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Remember When: 1957

by Rick Blane

The following article appeared in Summer, 1997 Foundation News, Vol. 9, No. 2

In 1957 Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier and the girls said fairy tales do come true. Earlier that year, she was in High Society with Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. It was the only time she would ever sing in a movie—she sang True Love with Bing Crosby. Remember that

Around the World in 80 Days won best picture and Yul Brynner and Ingrid Bergman won Oscars, but Humphrey Bogart died. Something about cancer. Life started getting spicier. Do you remember Brigette Bardot in And God Created Woman? Or The Moon is Blue at the Roxy? Or the new kinds of nightgowns that started showing up after Carroll Baker appeared in Baby Doll? I remember certain seniors reading Peyton Place in Miss Neely’s study hall. But in Miss Godward’s English class, Peyton Place was not only discussed, Miss Godward used the unspoken sex word. Were we losing our innocence?

Not really. In 1957 we were naïve, fun loving, respected ourselves, respected each other and looked clean cut (some of us weren’t that clean cut—we were too busy being cool). We were proud of our parents, our successes, our cars and sometimes we used common sense. We had good teachers: Mr. King, Mr. Campbell, Mrs. Schneider, Mr. Condit, Mrs. Hankla, Mr. Gromer and Miss Spaulding, just to name a few. And which one used to reward (or bribe) us with lollipops?

How will we be remembered? Maybe we’ll be remembered for the Volkswagen on the second floor of the main building. Remember how they did it? In 1957 we were aerious about cars. Hardtop racing was going to start in early June. When we heard the drag strip at the Cotati airstrip wasn’t going to open, we protested by having a drag race from the student parking lot, past the auto shop and ending at Ridgway Avenue. I can’t remember who won, but nobody got in trouble. Or did they? Anybody remember?

Speaking of getting in trouble, who can forget Chief Dutch Flohr and the Santa Rosa Police Department. In 1957, Santa Rosa’s population was 32,500. Brush Creek Road and East Foothill Drive were part of the city limits and there were only 33 officers in the police department. But I remember Wally Stevens and George Scinto, and who can forget Officer Homer Lee, whom we called “rat face.” But the worst thing that could happen to you was to be hauled into Dutch Flohr’s office, get chewed out and be told that he was going to call your parents or (worse yet) you had to go home and get a note from them. It only happened to me once and now I know it was the best thing that could have happened to me.

The junior class though we were kind of wild, but we weren’t. IT was the start of rock and roll, but we still liked Mr. Sandman, Moments to Remember, How Much is That Doggie in the Window and Mission Bells. Johnny Mathis sang It’s Not for Me to Say and Chances Are. Elvis Presley had a hit with All Shook Up but Tammy was #1 that year. Snooky Lanson and the Hit Parade Singers went off the air in 1957. And wasn’t it Jackie Gleason who said of Elvis: “he can’t last. I tell you flatly—he can’t last. American Bandstand was just starting, and Dick Clark looked like a square to us. He probably wouldn’t last either.

1957 was when Don Larsen pitched a perfect game in the World Series and the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants made plans to move to the West Coast. Things were cheaper. Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung signed with the Green Bay Packers for an estimated $16,000. You could buy a new Volkswagen for $1, 595 and drive to Mills Patio for a “complete steak dinner” for $1.65 (look at page 29 in the ads in the Echo).

On TV we watched Dragnet, Ed Sullivan, Playhouse 90 and Twilight Zone. There were lots of westerns to choose from: Maverick, Cheyenne, Gunsmoke, and Have Gun, Will Travel. I liked George Gobel and The Lone Ranger, but you had to walk back and forth to change channels on the round-looking tube. Really lame. Remember that?

1957 was the year Arkansas Governor Faubus called out the National Guard to stop nine Negro (that was the term then) students from attending public high school. Later, I learned that one of them moved to stay in Santa Rosa for safety reasons. Some goofy designer came up with the sack dress, and Matell created the Barbie doll. Diane Romero was Miss Sonoma County. The “Flamingo Garden Hotel” would open the same weekend we graduated. And it was June 1957 when Santa Rosa changed to a rotary telephone system and we learned to dial the new prefixes: LI 2, 5 and 6. Do you remember your Liberty number? Mine was LI 5-3620.

We still had our traditions. The Girls’ League hosted the Senior Tea for graduating senior girls. That year it was at Gail Reed’s house on Jacqueline Way. I wonder when they stopped having that tea?

Not everything was rosy. We realized our mortality; we lost a classmate in a car accident and a married senior girl was told she couldn’t go through graduation ceremonies because she was pregnant. We found out that drinking would be our worst enemy. Times were changing.

We knew that—all too soon—a second high school would be built in Santa Rosa. The Class of 1957 was the last class that had attended only one junior high school—Santa Rosa Junior High (Slater had opened in 1955), and so somehow we were a part of something called history.

But why were we different? We talked about that recently as we planned our reunion. I guess we were just as unpredictable as any other graduation class, but looking back, we learned so much from our friends, both in laughter and in pain. We respected our elders because they earned our respect. We knew what we could get away with and what we couldn’t. We learned a lot at SRHS, in class and outside of class.

But now after 40 years, we realize how fortunate we were. Sure, times were different. But as a class, we have returned to say thanks—thank you to our parents, to our class mates, to our teachers and to a placed called Santa Rosa High School. Thanks for all the memories—the very fondest of memories.

Class of 1957 Yearbook

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