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Remember When: 1944

by Rick Blane

The following article appeared in Foundation News in Winter, 1998 Vol. 9 No. 4

One hundred sixty-five of us graduated in the auditorium on June 15, 1944, nine days after D-Day. It was a small class as some of the boys had left school to go to work or enlist in the armed forces. Santa Rosa’s population was only about 13,000. The city limits included Grosse Avenue, Bennett Avenue (by the fairgrounds), a boundary line just north of the junior college and probably the railroad tracks.

Our lives centered around SRHS. We had a great faculty: Mitch Soso, Glen Guymon, Ruth Godkin, Lloyd Wasmuth, Clair Elmore, Wes Jamison, Jim Underhill and Orb Fortier, just to name a few. Many of those teachers remained at SRHS for years and years.

The “War Effort” was everywhere at SRHS. We had war stamp sales between the classes. The freshmen won the clothing drive when they collected 1,513 pounds of clothing. The seniors collected 40 tons of scrap paper. And do you remember that our FFA chapter sold $32,000 of war bonds, the third largest amount in California? The girls sold homemade pies, cakes and salads at the Pershing Market on Fourth Street with the proceeds going to the Victory Corps. Who remembers what the Victory Corps was?

The advertisements in Life magazine (10 cents a copy) featured both men and women working at “essential war jobs.” We were urged to “Back the attack-buy war bonds.” We were told to save, not to spend and to make things last longer. The auto industry hadn’t built a new car in years. If you could afford to buy a used car, you asked whether the tires were “pre-war” or not because rubber was rationed. And is you had a car, one of the best parking places was in Proctor Heights, by the old McDonald Water Works.

We were at war, a war that only supposed to last six months. Some of our parents were block wardens. We experienced “blackout” days when you had to cover your windows with those oily, smelly blackout curtains, and we wondered why some of the businesses did have to comply with the blackout laws.

In the summer, we worked in the apples, the prunes and the hops. Some of us pulled weeds at Waldo Rohnert’s seed farm down by Cotati. We went swimming at the swim tank on King Street for 20 cents. A minimum wage was 40 cents an hour, not that we could spend a lot; butter, meat, sugar, shoes, tires and gasoline were rationed. Even though gas was only 19 cents a gallon, you had to have ration stamps to buy it. If you didn’t have gas stamps, maybe you’d stand on the senior steps and hope that someone would have a “A” or “B” stamp to sell.

So what did we do? We went to a lot of the SRHS activities, we went to each other’s homes and visited, and we listened to the radio. Jacky Benny, Fred Allen and One Man’s Family (set in San Francisco) were some of our favorites. It was the big band era. We liked “String of Pearls,” “In the Mood,” “As Time Goes By,” and “Sentimental Journey.” SRHS dances cost only 35 c3nts for a single admission and 50 cents for a couple. Some of the senior girls also went dancing at the Melody Bowl, maybe to meet some of the soldiers from the army airfield south of town.

School spirit was high. It seemed like the entire student body would show up at athletic events. The Block S was strong, and the Class of 1944 had seven boys wearing white Block S sweaters. I remember that school buses couldn’t take us to football games and other athletic events. They said that if the school used the buses for anything other than taking kids to school, the buses would not be eligible for new tires. So we didn’t go to many “away” games. More school spirit: the seniors were supposed to wear senior sweaters every Thursday. Whatever happened to senior sweaters?

We watched movies at the Tower, Roxy and California theaters. The Tower sometimes had special movies for students who had sold war bonds. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one to roll marbles and ball bearings down the sloping floor at the California. I just got caught more often.

We threatened to strike in our sophomore year. The Press Democrat reported that our journalism teacher “. . . attractive young Mary Frances McKinney . . .” was told her contract would not be renewed. Why? Get this! The board of education had a policy of not hiring women teachers who were married! When she filled out her job application, she failed to say that she was married to a Navy ensign stationed at Pearl Harbor. So her contract wasn’t going to be renewed. We protested. We had noon time mass meetings, and a student committee complained to the board of education. We wore badges that said “McKinney or Bust.” We were ready to go on strike. But suddenly Miss McKinney withdrew her request to teach another year, and she left SRHS. I wonder whatever happened to her?

