Over 65 former employees of the Storm Lake Public School System gathered at the North Elementary School for the annual retirees reunion luncheon on Thursday afternoon, an event designed to give those who worked in the city's schools a chance to visit and reminisce about their time in the hallways of the various public school buildings around town.
In addition to a meal and refreshments, the retirees were also entertained by kindergarten, third-grade and fourth-grade students, who sang songs, read poems and told Thanksgiving jokes.
Former Storm Lake administrator Jack Kooker, who helped start the luncheon 31 years ago, said the event has become one of the most popular events for retirees of the Storm Lake educational system to participate in.
"When we started this, we only had nine people show up for the event," Kooker said. "It's just taken off and grown to the point where you see all of these people here. I think one of the reasons for this being so popular is that we included everybody in this. We didn't just invite teachers; we invited cooks, bus drivers, custodians and administrators as well. Every one of these people has made a difference in the welfare of the school and the students in these schools, so we wanted to invite everyone here."
One of those retirees who made a difference was Craig Pierce, a school custodian who worked in the Storm Lake system for over 20 years.
Pierce, who retired in 1984 and now lives in Sioux Rapids, worked at all four elementaries and the old South School in his years in Storm Lake, and said he loves making the 20-mile trip every year to visit his former colleagues.
"It's always been a good event to come to," Pierce said. "I love seeing all of these people and the fact that they remember all of the good things that have happened at those schools in the past is great to talk about. We always had a good time working at school."
Fellow custodian Paul Vaughn also remembers the time spent in Storm Lake's school system fondly.
A lifelong resident of the city, Vaughn graduated from high school in 1937 and spent 30 years working as a bookkeeper and fireman at the local fire department before taking a position as a custodian for the public school system.
While most of Vaughn's work centered around North Elementary School, he also helped with custodial work at the other schools in Storm Lake, allowing him to construct relationships with teachers and staff at all of the elementary buildings in the city.
Retired since 1980, Vaughn said he felt the teamwork between all faculty members at the schools was a big part of why he enjoyed working for the district.
"We always had good cooperation and camaraderie between the teachers and the rest of the staff," Vaughn said, "and I remember the teachers always worked together as well. We had a really good set of teachers, because they always helped the students learn. They gave them really good education."
Vaughn also said he was proud to be a former employee of the Storm Lake School District, because those who were part of the district always made the education and welfare of the students their top priority.
"We really tried to help give the kids the best educational experience they could have here in Storm Lake, and I think we were able to do that," Vaughn said. "We've always had a good school system here in Storm Lake, and I think that's going to continue in the future."