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After 50 years, the class of '58 rediscovers Storm Lake

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A specially-reserved trolley from Ida Grove carried the Storm Lake High School class of 1958 in style as they revisited their one-time high school and elementary school sites and circled the field during a Buena Vista University football game on Saturday.

They came from California and they came from Virginia, and a farflung array of points in between, to attend the 50th anniversary renion. And suddenly it was almost as if half a century had not passed.

The homecoming queen - Joann Larson of Storm Lake - was there, and six members of her court. Student body president, Randy Mather of Lubbock, Texas was the reunion chairman.

Jim Moody, the class' speech teacher, was roasted during a dinner event, and Dick Kearney, their chemistry teacher, was also able to attend.

Class members visited the historical museum, King's Pointe resort, the Chautauqua Park shelterhouse, Harker House and other places of interest.

"It's been over 50 years since I was back in Storm Lake," Larry Platt said. His family had moved before his senior year in high school, but his old friends had tracked him down and invited him to the reunion of the graduating class he would have been in.

"The change has been just tremendous," he said of his hometown. "When we got into the residential neighborhoods with their wonderful, big old houses - that was the Storm Lake I remember," he mused. "In the downtown and the business areas, I'm totally lost."

The group chose to gather on Storm Lake High School's homecoming week, which rekindled memories of their own celebration years ago.

"It was an interesting night when our football team was playing their homecoming game. It was raining, I think we lost the game, and our coronation was postponed from half time to happen at the dance at the newly built East School," Larson remembers. "The coronation took place about 11:30 p.m. after all of the people had finally arrived.

"Joann Thomas Samsel was one of the attendants and her parents, Dick and Cleta Thomas opened their home on the lake by Circle Park, so we could watch the game from the upstairs bedroom window so our 'hairdos' wouldn't get wet."

Thirty-five of the 67 class members were able to attend. Class member June Bonebrake Swain led a memorial moment for the nine class members that have passed away. A memory of each was shared, and a helium balloon for each was released with their name inside.

"For those of us who live here, the change is not as dramatic. But for those who haven't seen Storm Lake in years and years, they were really impressed to discover King's Pointe, and they were surprised to find that the city is growing," said Larson.

They also remarked about the condition of the lake.

"At the time we were in high school, it was like a puddle. We would go out and walk around it, and that didn't take long. The docks ended in bare dirt and I don't think the lake was more than a few feet deep," she said.

Class member John Vance chuckled at the sight of the large indoor and outdoor waterparks that have been developed. "When we were growing up, Storm Lake never had a pool. The city fathers would point at the lake and say we had all the water we needed," he said. "We would have to go to Newell if we wanted to swim in a pool."

The class especially enjoyed a Saturday night picnic at the park shelterhouse. "That was basically our youth center. That's where we learned to dance the jitterbug," Larson smiled.

Times have changed drastically for young people, they suggested. "There weren't any video games, we were outside all the time," said Vance, the son of the founder of the DeKalb plant here.

"First you did your chores. My father always said that you would have energy for play after work, but you would never have the energy for work after play," he laughed. "We would play ball until it got too dark to see any more."

The class has been meeting every five years, and the reunions get sweeter with time.

"In our younger years, the reunions were party time. As you get older, you realize how important it is to just visit. I think the reunions get better - nobody is bothering to brag about what they have accomplished any more, it's now just a group fo people who are truly interested in each other," Larson says.

"This is more like a family than a class - we look out for one another," adds Joanne Samsel.

Traveling long distances were: Bruce Barr, California; Joy Boysen Plath, California; Marolyn Claussen McDiarmid, North Carolina; Jim Faust, Montana; Lee Forney, Texas; Shirley French McManus, Arizona; Bob Hansen, California; Nyla Hintz Parks, Colorado; Randy Mather, Texas; Jan Nielsen Bridge, Colorade; Bruce Rankin, Florida; Ken Richarson, Connecticut; Jerry Shafer, California, and John Vance, Virginia.

Work is already underway to plan the next gathering. The trolley won't be a part of the fun. After years of events around northwest Iowa, it is being retired from appearances outside the Idea Grove area.



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