But not everything was rosy. I remember the day, shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when school officials went from classroom to classroom, telling the Japanese students to go to the principal’s office. We never saw them again. I wonder where they are today?

But we were also thinking about what would happen after the war. I remember reading in the Press Democrat that there was talk of ” . . . a new state highway” coming through Santa Rosa, but that “several problems had arisen concerning its location.” Remember? This was 1944.

When I graduated, we didn’t have television, video tapes, ATMs, credit cards, freeways, jet aircraft, washers and dryers, dishwashers, calculators, computers, foreign cars, or pagers. Some of us didn’t even have a telephone. That’s just how it was. The United States was at war.

But even though we didn’t have a lot of today’s modern conveniences, we really didn’t need them. We trusted each other. We locked our doors only when the carnival came to town. We didn’t need to be entertained. We stood together. We were friendly, enthusiastic, industrious, moral, fairly obedient, and we were patriotic—and proud of it.

And now, years later, we still haven’t moved away. One hundred and five members attended our 50th year reunion. We are one of the largest classes within the SRHS Foundation. Sure, we were at war in 1944. But in spite of that, were fortunate to gain values and friendships that we’ve maintained all these years. We’re proud of ourselves. We graduated from Santa Rosa High School. Life has been good for us. What more can we ask?

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 Echo

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 Dance

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 noon

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.

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

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.

Remember When: 1958

by Rick Blane

The following column appeared in Foundation News in 1998, Volume 10, Number 2

Yes, 1958 was a memorable year because it was the last year that SRHS would be the only high school in Santa Rosa. Montgomery High would open in the fall. The senior class of ‘58 was huge—555 of us graduated in June. Santa Rosa had a population of just 35,000, and we were still getting used to dialing Liberty prefixes. The telephone book had just 140 pages (in print you could read) compared with 323 pages today.

It was the year that “Gigi” ran away with the Academy Awards. Cary Grant starred in “An Affair to Remember,” and who could forget “Tammy and the Bachelor?” TV was black and white, remote controls didn’t exist and “American Bandstand” come on after school on Channels 7 and 13. We watched Ed Sullivan on Sundays at 8:00 PM, followed by the “64,000 Question” and “What’s My Line?” “The Lawrence Welk Show” featured Champagne Lady Alice Lon, but the new attraction was the Lennon Sisters, who earned $203.50 each week. “Ol’ Lonesome George” Gobel came to Santa Rosa for a United Crusade benefit in January at the Flamingo Hotel. If you stayed home on Saturday night, you could always watch Jimmy Durante or “Gunsmoke.”

We didn’t have many foreign cars. Fords, Chevrolets, Mercurys and Plymouths were everywhere. I remember Jim Laier’s customized blue ‘54 Ford with the supercharged Mercury engine, Jerry Prickett’s red ‘55 Chevy with the louvered hood, Bernie Schulte’s blue ‘57 Chevy Bel Air, Randy Jalli’s raked ‘50 Oldsmobile with the new paint job and George Jouthas’ cherry ‘54 Chevy. G.K. Hardt advertised that he was pleased to be selling the “most remarkable car in the country today—the Edsel.” Most remarkable car?

Traffic wasn’t so bad. We were getting used to the Fourth Street entrance to McDonald Avenue being closed off. In December of our senior year the traffic commission considered whether to install a traffic light at the intersection of Fourth Street and Farmer’s Lane. Can you imagine that without a traffic light today?

Things were cheaper. The “new Grace Addition” at Grosse Avenue and El Camino Way offered new houses for between $20,000 and $30,000. I wonder what they’re worth today. A new car cost less than $3,000. The White House advertised Pendleton shirts for $11.95. (Does anyone Pendletons any more?) Monday night was $1.00 night at the Village Drive-In, and if you stuffed a couple more people in the trunk—well, it was okay if you got away with it.

