It had been 60 years since some grads of the Class of ’52 had seen each other and anticipation hung in the air.
Organizer Ron Wilkinson, who also helped put together the 20th, 30th and 50th reunions, compiled a book for each of the attendees that featured a grad on each page including a yearbook photo and an update about where each graduate’s life had led.
Of the 85 people Wilkinson graduated with, 33 made it to the 60th reunion in Kamloops last week — some from the U.S. and Alberta, but most from B.C. Some live too far away now, and 35 of the group have passed away.
“I have accounted for everybody, whether alive or deceased,” said Wilkinson, who now lives in Scotch Creek.
It was a chance for the grads to recollect about times gone by, an opportunity to see old friends that might never present itself again.
Graduate Claude Richmond, a former Kamloops MLA who served from 1981 to 1991, and again from 2001 to 2009, said he missed the 50th reunion but vowed not to miss this one.
“The funniest thing about it (is that) a lot of the people you haven’t seen for 60 years, you would recognize anyway. Some, you wouldn’t,” he said. “You see the nametag and think, ‘Oh, that’s her!’ It’s interesting, swapping little stories.”
Mary Weetman, who attended with her husband and lives in Vancouver now, said Kam High had no dress code back then and by donning “jeans and runners, we thought (we) were pretty smart.”
Women didn’t have to wear skirts, but “didn’t try” to wear pants, either. But they wore them to the roller-rink on Friday night, she said.
Gordon Lloyd recalled girls donning “skirts and bobby socks, and black-and-white shoes.”
Lloyd became a teacher after graduation, and went on to become the principal of Valleyview and South Kamloops secondary schools. When he retired, he was superintendent of the entire school district.
He thought back to the things the “bad kids” would do in school — like boys would wear “hobnail” boots if they wanted to prove they were rebels, a type of loggers’ boots that have spikes poking out of the soles for grip.
“That was a terrible offence,” he said. “You spent a week in detention if you did that.” You would know where those boys had sat, too, as the floor would be all ripped up in a little circle under whatever desk they were sitting in.
There were 900 people at the school at the time, Lloyd said, and it was “terribly overcrowded.” The school was located at the corner of 6th Ave. and St. Paul Street where the RCMP building is now and moved the following year, making the Class of ’52 the last to graduate from the building.
It housed grades 7 to 13 and Grade 13 was an optional year.
“It gave you first-year university,” Lloyd said, “For those who couldn’t afford to go down to UBC or UVic, (which were) the only universities in B.C. at the time.”
Kam High was the only secondary school in Kamloops.
“Getting high school graduation gave you the entry to most careers,” Lloyd said, “other than ones that required medicine or teaching.
“Grade 12 or Grade 13 was equivalent in employment to what a bachelor’s degree would be now.”
The railway was a big employer in Kamloops, and Lloyd said a number of people from his class went into railway.
Among them was Harry Home, an engineer who was inducted into the railway hall of fame for dedicating his life to restoring one of the last steam engines ever built in Canada.
Others joined the RCMP, went into forestry, or went home to work on the farm if they were rural kids.
“Quite a number went on to university,” said Lloyd. “Proper careers for women then were of course teaching, secretarial work.
“The telephone company was a big one — they became telephone operators, and nursing. A number of the girls from the class went into nursing, and the Royal Inland Hospital at that time had a nursing training school attached to the hospital.”
Dances were popular with Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and the song Tennessee Waltz the faves of the time, said Lloyd.
Students would bus in to Kam High from Monte Lake, from just south of Barriere, Savona and the Skeetchestun Valley, Westwold and sometimes Chase for some programs, even though there was a high school there.
Lloyd wrote a history for Kam High’s website, and said one of the controversies of the time was, interestingly, teacher’s salaries.
They hadn’t increased during the war years and, he wrote, “While there had been some gains since 1945, teachers believed their salaries were not comparable to other professions or even skilled trade workers. Furthermore, female teachers continued to be reimbursed on a salary scale that was not equal to that paid to male teachers.
“In the end,” he wrote, “the concept of equal pay for equal work was accepted and teachers, while not getting what they had hoped to, did make substantial gains in the new contract.”
Roy Stephen visited from the furthest away for the reunion. He travelled from Utah, where he’s retired after a career as a civil engineering professor at the University of California at Berkeley.
“It was a lot of work to put together,” said Wilkinson of the reunion.
But, apparently well worth it for everyone concerned.
WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN 1952:
* The world’s first passenger jet enters service in the U.K. Britain also announces it has the atomic bomb.
* Louis St. Laurent is Canada’s prime minister.
* The Mr. Potato Head game is first manufactured in the U.S.
* Mother Teresa opens the home for the dying and destitute in Calcutta, India.
* Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea is published.
* The hydrogen bomb is detonated for the first time.
* The first Holiday Inn is opened in Tennessee.
* The transistor radio is developed.
* A polio epidemic kills over 3,100 people in the U.S.
Source: www.thepeoplehistory.com and Wikipedia