Graduates from the Classes of ’43, ’44 and ’45 gathered at Anaheim High recently to reminisce about their school days nearly 70 years past (see photo slideshow of the event below).
The campus was then named Anaheim Union as the only high school in town serving the city’s then 11,000 inhabitants. Anaheim High also served the outlying farming and dairy communities. Many ‘40s grads in attendance recalled riding the bus to school from what would become the cities of Buena Park, Cypress, La Palma and Stanton.
Some 50 graduates and spouses attended the combined class reunion held March 19 in the AHS cafeteria. The event was appropriately catered by Knott’s Berry Farm, where many of the grads worked as waitresses, serving Mrs. Knott’s famous chicken, biscuits and boysenberry pie.
MEMORIES SHARED . . .
Recalling their happy days at “Old AU” was the main topic among the ‘40s grads, many of whom brought yearbooks, photo albums and dearly held memories of their time growing up in Anaheim.
Jim Ruth shared class photos from when he attended Magnolia Elementary School. The photo included many of his childhood friends who went on to graduate with him in 1944 from AUHS.
Memories going back all the way to kindergarten at Horace Mann Elementary School were recalled by Gania (Demaree) Trotter and Kathryn (Gauer) Kopitzke, both Class of ’44. The girlhood friends share another connection: Gania’s father was principal of Anaheim High while she attended there and Kathryn’s father was the District’s superintendent. They also both attended the YMCA’s Camp Oceola as girls, worked together as soda jerks at Jackson Drug Store and as waitresses at Knott’s Berry Farm.
Kathryn recalled serving Academy Award winning-actress Hattie McDaniel, the mammie in “Gone With The Wind,” and her entourage. Kathryn said the actress was the first African American to be served in the Knott’s Berry Farm dining room.
A DAY IN INFAMY . . .
Another poignant memory was Class of ’44 graduation, which was held at the Pearson Park Amphitheater on June 6, 1944, which coincided with, D-Day, the historic invasion of Nazi-occupied Normandy, France.
While Class of ‘44 marched to their stage and filled the seats to collect their diplomas, 14 of their classmates were training in a Navy boot camp in San Diego. These classmates were not forgotten and their 14 empty chairs were draped with American flags.
Several WWII veterans were in attendance including Gilbert Arbiso, Donald Ball, Ude Bauer, Jack DuBois, Lester Jones, Norman Pape, Bill Riedell and Jess Saenz.
The D-Day graduation will be remembered when the 1944 classmates gather on June 6, 2011, at Pearson Park, 67 years after their commencement from AUHS.
Those who will be especially remembered are the 14 seniors who left for Naval Boot Camp, missing their graduation. All were in the same company and include Jack Arnett, Ude Bauer, Ray Booth, Lester Buch, Charles Fordyce, John Hein, Paul Harrison, Gene Menges, John Murdoch, Willie McConnell, Jim Richard, Jack Royer, Bob Waddell and Claude Wilson.
A LETTER FROM THEIR LEADER . . .
Frank Kellogg, the 1944 Student Body President, another student whose parent, Frank Kellogg Sr., served as an AUHS administrator, was the inspiration behind the gathering. Frank has been deemed by his classmates as their “President for Life.”
In his 80s, Frank is still a practicing physician, but was unable to attend the reunion due to illness. Instead, he wrote a letter he to his classmates, which was read out loud at the reunion. His letter is duplicated here:
Message from the President
Anaheim Union High School here we come!
Right back where we started from!
Because of the perseverance of Reggie (Reynolds) Massey), our reunion is here in the cafeteria, perhaps a first for Anaheim High reunions. Thank you, Reggie! The Santa Ana Register had a short note about our reunion. They even did the math and told everyone how old we are (90?). Well, anyway, welcome and greetings from your President for Life. (That has a nice ring to it!)
I feel really badly that I cannot be there with all of you this time. I developed a blood stream infection and a severe knee joint infection and recovery has been slow. Excellent medical care and many prayers and it seems I will be back to normal and back to work before too long.
I think of classmates who are no longer with us. Beautiful people, best friends – we were so lucky to be with them.
Once in a while I think of our Anaheim – small farm town – about 11,000 people. Small, perhaps, but it seemed like a real community. Wonderful people! Great school! Great faculty! Students – the best! Great athletics, great music and drama, supported by the whole town. Last year, Gene Menges received a special award recognizing his athletic ability and leadership, from the big Anaheim Booster Club. Reggie and I were there and were so proud of Gene. Afterward, I told the high school principal that I thought it was a little risky to wait 65 years to give Gene the award!
Through all our high school years there was the War waiting just over the horizon, but in school, we carried on well. Our Japanese classmates disappeared. Some boys left early to join the Armed Forces. War Bond presentations were everywhere. We challenged Fullerton High School to see who could sell the most bonds. The prize was a free dance given by the loser for the winner.
Initially it appeared that Fullerton had won, but then Ude Bauer discovered that their winning margin came from a large War Bond purchased by the Fullerton principal. Really great for the country, but illegal in the contest and we got the free dance. Thank you Ude.
At a Future Farmer Victory Auction, Glenn Fry, Don Nichols and I pooled our money and bought a big white chicken. The plan was that Don would take home the chicken and fatten it up. The Frys would cook a really special dinner for the Frys and the three of us and I would bring a special pie. All this went as planned. The Frys were so nice to us and the dinner was wonderful. The only sad part was how skinny the chicken looked lying there on its side on the platter.
Mostly I remember all of you with so much gratitude and affection. There we were all together growing up, changing, moving toward becoming the person each of us eventually would be. We may not have realized then that we were so important to each other – helping, criticizing, encouraging. Great friends, great memories, more love than many of us may have appreciated or recognized then. Great time of our lives!
As your Student Body President, I make you this promise: On June 6, the date the Class of ’44 graduated (and also D Day) at about 6:30 p.m., I will go to the city park, sit on a bench close to where we graduated, and stay for a little while remembering and giving thanks for that time. Especially the friends. Hey, is that sentimental, or what?
Have a great reunion! I can hardly wait to see all of you the next time around.
With much love,