We had Montgomery Village, but we’d never heard of a “shopping mall” in 1958. Stores closed at 5:30, and nothing was open on Sundays. Some stores were open Thursdays until 9:00, but during Christmas season you could shop Monday and Thursday until 9:00. Were we better off? Do you remember that the Holiday Bowling Alley and the Rose Bowl both opened on the same day in 1958?

At school we had lots of dances and the SRHS dance band played at most of them. The Press Democrat reported that at the December sock hop the students wore “Bermuda shorts and pedal pushers.” Remember anyone wearing a “sack” dress? Did we really wear that stuff? Here’s one for nostalgia: do you remember our local quartet, the “Staffs,” singing at some of the dances? You’ve got a good memory if you can remember the names of the two senior boys in the group.

How about downtown Santa Rosa in 1958? At the intersection of Fourth and B Streets, you’d see the White House, Keegan Brothers, Hardisty’s and The Fasion. Between Fourth and the Courthouse, you’d find Wright’s Coffee Shop, Rosalie’s, Henderson’s Men’s Store, Keith’s Foto and Smith’s Shoes. On Exchange Avenue (as you cruised around the Courthouse) you’d see Hahman Drugs and Eisenhood’s restaurant. As you drove past the county jail and the police department, you’d see the pink Gensler-Lee jewelry store with the big clock (What a thrill!) Newberry’s, Stanroy Music, Mailer-Frey Hardware, Burling6ton’s Bakery, Sawyer’s News and the original Toy and Model tucked in next door to Basso Linoleum (underneath the old Masonic Temple). Further up would be Rosenberg’s, the French Bootery, Thrifty Drug, the old Tower Theatre, the original public library and Welti’s funeral Parlor.

If you were just cruising around or “tooling the main,” you’d probably go up to Gordon’s Drive In, drive through Eat-n-Run, go back to the Courthouse, turn north on Mendocino past Shelley Brothers Texaco (College and Mendocino), go past Zesto’s at the junior college, drive through Spruce’s Drive In and maybe (ha, ha!) do it all over again. After a football or basketball game, you might drop in at the Canteen over on Third Street and dance to “Who’s Sorry Now?” by Connie Francis or “At The Hop” by Danny and the Juniors. 1958 was when Jerry Lee Lewis came out with “Great Balls of Fire” and married his thirteen-year-old cousin. It was the year that Elvis was in the army. The minimum wage was still $1.00 an hour.

1958 was fun. We had a blast, we tried to be “cool, daddy-o,” never wanted to be known as a square, and if we really liked something we’d “go ape” over it (Where did we get those expression? After all, we were Seniors.). We were between the Korean War and the Vietnam War. We liked our “do wop,” feel good music and we liked our cars and our friends. Life was good for us.

Looking back, we really didn’t know how good it was. When we graduated, we all went our separate ways. But on August 22, 1998 we’ll return for our forty-year reunion. We’ll laugh, talk about each other, listen to our music and, yeah, we’ll have a blast. We’ll be back together again. I can’t believe how many are attending from all over the United States and outside the United States. But why am I surprised? We didn’t realize it then, but we were part of local history. Welcome home, Senior Class. We had a memorable year, never to be repeated. And that year was 1958.

Remember When: 1959

by Rick Blane

The following article appeared in the Summer, 2003 Foundation News, Vol. 15, No. 3

I felt a chill that dark Saturday night when we said goodbye. I looked in her eyes and said nothing, but both Linda and I knew that Monday we wouldn’t be together. We’d been going steady for a long time—almost three months. How could life be so cruel as to separate us as we began our senior year in high school?

Looking back, the answer was simple: my senior year was at SRHS and Linda transferred to Montgomery High. Until the fall of 1958, SRHS was the only public high school n Santa Rosa. But it was my senior year when Montgomery opened, and many of my old friends (including Linda) transferred to the new school. Maybe it wasn’t as dramatic as I thought. But it sure was different.

