. "That was awful," said Anita, glad that they were changed to white and green by the time the class became freshmen.

Anita also shared that the girls weren't allowed to wear slacks to school - except for one designated day per year! One girl wore slacks on a day not designated as slack day. "We were appalled," said Dorothy, though she doesn't remember if there was a punishment for her.

There were dances at the school every Friday night. "I wasn't a good dancer but I went and had fun," shared Herb.

Dorothy recalled that playing Cherokee in football was an annual event. It was decided in their junior year to have a dance following the football game and invite the Cherokee students to stay for it. A great deal of decorating was done in the gym for the event but a big snowstorm came up and canceled the game. Instead of letting the decorations and the idea of a dance go to waste, Dorothy said, several of the students "broke in" to the school. Don Elk brought in his record player and records to allow the dance to go on!

She added that she believes the custodian left the doors open... so they really didn't break in!

It goes to show that music was and still is an important part of SLHS. Anita shared that when the students prepared for the annual play, their director allowed a 15-minute break when the popular Glenn Miller Band program came on the radio.

In the small class there were some romances - Barb married classmate Orville Harjes (now deceased) and Anita and Herb dated. "She taught me to play cribbage and I still play," Herb said.

There were the usual pranks and acts that many high schoolers take part in.

"I used to get in trouble for talking too much and had to write 5,000-word themes for punishment. I didn't recover from that," she said, adding she still enjoys talking!

She added that she and a few others skipped school for an hour once and felt so bad. "But we weren't brave enough to skip all day!"

Ray shared a memory that administrators set a new rule one year that all books needed to be carried from class to class so that the students would not have to go back to their lockers in between classes. "Guys started bringing wagons and wheelbarrows into the school to use so that put an end to that," he laughed, reassuring everyone that he was "only a witness" to the activitiy!

As high schoolers, the kids hung out at the Vista Theatre - and perhaps saw classmates Ray or Herb ushering, enjoyed 5-cent burgers next door at Sweezey's Hamburger Shop or had a 25-cent malt at Fairmont Ice Cream Shop on the other side of Vista. Their transportation to get them around town? By foot, of course, and no one seemed to mind.

Anita talked of the differences of going to school back in the '40s as compared to now.

"We had good teachers," she said adding that Latin was available for the students to take at that time. "There are so many things that kids can be today that we couldn't be."

College was not available for everyone, as it is today; choices for the girls were teachers or nurses and many graduates just found a job around town. A majority of the men, during those years, enlisted in the service and went off to defend their country during World War II. Anita said she chose to be a nurse and if she had all the choices available to today's women, she still would have made the same decision.

The Class of '42 members are now in their 80s and cherish each and every time they get together. They will continue to care for each other all the days of their lives and they still love coming back to Storm Lake.

"We are good friends," said Herb.

"I am glad I grew up in a town like this," Anita added.

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