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Remember When: 1953

by Rick Blane

The following article appeared in Foundation News in Spring, 2000. Vol. 12, No. 1

What was it like in 1953? When we started our senior year, Harry Truman was still president and Josef Stalin would remain in power until his death later that year. It was the last year for some things and the first year for others. It was the last year we had a freshman class; the following year the freshmen would comprise the ninth grade class at Santa Rosa Junior High School and SRHS would have only sophomores, juniors and seniors. It was also the last year that we had seniors who graduated midyear, in February. After 1953, graduation ceremonies were held only at th end of he school year.

As we started the school year, there were additions to the faculty. Jim Dardis retired as basketball coach and became Dean of Boys. He was replaced as coach by a SRHS graduate and Blanket Award winner named Jack O’Sullivan, who led the C and B teams to North Bay League championships. It was also the first year of teaching for Allene Hankla and Lloyd Gromer. 1953 was the beginning of long, distinguished careers for all three.

We were well dressed. The boys liked Gaucho shirts and argyle socks. The girls wore skirts below the knee with a sweater or blouse topped off with either a scarf or a “peter Pan” collar. Saddle shoes were popular, and the best brand was Spalding. They cost $9.95 at Smith Shoes on Fourth Street. There were complaints about girls who smoked and boys who wore their pants too low. Remember that?

In 1952, we hadn’t even heard of Elvis Presley or Bill Haley and the Comets. We liked Joni James and Perry Como. Our favorite songs included “Jambalaya” and “You Belong to Me” and “Glow Worm.” Our senior year was also the year of the Bunny Hop. I think everybody did it differently. Maybe that’s why the Santa Rosan published instructions on how to do it. I still don’t believe we had dance steps in the school newspaper, but we did. We watched “Crusader Rabbit” and “I Love Lucy” on TV and listened to Red Blanchard on the radio. We described people as “bully, bully” and “real zorch.” We did?

Gary Cooper starred in “high Noon.” He played the part of Marshal Will Kane, who wanted to retire. His new wife, Amy, was played by an unknown twenty-four-year-old named Grace Kelly. Cooper won the Academy Award for Best Actor. “The Greatest Show on Earth” won Best Picture. Do you remember what song from “High Noon” received an Academy Award?*

The biggest club was the Pep Club, and the school Paper told us “all students are required to know the school songs.” In addition to the football, basketball, baseball and track teams, we also had boxing, tennis and tumbling teams. Whatever happened to boxing and tumbling? Anybody know? The girls practice archery on the front lawn. We also had a Bible Club, but do you remember who started the Ukulele Club?

School spirit was high. The competition rally was won by the senior class, and every issue of the Santa Rosan said something about school spirit. I remember the faculty assembly where everyone on the faculty participated.

1953 was the second year SRHS had song leaders (The governing board had voted on it the year before.). I can’t remember the all the names of the son leaders, but I remember they wore pedal pushers and had very long pom-poms. The football team (wearing leather helmets and no face masks) went undefeated that year until losing to Petaluma, 19-0.

Do you remember the movies at noon in the auditorium? For five cents we could see “West Point Story,” “Destination Tokyo” and a series of Abbott and Costello movies. On Saturday nights you could go to the Veterans Memorial and dance to live music: Anson Weeks and his orchestra. It cost 60 cents with a student body card. Do they even have live music anymore?

And did we have parties! We had parties after games, after every dance, slumber parties, surprise birthday parties, going away parties and TV parties. The biggest event was open house at our parents’ homes. We thought nothing of having 200-300 people show up at an open house. At least that’s what they said. Can you imagine that happening today?

In January, President Dwight Eisenhower and Vice President Richard Nixon took the oath of office as we watched on three television sets in the auditorium. It was the beginning of the “Eisenhower Years.” A lot of us had part-time jobs. We worked at Newberrys, Kress, the White House, Rosenberg’s, Woolworth’s and even Tops for Tots in Montgomery Village. Minimum wages was 75 cents an hour.

Anyone remember Mr. Elmore’s interview in the Santa Rosan? He said that a trip to the moon would be possible within the next 25 years and that spaceships (or space stations?) could be assembled in space. He said that in 1953. It was July 20, 1969, 16 years later, when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. I wonder what Mr. Elmore was thinking that day?

We didn’t even have rotary phones. An operator would say, “Number, please.” You’d answer with a combination of numbers and a single letter. For instance, Burlington Bakery was 77, Grohe’s Florist was 112, the White House was 2300 and Stanroy’s Music was 1117-W. Remember your phone number? Mine was 1505-M.

It was 1953. J.C. Penney’s was located on Fourth Street and the Village Super Market was supposed to be very modern. The Salk polio vaccine had not been invented and the Korean War armistice would not be signed until July. Television was black and white, cars didn’t have seat belts or turn signals. Chevrolet had only six cylinder engines, Volkswagens hadn’t really arrived, and we didn’t fly in jet airplanes.

On June 11, 1953, 288 of us graduated on the outdoor stage. Ours was a good year. What have we done since then? Somebody prophesied about that 47 years ago. The final editorial in the Santa Rosan said, “Often in the future, we will proudly say, ‘we are graduates of Santa Rosa High School.’ In like manner, we hope that our accomplishments, in some small way, will make SRHS proud of us.”

Good editorial. We are proud of being SRHS graduates and our personal accomplishments speak for themselves. 1953 was a good year.

* The Academy Award for Best Song was “Do Not Forget Me, O My Darling,” sung by Tex Ritte

Class of 1953 Yearbook

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