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Remember When: 1964

by Rick Blane

The following article appeared in Foundation News in Spring, 1999. Vol. 11, No. 2

As we started our senior year, we didn’t think it was going to be marked by significant change, but as I look back maybe that’s how we will be remembered—the beginning of change in the 60s. Change was nothing new to us. We spent our junior year in double session at Montgomery High (Noon to 6:00) while SRHS was remodeled to earthquake standards and new buildings were constructed. In September 1963 we returned to a brand new school. We had a new gym, but no clocks in the classrooms, the public address system didn’t work, and the auditorium wasn’t ready.

Not everything had changed. The Courthouse was still downtown. Reservoir Drive was still Reservoir Drive. When the peewee golf course was removed, it became Mission Boulevard. You could still buy a hamburger for 24 cents and French fries for 15 cents. Gordon’s was still the place to go, especially if you wanted fries and a marshmallow Coke. But after a game, we’d go to Roma’s on Exchange Avenue, occupy every single table and stuff ourselves with pizza and Coke.

Maybe the newest place was Baskin-Robbins ice cream, across from Gordon’s Drive In. Do you remember Pink Grapefruit ice cream?

The girls wore “flip” hairstyles (Clairol’s so touchable hairspray helped.) and boys were trying, ever so hard,  to look Ivy League. Sport shirts had to have button down collars plus a button at the back of the collar. Button down white shirts and narrow, narrow ties were in. I think we were inspired by the theme from “Peter Gunn.” A Botony sports coat cost $42.50 at Rosenberg’s. Any hair cut—crew cut, flat top or Ivy League—cost $1.75 at Master Barber Shop.

The public library has moved upstairs above Roma’s restaurant. IN April our parents would vote on bonds that would build a new library at Fourth and E Streets, including the old Tower theater property. “Tom Jones” won the Academy Award for best picture, but the guys I rand around with thought “Ocean’s 11” was better.

Sunset West opened just before Christmas, a sure sign that Coddingtown was definitely growing, and we couldn’t help but notice that “Greater Santa Rosa Stores” stayed open until 9:00 PM on both Wednesday and Thursday nights. We didn’t do much shopping, but we tried to use it as an excuse to drive around on a week night. We hadn’t forgotten how to tool Fourth Street.

TV featured “Dr. Kildare,” “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” and my favorite, “Route 66.” I remember a girl in my English class asking me to call her to watch Jack Paar at 10:00 PM. I don’t think my cal was that important, she just wanted to use the Princess phone her parents got for her.

When we returned to SRHS, we needed to rekindle our school spirit. The Pep Club was bigger than ever (remember to wear white to the games), the Pantherettes looked great during halftime and one of our biggest clubs was the “Nauticals.” Was that a swim club? We could take Spanish and French, but the only language club was the German Club, although German wasn’t offered as a foreign language. I always read “Car of the Month in the Santa Rosan. Do you remember who owned the car named “Fang?”

After sharing the same school with Montgomery one year earlier, we showed ouor thanks by defeating them in the sixth annual Big Game, 20-6. Our theme: “Spike the Vikes.” Our Christmas Dance was at the Saturday Afternoon Club with corsages, boutonnieres and Ivy Leaguers all around.

1964 was the year that Cassius Clay defeated Sonny Liston for the Heavyweight Championship. Stevie Wonder was 13 years old, Peggy Fleming was 15 and Cherilyn Sarkisian from El Centro turned 18 in May of our senior year. She then married a shorter boy, and they became known as Sonny and Cher. Remember that?

It was also in our senior year that British War Minister John Profumo resigned after having an affair with a younger woman named Christine Keeler. Imagine that—a high ranking government official having an affair with a younger woman. Only in Britain—or so we thought.

Our music was changing. Folk music was more popular than the 50s music. We watched “Hootenanny” on Saturdays and listened to the Kingston Trio, Brothers Four, and Peter, Paul and Mary on LPs. But the biggest change occurred when the Beatles played “I Want to Hold Your Hand and “She Loves You” on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964, as seventy-three million Americans watched. Other British band would follow: Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Animals, the Dave Clark Five and many more. Music critics say now that the Beatles’ performance that night changed American music forever. I don’t know if that’s right, but at least I can say I saw it happen. I was a senior.

Do you remember what you were doing in fourth period on Friday morning, November 22, 1963? That’s when we learned that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. I’ll never forget that part of my senior year.

In 1964 our senior boys worried about the draft and about Vietnam. We knew things were changing in Southeast Asia. We just didn’t know how profoundly it would affect all of us in the very near future.

Not all news was bad. Maybe we weren’t even aware of it then, but 1964 was the very first year that the surgeon general warned about the dangers of smoking and Dr. Michael DeBakey performed the very first coronary heart bypass operation. Although Dinah Shore encouraged us to “see the USA in your Chevrolet,” in April some of us went down to Bishop Ford on B Street and looked at a new model—the Ford Mustang. Talk about change.

Our prom was held at the Flamingo Hotel and 378 of us graduated at Bailey Field. We were excited to graduated from a new, remodeled SRHS. It was our senior year and the spirit of SRHS had returned. But now, as we approach our 35th reunion this summer, we understand that 1964 was the beginning of many changes, not only at SRHS, but all across the United States. And we can say, as a class, that we remember those changes and that we remember them well.

Class of 1964 Yearbook

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