Columbus High School Class of 1966 celebrated its 50th reunion by reminiscing about just how much has changed since their graduation.
Class members toured the updated and modern Columbus North High School and then celebrated their reunion with music and food at the 4th Street Bar & Grill on Saturday.
Julie Malson, who helped organize the event, said she was pleased at the 150 classmates and guests who attended, after she had sent out email after email and made call after call to reach her classmates.
After 50 years, she often ran into inactive email accounts and disconnected phone lines, she said. For those who didn’t have email, she would send an invitation by mail, but chose not to send mailed invitations to everyone in an effort to save money.
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“It makes me happy, especially since we didn’t send written invitations out. I think it’s a great turn out,” Malson said.
About 25 classmates out of the original 650-member class decided to take in the tour of their high school.
Led by Hedy George, executive director of the Bull Dog Alumni Association, the group strolled through halls and by rooms, stopping here and there to stare at changes made in recent years.
Surprised whispers of “wow” and “unbelievable” were heard as they made their way around a much larger building than the one they remembered.
“You couldn’t convince me that this is my old school,” said Roger Redmon while laughing. And although he could not believe how different the school looked, he said it was pretty neat to see the changes.
Redmon did not stick around Columbus long after graduation, he said. By December 1966, he had begun his 41 1/2 year career in the U.S. Air Force, retiring in 2008. Still, he made it to two previous high school reunions and would have made it to another if it hadn’t been for a surprise.
“I planned on coming to my 10th reunion, (but) my first son was born that day, so that shot that,” he said, his grin proving he hadn’t been too upset about the turn of events. “And then I spent my life in the Air Force so most of the time I was overseas somewhere.”
Susie Baker, a sixth-grade teacher at Parkside Elementary, already had seen some of the changes to the gym as her grandchildren attended what is now Columbus North. She had also seen the new C4 area on a tour with her students shortly after it was built. Even so, she was surprised at just how much the rest of the building had changed.
After the school tour, a brief walking tour of downtown was held for the four classmates who were willing to brave the rainy weather. Classmate Ruth Ann Gallant led the tour.
The biggest change noted by the classmates? Fourth Street, which class members said looked completely different from when the Class of ’66 was preparing to graduate. Back then, there were taverns, such as the Wagon Wheel, according to Gallant.
But in addition to the changes in the community where they grew up, the changes were also to the faces of their classmates after 50 years.
James Graninger, former class president and part of the reunion organizing committee, said that the most exciting part of the reunion was seeing everyone after so many years, especially seeing what they all look like now and hearing what they’ve done in life.
“We are here to get together and renew old acquaintances,” he said. “Most of us should be about retired now.”
Graninger is retired and living in Florida with his wife, Michele.
The real party was at 4th Street Bar & Grill where the former students enjoyed the food and drink, laughed and tested their dancing skills to familiar songs from the ’50s and ’60s.
One of those was “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen — a song that Gallant remembers as scandalous for the time and one Graninger also calls his favorite.
Those kinds of memories remained the main attraction throughout the evening, as classmates spent hours laughing and telling stories from “back in the day.” Details ranged from yearly highlights such as Gallant’s favorite memory of the Sensational Sixties — a theatre and dance group where students would put on shows and dances in the gym (there was no auditorium back then) to smaller details, such as Baker’s memory of buying cough drops from the old bookstore.
“Oh, man, I’d buy cough drops. Cough drops were my candy,” she said.
For others, the memories were of friends and good times, said Graninger, who said he enjoyed the simplicity of meeting up at popular hangouts such as Frisch’s Big Boy or the A&W root beer stand. The relationships that began there remain strong 50 years later, he said.
“We were also a very tight group. I mean, if somebody was in trouble or somebody needed help or needed a project done people weren’t afraid to volunteer and we figured out how to get it done,” Graninger said. “That’s just the way it was and still is.”