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Remember When: 1962

by Rick Blane

The following article appeared in the Spring, 2002 Foundation News, Vol. 14, No. 2

1962 was a good year—a great time to be a senior. The world was safe and secure. Times were good. President John F. Kennedy had been in office for only nine months when we started our senior year. He had talked about passing the torch to a new generation of Americans and had a national program called the New Frontier. He was forty-three years old. He was young and many of us identified with him.

It was the year that fifty-six million people watched Jackie Kennedy conduct a televised tour of the White House. The newspapers said she had a “soft, breathy voice, was poised, dignified and was an immediate hit.” I know I was impressed.

Later that same month, on February 20, John Glen circled the earth three times in his Friendship 7 space capsule and became a national hero. Kennedy had said the United States would out a man on the moon by the end of the decade, and suddenly we thought we could do that too. The Mercury space program would later be followed the Apollo space program. We were off and running. Spirits were high. Things were good.

The introduction of the Volkswagen had changed the US automobile market. Smaller cars, both domestic and foreign, were being produced. Do you remember the Ford Falcon and the Chevy Corvair? Whatever happened to the Hillman-Minx? How about the Renault Dauphine with the “country horn” and he “city horn?” Remember what you paid for gas? About 31 cents a gallon.

Prices weren’t bad. You could still buy a hamburger, French fries and a Coke for less than $1.00 at Gordon’s or Eat-n-Run. Capri pants went on sale at Rosenberg’s for $5.99. For the boys, a Panther sweatshirt at Keegan Bros. Cost $3.95 and a charcoal suit was available for $55. The senior cruise included a bus trip to San Francisco, a cruise on the bay, a buffet dinner and dancing to a live band. All that cost $7.00 per person. A first class stamp cost 4 cents. Minimum wage was $1.15 an hour and the average annual wage was $4,291. Times have changed!

There were some changes locally. Rosenberg’s was being remodeled and Santa Rosa had its first try at one-way streets. We heard that State Farm Insurance would be moving its headquarters to Santa Rosa. Wasn’t 1962 the year that the Los Robles Lodge opened? Alfred Hitchcock began filming “The Birds” in Bodega Bay that year. The Cal and the Roxy had double features while the Village and Redwood drive-ins sometimes had triple features. Floyd Patterson was still the heavyweight champ.

But back then, there was still a rural aspect to Santa Rosa. The local prune growers convinced the board of education to delay the start of school so that students could help harvest the local prune crop. School started one week later than was planned. That was how our senior year started—can you see that happening today?

The Academy Awards focused on people of strength and conviction. Anne Bancroft won Best Actress for “The Miracle Worker,” and Gregory Peck received Best Actor for his role in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Best picture was “Lawrence of Arabia.” Probably the most suggestive movie was “La Dolce Vita.”

We had our choice of westerns on TV: “Gunsmoke” on Friday nights and “Bonanza” on Sunday nights. But what night did we watch “Wagon Train?” We watched everything from “The Andy Griffith Show” to “The Twilight Zone.”

Our music was becoming more varied. The top ten included “Runaround Sue” by Dion, “Please, Mr. Postman” by the Marvelettes and “Big Bad John” by Jimmy Dean. Shelly Fabares sang her only single entitled “Johnny Angel.” And how about Walter Brennan singing “Old Rivers?” New groups appeared for the first time. Not only did we have the Kingston Trio and the Limelighters, but it was 1962 when Peter, Paul and Mary introduced their very first album. Other new groups that appeared during our senior year included the Smothers Brothers, the Tijuana Brass and the Supremes. Talk about variety. Me? I was still learning how to do the Twist.

At SRHS it would be the last year for Miss Tangey (she had taught for thirty-three years), and it would be Mr. Von der Porten’s first year. 1962 marked the end of an era.

It was the first year that SRHS had a closed campus. Before then we could get in our cars and drive anywhere we wanted. But the board of education changed that—we could still leave at noon, but our cars had to stay behind. We really didn’t like that, and the movies at noon didn’t help much (Who wanted to watch “The Affairs of Dobie Gillis” when you could be driving around town?). But at least our classes were still conducted at SRHS. The next year all students would attend double sessions at Montgomery while SRHS was being remodeled.

1962 was a good year to be a senior. It was the first year of Kennedy’s presidency and the beginning of America’s space program. We attended the Christmas dance, the Queen’s Ball, the Turnabout and the Junior-Senior Prom. Montgomery and not Vallejo or Petaluma had become our biggest rival and 1962 was the year we beat both in football and basketball. We graduated on June 15 at Bailey Field. That was forty years ago.

We could not foresee the Kennedy assassination, the overthrow of Kruschev or the Cuban blockade. In 1962 the United States had “military advisors” in Vietnam. We never dreamed that they would become combatants or that thousands of young men would go to Vietnam or that many of our seniors would be among them.

We could not foresee what was yet to come. Maybe that’s why 1962 was such a good year. It was for me.

Class of 1962 Yearbook

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