Linda said going to Montgomery and leaving her friends behind was like a family breaking up. Montgomery had no lawns, no landscaping, no student body officers and not even a school mascot. The student body would later in the school year decide on “Vikings.” At SRHS I sadly realized that some of my oldest friends were now attending a different school.

A lot of those friends wanted to stay at SRHS, but with the new attendance boundaries, they had no choice. There was one exception: do you remember the senior girls who wanted to stay at SRHS because Montgomery didn’t have agriculture classes? Announcing their silent and life-long interest in animal husbandry, they asked the administration if they could stay and enroll in agriculture classes. But it wasn’t easy: they first had to convince Dr. Mitchell Soso, the Assistant Superintendent of Schools. I guess they were successful because suddenly SRHS had a class called “Girls Agriculture.”

Their field classes in the spring (conducted by a student teacher from UC Davis) were scholarly jaunts into the farmland, especially the one where everyone ended up in a swimming pool.

I didn’t think the girls were serious, but the Echo confirmed their sincerity by showing them with a sheep, a horse and a cow. Ironically enough the 1959 Girls Agriculture class opened the door for continued integration of the agriculture program.

Even though we attended different high schools, Linda and I continued to do things together as did the rest of the two student bodies. The Santa Rosan announced the welcoming dance was a joint affair, attended by more than 600 students from both SRHS and Montgomery. The newspaper even ran a column entitled “Cross Town Comments” that kept us up to date on events at Montgomery. The gossip column was quick to point out that certain couples were still dating even though they attended different high schools. (Linda and I were never mentioned, however.)

Maybe the biggest rivalry we had in 1959 was which school would sit on the “home” side of Bailey Field for the very first Santa Rosa-Montgomery football game. Who would be the “visitors?” Well, weren’t we here first? Shouldn’t SRHS be the “home” team? Everyone got involved: the principals, the student body leaders, class presidents, etc. I don’t know who made the final decision, but SRHS students ended up on the visitors’ side at the first Big Game. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Montgomery song leaders knocked down our song leaders at half time as they exchanged sides. So much for sportsmanship. Our football team responded in kind, defeating Montgomery, 27-6.

There were other changes at SRHS: Jack O’Sullivan became vice-principal, Bob Bagley took over as football coach, John Bamesberger became Montgomery’s track coach. 1959 was the first year of George Vine’s career as basketball coach. Al though the Speech Club dropped out of sight (not enough members), it was the first year of the Pantherettes, a 16-member girls drill team.

It was also the first year that SRHS had a foreign exchange student: Harold Overagg (he lived with the Ziebers). Needless to say, 1959 was the first year for the car caravan prior to the Big Game.

Even though the Santa Rosan said, “sure, we all miss our friends . . .” student life at SRHS was about the same. The gossip column told us who was seen with whom, we attended competition rallies, signed up for driver’s training, enjoyed Mr. Hodder and waited for the 2:40 bell.

I no longer took Linda to school. I took three other girls instead. It seemed like all the senior girls piled into someone’s car every morning to get to school. Across town, Linda drove her mother’s Ford Anglia to school, but it was cramped when she wore those crinoline skirt things. The night before, she’d soak the crinoline in starch and hang it out to dry. I guess she liked the final result, but sitting down became a major event. She also wore those fashionable straight wool skirts and, of course, she rolled socks down just so, to a point above the ankle. The guys wore Levis and pegged pants—some were pegged so tight that you wondered how they got them on. The White House had them on sale: two pair for $7.50. Do you remember white buck shoes?

There were a lot of westerns on TV in 1959—Wagon train, Gunsmoke, Broken Arrow, Wyatt Earp, and Have Gun, Will Travel. Our televisions were black and white and if we had a good antenna, we didn’t have “shadows.” Remember?

Linda liked Lawrence Welk, Bob Cummings and Roller Derby. The Friday night fights, sponsored by Gillette Blue Blades came on at 7:00 o’clock. But my favorite was Peter Gunn—the epitome of Ivy League—and what can I say about Lola Albright?

