65th class reunion

Neither temperatures of nearly 100 degrees nor advanced age of 80-plus could keep these Battle Ground Class of 1953 “kids” from sharing their memories and catching-up at their 65th Battle Ground High School class reunion.

Back Row: Dale Urban, Jerry Wheeler, Jack O’Donnell, Jim Dhanens, Ken Pietila, Dave Kooken (teacher), Bill Tucker, Richard Uusitalo, Jack Massie, Don Meagher and Tom Stitzel. 

Middle Row: Joyce Swanson Catt, Shirley Johnson Brandenburg, Betty Meyer Ventra, Joyce Costich Lewis, Delores McCafferty Reis, Kathleen Phipps Hammond, Jessie Schmidtlein Poston, Bonnie Steward Stitzel, Shelley Rotschy Heidegger, Jerry Brownell and Norma Noltensmeier Tenold.

Seated: Shirley Storie Morrow, Louise McKay Tucker, Jane Waser Wilson, June Waser McKee, Joyce Bennett Marsden, Gladys Hill, Lucille Rose Campbell, Barbara Johnson Potter and Arlys Clark Barnes.

Sixty-five years ago last May, 124 seniors at Battle Ground High School graduated and launched out into the world to seek their fortune. Since then, many of them have attended class reunions to keep in touch. The first two reunions marked 10 and 20 years, followed by reunions every five years.

On Saturday, July 28 a potluck party was held at the Kiwanis building in Battle Ground’s Kiwanis City Park to celebrate 65 years since their graduation. Of the 64 Class of 1953 graduates who were able to be contacted, 42 responded that they either would or could not attend. Classmate attendance was 30 plus spouses, siblings, other relatives and their only remaining teacher. Over 60 attended the event.

A handful of classmates raised their hands when asked, “Did anyone attend Battle Ground schools beginning in the first grade at the New Central Grade School through high school?” 

This was the first class to attend the brick building which had been a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project during the Great Depression.

A special guest was Dave Kooken, 93, a retired Battle Ground High School teacher and class advisor. He explained that many of the BGHS teachers like him in that era were young and fresh out of college. They had served in WWII and had used GI Bill financing to complete their education. Besides being an educator, Kooken had been a pillar of the community. He served on the Battle Ground City Council and other city commissions and was a member of the Kiwanis service club when Kiwanis Club property was given to the City of Battle Ground to be used as a park. He even helped with an early remodel of the same building in which the reunion was being held. 

Everyone was elated when Kooken said, “This class was unusually gifted with talent.” As adults, several of his students became personal friends.

Recognition was given to the six couples who had married within the class. In addition, one classmate at the reunion and his new wife were given a round of applause for their recent marriage held just three weeks before the reunion.

Displays were on hand to jog treasured memories including Bengal yearbooks, copies of The Tiger high school newspaper, a collection of photos, and a lovable big stuffed tiger. Several people tried to find themselves and friends in a blowup of a seventh-grade group photo. Address lists were available for sharing. There was an email sign-up sheet to receive the periodic Class of 53 Newsletter. In memoriam of classmates known to be deceased, copies of yearbook photos of those 49 classmates was displayed. Nine classmates’ whereabouts are unknown.

Bob Glenn lives in Ireland and could not attend. He wrote, “Come and visit us anytime.” Although he now lives the farthest from Battle Ground, his invitation was sincere. This was the first reunion for Betty Meyer Ventra, who came from the farthest away, Florida. Four came from Kansas, Arizona and Idaho. Most others live locally or elsewhere in Washington and Oregon.

Bill and Louise Tucker were chairmen of the event. Bill was emcee. 

There was no charge to attend the affair. Instead the “proverbial hat” was circulated. Any money donated above expenses will be given to the Battle Ground Education Foundation as has been done after other reunions of this group.

Louise Tucker is a Battle Ground native since age two, author and historian. She wrote Battle Ground… In and Around, a 400-page pictorial collection featuring around 1,000 images. 

“This successful get-together of senior citizens, aged 80-plus, couldn’t have taken place without a dozen or so dedicated classmates who pitched in,” she said of the reunion. 

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