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Remember When: 1947

by Rick Blane

In 1947 we were “teenagers,” a new word for the English language. We peppered our own talk with many other new words, words that older folks didn’t use. Do you remember who was “Joe Schmo” or a “schmuck?” What was an “Able Grable?” or a khaki wacky?” Did you ever eat “hen fruit” or ever “flip your wig” or ask “What’s buzzin’, cousin?” Did you say any of those?

All 223 of us in the Class of ’47 graduated when big changes were happening in America and Santa Rosa. The threat of foreign invasion was over with the end of WW II, but some of us feared invaders from space. Remember the UFO scare in New Mexico?

Boys on Bench, photo 1947 EchoKon Tiki was launched to test whether ancient Polynesian sailors had come to the New World. The Cold War began, Israel was created, the Spruce Goose flew (for a while), the transistor was invented and the sound barrier was broken.

In Santa Rosa the population was growing and housing was being built for it. The Hillcrest subdivision north of the Rural Cemetery was the first, and at the cemetery’s southern edge Hugh Codding quickly followed with more houses and Town and Country Village, the first shopping center. Mendocino Avenue was still Highway 101, but there was lots of talk about a location for the “freeway.”

The school year at SRHS opened with 10 new teachers. Among them were the misters King, Nichol, Crockett, Wallstrum, Smith, Gromer, Kreinberg (who said he “liked the absence of girls in shirts and Levi’s”). Mrs. Rothert, Miss Smith and Miss Valentine also joined the faculty. Many of these teachers would enjoy long careers at SRHS.

Principal Battelle resigned that fall for a state job in Sacramento. Mr. Duey was acting principal until the “acting” part was removed in the spring. “Wild Bill” Rankin was second in charge. Mr. Guymon’s drama students won a 9th straight Forensic League championship. Mr. Wasmuth wore those wonderful ties, Miss Spaulding was strict but nice, and Mr. Elmore blew up things in the chem lab.

The girls did wear dad’s old shirts and Levi’s but never to school—just on weekends or after class. They liked white or pink lipstick, angora sweaters, knee-length dresses and white buck shoes that had to be Spaldings, probably purchased at Smith’s Shoes where feet were fitted in an x-ray machine. Loafers could be had at Rosenberg’s for $4.98 and a short–sleeve cardigan for $9.95 at The White House.

Everybody went stag to the Press DanceWe guys could wear Levi’s to school. We also wore corduroy pants that were seldom washed and which people autographed. We bought them at Henderson’s or Keegan Brothers and wore our “more miles to a Gallen Kamp” high-top sneakers. We were supposed to wear shirts with a collar and keep our hair trimmed—and we did. Do you remember the transfer student who showed up in a zoot suit? He was sure out of place, so he changed his wardrobe in a hurry. The small town of Santa Rosa didn’t understand “zoot.”

Many of us picked prunes, cut pears, harvested hops and apples to buy our school clothes. Wartime rationing had conditioned us to save and conserve, so we made those hard-earned purchases last a long time.

Kurlander’s Pool Hall. Did you go there after school? Some guys did, but most guys and girls went to the Wink or the Sunrise Creamery to listen to the jukebox and maybe have a malt, a lemon Coke or a sandwich.

We could go to Santa Rosa Music Store or Stanroy’s and listen to the latest records in the privacy of a booth. Do you remember Frankie Laine singing in the Stanroy’s window? I do, it was a “big deal.”

Television hadn’t really arrived yet, but the radio kept us entertained at night as we listened to comedy programs like Fibber McGee and Molly and The Great Gildersleeve. For adventure there was The Lone Ranger and Terry and the Pirates. If we wanted suspense, we heard Mr. DA or The Haunting Hour.

The Roxy or the California theaters ran wonderful films like The Angel and the Badman, the Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (Remember the teenage Shirley Temple?), The Miracle on 34th Street and Life with Father.

The Tower next to Rosenberg’s opened, but we thought it was for the older generation. It had loge seats and showed movies few of us wanted to see.

Big Hits – 1947

Chi-Baba, Chi-Baba ~ Perry Como
Near You ~ Francis Craig
Ballerina ~ Vaughn Monroe
Peg O’ My Heart ~ The Harmonicats
Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette ~ Tex Williams
Across the Alley ~ the Mills Brothers
Mam’selle ~ Dick Haymes
Linda ~ Buddy Clark
This Land is Your Land ~ Woody Guthrie
Open the Door, Richard ~ Count Basie
Blue Moon of Kentucky ~ Bill Monroe
Call It Stormy Monday ~ T-Bone Walker
Move It on Over ~ Hank Williams
That’s My Desire ~ Frankie Laine

If we had somewhere to go, we walked or our parents drove us because cars were in short supply after the war. Few of us could afford one, so few student cars were seen on campus. Some of them had nicknames. Everyone recognized the “Flying Coffin” and the “Blue Beetle.”

We even had nicknames for each other. The senior horoscopes in the school newspaper at the end of the year listed them all. My friends called me “Bogie.” Principals Battelle and Duey also had nicknames. Do you remember them?

The ’47 Panther football team was the undefeated NBL Champion, battling the Vallejo Apaches to a 0-0 tie and defeating the arch-rival Petaluma Trojans, 26-7 in Egg City. Coach Underhill was proud, and the stands were always filled with Panther rooters. We even formed a pep club that year, the “Panther Peppers.”

Student body officers were elected twice a year in those days, at mid-year for the spring semester and in the spring for the next fall. Usually, lots of candidates stepped forward to run for office, but in the January election most of them ran unopposed, just 7 girls and 1 guy vying for 7 positions. A juicy rumor said that a teacher had attempted to sabotage the election for personal benefit by encouraging students not to run. But how? Why? Who knew for sure?

Girls sit on the lawn at noonThe Golf and Country Club held a dance for us at Christmas. We laughed quietly to ourselves when they called us “the younger set.” We thought we were pretty grown up because we went to Mirabel, Hilton, Rio Nido and The Grove to jitterbug and listen to the big bands playing along the river. Do you remember that Lionel Hampton, Tommy Dorsey and Stan Kenton all played there?

We went swimming at Camp Rose or Palomar up by Healdsburg. The very adventurous went to Sonia’s, just past Mark West Springs.

We went to Salmon Creek and buried each other in the sand and roasted hotdogs and marshmallows. We smeared iodine and baby oil on our skin as we lay in the sun to tan. We went to the swimming pool, the “tank,” on King Street and the Roller Rink on Santa Rosa Avenue.

We sure had our share of fun in 1947, and looking back now, 60 years later, as I mull over these memories, I realize that SRHS and the small town that was Santa Rosa were the best places in the world to spend four years of high school.

» Class of 1947 Yearbook

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