After football games we’d go to the Canteen on Third Street (above the telephone company), or someone would have a party. We always had lots of parties. Linda and I used to dance to “Venus,” “Put Your Head on My Shoulder” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” The Kingston Trio had four separate albums on the Top Ten.

Highway 101 was not elevated between Barham and Steele Lane in 1959. Before I’d go out on a date, a service station attendant would wash my windshield as he filled my gas tank for less than $3.00. Santa Rosa’s population was 37, 200. At the intersection of Hoen and Yulupa, Hugh Codding wanted to build another subdivision—he would later call it Mayette Village.

1959 witnessed the separation of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, the introduction of direct distance dialing and Bert Parks crowned Mary Ann Mobley as Miss America. Gigi won the Academy Award for Best Picture. President Eisenhower said the U.S. should defend Quemoy and Matsu while Senator Bill Knowland and Attorney General Pat Brown rand for governor of California.

As our senior year came to a close, it was apparent that students from both high schools had maintained friendships even though they’d been split up. In fact, the school year culminated in a combined junior-senior prom at the Vets’ Memorial. That was probably the first—and last—time that SRHS ever had a joint prom with another school. Linda and I went to the prom together, and she came to my graduation. After graduation the senior cruise had been canceled (anybody remember why?), but the senior class attended a special midnight showing of High Society at the Cal Theater. It was a memorable end to my senior year: as Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby sang “True Love,” I fell asleep on Linda’s shoulder.

1959 was a memorable year for all of us, the year of the big split up. Looking back, I’m glad we kept our friendships. It was truly a unique year. What happened to Linda? Well, we went to different colleges, so it was hard to stay together. Today, she’s married, raised four kids and teaches elementary school in Ponca City, Oklahoma. Not bad for a Montgomery grad.

Remember When: 1960

by Rick Blane

The decade of the 1960s was one of tumultuous changes, but none of the 347 SRHS seniors who graduated on SRJC’s Bailey Field June 16 of 1960 had any idea what the future held. If you were like me, you were just happy that 12 long years of schooling was at last over. Today, the 50 years since that graduation seems, in contrast, to have flown by. I hope the years have been as kind to you as they have to me, and I hope you can look back on those years at SRHS with fondness. I sure do.

