Graduation isn’t like it used to be

Growing Up in Grand Forks column written by Milton Orris.

At least some of you will know some of the students of the GFSS Grad Class of 1950: the 13 male grads are (back row from left) Bill Woikin

I was at this year’s GFSS graduation ceremony as I am almost every year.  And I sit there in amazement at how different it is now from what it was in 1950. Yes, this is our 66th anniversary from our graduation day and we are gathering for a reunion on Wednesday to celebrate—with about 10 or 12 of our classmates and friends coming out from our class of 21!

And now the grad classes have grown much larger. A very few years ago there were over 80 grads and this year over 50. The nice thing about 21 in a class is that we all got to know each other so very well, and still so enjoy getting together every five years.

So how did we celebrate, with only 21 in the grad class as you can see from the picture? The ceremony was held in the high school auditorium, packed with parents and family and teachers.  As you can also see, there was a dress code we had to observe—the girls in very similar white long dresses, each carrying a bouquet of flowers. Not sure the short hair was a requirement or just the fashion back then. And no three-inch high heels for sure or long flowing multi-colored dresses, or white suits and jackets on the boys—or some students very casually dressed!

The guys? Dark suits and shoes and modest ties.  For most of us it was the first formal clothing we had ever worn.

The ceremony? Each of us, as they did last Saturday, walk over to the principal (ours was Maurice Klinkhamer) to get our diplomas and then the awards were handed out.  Scholarships and bursaries—is that what I am referring to? No, there was not one cent of financial awards in contrast to this year’s class with over $60,000 in scholarships and bursaries.

We did get awards though, such as Athlete of the Year awards—girls were Peggy Henniger (Phillips) and boys, Barry Phillips (Grade 11 student); Scholar of the Year was Betty Seminoff; and the Citizenship Award to Young Moe who also was chosen as class validictorian.

After the ceremony was the banquet in the cafeteria and then the grad dance. Then the fun really began—we were off to Christina Lake. Two of our classmates, Clinton Atwood and Peggy Henniger, had side-by-side cabins so that is where we went to spend the weekend—boys in the Atwood and girls in the Henniger cabins. Yes, we had teacher chaperons, Mr. Bill Zoellner for the boys and his then-girlfriend soon to be wife Dorothy with the girls.

Friday night was the late night bonfire on the beach, and Saturday night was attending the community dance at the pavilion. All day Saturday (after we all woke up late) and all day Sunday was enjoying the lake—swimming and boating or just having fun.

Peggy’s mom was also there and was our chef par excellence for all our meals. She was up cooking all Saturday night preparing breakfast and getting ready for the other meals as well. And—believe it or not—no booze allowed, and I do think that rule was followed.

I got into the cabin to go to sleep very early Sunday morning and there were no more empty beds in the cabin. What to do?  I noticed the Don Sandners was very sound asleep and had thrown his blanket off to one side so I gratefully picked it up and went to the only remaining big enough space to lie down in—the Atwood’s two hole outhouse. I slept very well until the first urgently in need “customers” arrived later in the morning, knocking very loudly on the latched door.

We have held many reunions—certainly every five years since our 50th—and this year the 66th because we couldn’t get it organized last year for the 65th.  As always, Peggy Henniger (Phillips) has been the driving force behind organizing the gathering.

As far as we can determine about half of the class are still with us, a few we have lost track of. And every one of them I know will be so grateful they had the privilege of attending GFSS as their high school and the wonderful teachers we had: Maurice Klinkhamer, Bill Brown, Bill Zoellner, Ken Armstrong, Margaret Musselman, Ken Parnell, P.C. Glover, Eric Norme, C.W. McKenzie, Edna Baumbrough, Bill Nutt, J.A. Donald and Betty Forshaw. They all contributed so much to our lives and are fondly remembered.

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