We were not so interested in change in 1960. We were interested in tradition. Seniors when classes began in September, we were eager to enjoy our entitlements.
The SRHS administration opened the year with the warnings and reminders we were used to. Mr. Dardis warned us about late slips and absences. Those warnings weren’t for us seniors because I think we enjoyed coming to school. That’s where we’d find our friends, so we didn’t want to be absent. But I knew three guys, close friends, who often went hunting or fishing rather than come to school.
Mr. Dardis also reminded us about using the ramps—one was for “up” and one was for “down.” Avoid congestion, he said.
We respected the administrators and the teachers. We mostly did as we were told. We caused few problems. A friend told me that a few years after graduation she met Mrs. Parker downtown, and Mrs. P. said, “Oh, you were the last of the good kids.” I guess Mrs. Parker referred to the tumult of change that happened later.
Good? Well, we followed the dress code. We guys got regular haircuts. I went to Master Barbershop. We didn’t wear shorts or t-shirts. We bought our Levi’s at Keegan Bros or Paolini’s for $4.00 or so. Those jeans seemed never to wear out. Even if we regularly washed them.
Backless shoes and flip flops were the fad for the girls, but Mrs. Parker didn’t want the girls to wear them. Too dangerous on the ramps, she said. Did Mrs. Parker ever actually measure the length of a skirt? I don’t know that, but I do know she sent a group of girls home on Senior Character Day because she thought their “Dogpatch Girl” costumes were inappropriate. I heard that she also told the song leaders to lengthen their skirts and to alter their outfits to avoid what she thought might be a spectacle. One of the song leaders I knew told me that, but I didn’t know what she meant by “spectacle.”
The car caravan before the Big Game with Montgomery was special. We drove decorated cars downtown at lunch and honked and honked and yelled and yelled. Shoppers and merchants came out of the stores and waved and cheered. We had a rally with songs and cheers on the steps of the courthouse. Then on Saturday, we played the Vikings at Bailey Field and won. We were NBL champs.
The Panther varsity basketball team also won the NBL and was invited to the Tournament of Champions in the Bay Area where we lost to St. Ignatius.
We had fun away from school, too. We “tooled” town and hung out at Gordon’s. We packed the cars and went to the Village Drive In. Sometimes we packed kids into the trunk. We bowled at the Rose Bowl or the Holiday Bowl. We went to the Canteen, skated at the Roller Palace, and in the warm weather we swam at Morton’s in Kenwood. We drove up and down Fourth Street until it was time to go home. Most of us went home by the time our parents set for us. The few who didn’t were chased home by the cops for curfew violation—that is, if they were under 18.
We went to the coast on nice days, to Salmon Creek. I heard the song leaders didn’t come back from lunch on one of those nice days. A guy from the JC drove them to the coast. They probably wrote notes for each other. Who wrote your notes? My mom wrote all mine, so when I did miss class I wrote my own and signed my dad’s name. My, weren’t we clever?
Do you remember the bomb threat and how it emptied the school?  My steady girl friend that year worked in the office and took the call on that old PBX switchboard. She was frightened and said the staff was too. Once, she took another call and punched in Mr. O’Sullivan. Whatever she did, the phone shrieked in his ear and O’Sullivan angrily stormed out of his office and yelled at her. The shriek must’ve hurt because that man never showed anger.
We could leave campus at lunch. We’d grab a burger at Foster’s Freeze on Fourth Street. Kids without cars could walk up Mendocino and get a “Supreme” burger with bacon and cheese and “the works” for 40 cents at Roger’s. If that was too costly, we could get a 19-cent burger from Cal’s Drive In on the next block. Fries were 11 cents there, and a milkshake was 19 cents. Eat and Run next to the Richfield gas station on Fourth Street was popular.
On Saturdays, I liked to go downtown with a couple of buddies and get a hamburger or a hotdog at the Dog-e-Dinor near the old post office. The really bold guys drove out to Ingram’s Chili Bowl by Cloverleaf Ranch and ate chili and onions. At night, if we were lucky, we’d snare a parking spot in Gordon’s, nurse a 10-cent Coke and watch the cars drive through. We ate pizza at Roma’s on the Courthouse Square and pancakes at Foody’s by the El Rancho.
Remember the “Car of the Month” in the Santa Rosan? We sure liked our wheels. Souped-up engines, fancy paint jobs with striping and “tuck and roll” interiors. Guys stood around in the senior parking lot and talked about cars. After school and on Saturdays, you could find guys at Bing’s Speed Shop on Barham Avenue. Glasspack mufflers could be installed at North Bay Muffler and Speed Shop by the fire station on A Street.
There were lots of dances—the Welcome Back at the start of school, the Queen’s Ball, the Turnabout and, of course, the Prom. Were all those dances combined with Montgomery? I know the prom was. It was at the Flamingo. Where’d you rent your tux or dinner jacket? Keegan Bros? Henderson’s? Dwight Smith?
You probably bought the corsage at Grohe’s or Henry’s Flowers or Flowerland. Lots of guys bought the wrist corsage so they wouldn’t have to pin it on the girl’s dress in front of her folks.
Some girls went to the City to buy a prom dress. Others shopped at the White House, Rosenberg’s, Virginia Walter’s and the Fashion.
Do you remember “Stage Fright?” It was a one-act comedy written, produced and directed by members of the senior class and presented in the auditorium. Students liked it. It was about a house full of ghosts and was very funny. Remember those hard wooden seats? They weren’t so funny.
Our phone numbers were still LIberty. Remember yours? Mine was LI-5-3620. We had 4 television stations, 5 if your antenna could pull in the new Sacramento station. We watched “Twilight Zone,” “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “Wagon Train,” “Candid Camera” and “Andy Griffith.” We listened to rock and roll on K-JAX, the “nifty fifty,” to hear who was dedicating a song that night. A new group emerged that year from England, the Beatles. We went to the Roxy or the Cal to watch “Psycho,” “Spartacus” and “Pollyanna,” the Disney movie filmed in Santa Rosa.
Yes, 1960 was a “good” year and so were we. As we now get ready to celebrate the anniversary of the 50th year since we graduated, I think we are even better—“gooder,” if I can get away with that.

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.

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.

Remember When: 1965

by Rick Blane

Remember how the school year started? The Hanley Fire burned all the way from Mt. St. Helena before it was stopped at the County Hospital. Some of us thought it might burn into town as far as the campus. Football practice was cancelled because of all the ash in the air. Coach Bagley never cancelled practice, so he must have been burning inside himself.

Sixteen new teachers joined our faculty that year, including Mr. DeSoto in English, Mr. O’Neill in social studies and Mr. Anderson in physical education. All three had great careers at SRHS and all three are deservedly on the Wall of Fame in the main hall. We had truly wonderful teachers!

And the principal, Mr. Duey. You remember his nickname, of course. And how did Mr. Brown know on Monday morning what we had done over the weekend. He must have had spies everywhere. I remember Mr. Elmore’s antics and crazy experiments in the chemistry classroom. And dapper Mr. Guymon, the typing teacher, and his pencil-thin mustache. Mr. Hansen used to lean back in his chair, and I’d wait for him to fall out of it. He never did, though.

When classes began that fall, Mr. Dardis warned the sophomores about what behavior was acceptable and what was not and about the consequences—you know, loss of credits and parent phone calls. We seniors smirked to ourselves, maybe remembering what it felt like to be at the bottom of the high school ladder. Did Mrs. Parker really measure the length of the girls’ dresses?

We were socially busy. The best dance of the year may have been the “Howdy.” It was the first of the year. Who gave it that name? Do you remember who was awarded a prize at the dance for doing the Twist and Shout? I believe we would call him “foot-challenged” in today’s parlance. Back then it was just “clumsy.”

We held the Queen’s Ball in the Rainbow Room at the El Rancho. “bids” were $2.00. You could rent a dinner jacket for the prom for $8.50. The Turnabout was in March. It was sponsored by Ra Ravas. The guys seemed to enjoy having the girls pay for a night out. It sure was different. The Prom was at the Flamingo. Where else? Ralph Rawson—who else?—and his orchestra played. We danced the Twist—really the non-dancer’s friend—the Watusi and the Swim.

Do you remember the assembly in January when the incoming spring student body president gave the outgoing fall student body president the “Brown Helmet Award?” What was that all about? I’ve always wondered.

While we didn’t have a lot of money in 1965, it sure seemed to go a lot farther. A hamburger at Arctic Circle down Mendocino Avenue cost 19 cents. But if you wanted a “real” burger, you could go to Eat-n-Run (some called it “Scarf and Barf”) and get two burger patties on French bread. You could get a burger as late as 2:00 AM at the Pickup, but who stayed out that late? Of course, you could get a “Supreme Burger” with cheese, bacon and “the works” at Roger’s for 35 cents. You also could get a Poor Boy at the 49er on Fourth Street. Remember the long lines at Baskin-Robins for ice cream?

Where did you get your hair cut? Town and Country? Master Barber? College Barber? You would pay under $2.00, I remember. Where did you buy your Levi’s? Keegans? Archie Kash? Brothers Four? I bought mine at Paolini’s on Wilson Street. What did we pay? $3.95 or so? Those denims seemed never to wear out. You had lots of choices in never-iron khakis. The ivy-league look was still popular.

The girls wore that high-waisted dress called the “Empire.” Their colors were bright—you know, jellybean like. Hairpieces were popular as the ladies tried to lengthen their hair. The “beehive” was also seen and gave rise to lots of stories about girls whose hair was a haven for spiders and things. Did we really believe those stories? Girls had their hair done for the big dances at House of Charles on Farmers Lane. Gensler-Lee Diamonds offered senior girls a free subscription to Seventeen Magazine as the jeweler hoped to influence future business.

In the spring the Santa Rosan warned us about “senioritis,” but we didn’t pay any attention to it. We were interested in trips to the river, Senior Vocation Day and Senior Character Day, where we voted for the most friendly and most likely to succeed and most talented and so on. Anybody remember the winners?

Speaking of the school paper, you remember the “Car of the Month?” I had two favorites—that 1934 Plymouth of “gangster fame” and the four-door Studebaker with all the sheet metal damage on the right side. But, seriously, some really cool rods were featured each month. Bing’s Speed Shop was a favorite shopping place for the guys.

I remember the 1964 Mustang appeared that year. It was a sensation! You could buy one or a ‘65 Chevelle for about $3000. Or you could buy a ‘55 Chevy that ran for $500. What would that Chevy cost today? If you could find one.

Spirit Week kept us occupied during football season, and we enjoyed the “Lick Montgomery” suckers and the Car Caravan after a noontime rally in front of the Courthouse. Sadly, Montgomery won that game, but we salvaged some honor with a win over the Vikings in basketball.

Block S initiation had cooled from some of the savagery of earlier years. Guys still had their heads shaved and wore girls’ dresses, but the ceremony itself was limited to such semi-embarrassing activities as pushing a peanut with the nose down the hall. Popcorn machine duty was pretty serious though. I heard that in the 40s and 50s the initiation could be pretty stressful! Electric shocks and other painful stuff. By 1965 I guess Coach Underhill had mellowed a bit, but certainly not when he saw athletes smoking cigarettes on the railroad tracks. The Railroad Luncheon Club, they called it. Who were the members

And Coach Vine. Remember his antics? He’d chew on towels, yell at the refs and stomp around. And those orange socks! The Vallejo rooters would imitate him. It sure was something to see. Mr. Vine taught government. Some would say he taught the Sporting Green or game films, but we sure liked him. “Jeezuz, Peezuz! There’s a pair to draw to,” he’d say. Or, “That’s what you get when you send a boy to do a man’s job!” He was a colorful character.

A typical Friday night? Drive, drive, drive. Around the Courthouse and up and down Fourth Street. We’d drop into Johnny and Red’s or Roma’s for a pizza. We’d go to Surf City for the slot car races upstairs. We’d go to the drive-ins, the passion pits, for a movie. The Village, the Star-Vue. Did anybody go to the Redwood? I sure didn’t. At the drive-in we guys would pound on the cars of our buddies if no heads were showing or if there was too much action inside the car. Later, we’d drive to the Pancake House on Santa Rosa Avenue for coffee until real late, then go home and fall into bed and sleep as late as we could the next morning. Unless we had jobs. We were up early if we did.

Saturday night was date night for the couples going steady. You could tell which girls were going with the athletes because they wore those gold footballs or basketballs or the guys’ Block S sweaters. I know that Coach Underhill hated that.

Lots of us had summer jobs where we earned money for school clothes and other stuff. We could always pick prunes—what a terrible job! But remember when school sometimes began later because of the prunes? That was special.

We watched The Sound of Music even if we didn’t like the singing. We watched The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, The Pawnbroker, Patch of Blue, and my favorite, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World. On television I enjoyed Bonanza and Leave It to Beaver. We listened to KPLS. It played the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Martha and the Vandellas, the Supremes, Bob Dylan, Sam the Sham and the Pharohs. I like that name! We didn’t listen to KSRO. It played music for old folks, but it did broadcast our games.

Lots of interesting but terrible stuff was going on in the world that our teachers didn’t talk to us about. The Voting Rights Act was passed to ensure that minorities could vote, the march on Selma, Alabama for racial equality, the war in Vietnam was heating up, the Free Speech Movement, and lots of unrest at college campuses. Did you see the famous “Daisy Commercial” on TV during the Lyndon Johnson/Barry Goldwater campaign for president?

I guess we were protected from all that. I guess in 1965 the outside world had not yet begun its invasion of Santa Rosa. But 1965 sure was a great year to be at SRHS!