Cling to the past but look to the future

Posted by Tom Camfield

The PTHS Alumni Association’s annual reunion banquet will be Saturday, June 9. See conclusion following for further detail.

The montage above includes the 1914 PTHS baseball team (7-3 record), unfortunately unidentified in the yearbook. The text does mention Otis Lockhart (left end, rear row) and McLarney, Walter Larsen, Moore, Schuyler Edwards and Millard High. Otherwise the student annual staff of 104 years ago did an excellent job for that point in history. They included: top, Mary Underwood, assistant editor, at left, and Frances Carter, artist. Center, Marguerite Mann, editor. Lower, Schuyler Edwards, manager, at left, and Edward Pace, assistant manager. Freshman Michael DeLeo I believe is the Mickey DeLeo who was a partner in the Rose Theatre, in the ticket booth when I was attending weekend matinees back in 1941. 

The yearbook was printed by the Call Printing Co., part of the early daily newspaper (then weekly in 1910) competing with the Leader in early years. It published only until this same 1914 year.

The first class to graduate from Port Townsend High School was in 1891. Six years later a small group organized the Port Townsend High School Alumni Association, which has met annually ever since. The association is one of the oldest in the nation. The annual reunion banquet is aways the second Saturday in June.

That said . . . I don’t go back all that far personally, of course. As a member of the class of 1947, this year will be only the 71st anniversary of my graduating class. But over my early newspaper years I did know and write about one early grad who was a pretty good friend and graduated in 1901—Earl Sturrock, an outstanding track athlete. He and his family also will be found in one of my books of local history. Earl held the state high school record in the 100-yard dash at 10.4 seconds, 117 years ago.

And back during some of my relatively misguided younger years I had a beer now and then with a 1914 grad—Otis Lockhart. I was well acquainted with 1914 grads Hazel Pink (O’Rear) and E. Morris Starrett. My high school typing teacher also taught at local schools as early as 1898—Emma (Baker) Pringle. She retired the year I graduated.

The class of ’14 had 20 graduates. The yearbook included a 36-stanza poem by Otis Lockhart, titled “Character,” a word that sadly turned out to be antithetical to the direction in which his own life swerved in later years. 

My class of ’47 had an unexpectedly large turnout for its age last June—six boys and two girls, some inspired to make the effort because of that big round anniversary number. I know at least one of that group has since died. Some but probably not all of us remaining survivors will be hitting 90 over the year ahead.

I’m predicting a turnout of just three, maybe four of us this year. I, for one, want to keep making it as a role-model inspiration for the younger grads beginning to worry about their mortality—even though I have wrinkles and limp these days. Another thing that will draw me back is curiosity over who might show up for the 70th-anniversary class of ’48, members of which with whom I also spent considerable time in the old days—which sometimes still seem like just yesterday. And I’m sometimes not sure if a keen memory is a blessing or a curse.

 

An aunt, an uncle, wife, seven cousins, three brothers and my three children also graduated from PTHS. My father graduated in 1925 in Salem, Oregon, and my mother was an Olympia High School dropout, due to family poverty and dysfunction (who saw all four of her sons finish college, one with a Stanford PhD). 

In earlier years of my post-grad life, the reunion banquets were considerably wilder at times than are today’s. For many years, the gathering was accommodated by the American Legion Hall—in the basement. In ’47 my graduating class was separated and ostracized to an upstairs dining area. We were a somewhat notorious bunch to some extent, and I still remember the empty whiskey bottles being kicked about underneath our dining table. Many of us were lucky to have survived graduation night and make it that far. Yet some of us are still around these 71 years later. Two of the guys who were with me in the car graduation night were among those with me at last June’s reunion. 

Some of the later years also were a bit boozy out of habit and tradition. Especially some of the anniversary class gatherings (20th, 25th, 30th, etc.) that I used to look in on with my camera during the day, preceding the banquet. Things seem a lot more restrained all around these days. Almost as if everyone began maturing at an earlier age as the years went by. Hard to say; I’m dragged about with a rather aged cohort these days. I compounded my involvement for a time in yesteryear by attending the Chimacum reunion banquet that followed the PTHS one by a week, ever packing the Leader camera.

For a number of fairly recent years I generally dropped in on a gathering of the class of ’43 at the home of Marge (Sullivan) Abraham en route to the main alumni function. Members of that class were my role models after I joined the PTHS band as an 8th-grader. I played trumpet alongside Marge’s late husband Glenn before he went off into the Army Air Corps in World War II. The festive group gatherings at Marge’s never made it to the general banquet gathering. They are greatly diminished now but I know at least two are still around locally to observe their diamond  75th anniversary of graduation this year—Jim Daubenberger and Marge.

I still miss others of that older band troupe who have passed on—including, to my knowledge: Glenn, Don McLarney, Bill Delaney, Harley Hess, Betty Ellis, Fred Scott, Gloria McLarney, Marilyn Van Valkenberg . . . and my own class and younger: Stan Miller, Dorothea Tooker, Lolly (Cecelia) and Bunny (Barbara) Delaney, Delsie McGinnis, Willard Slow, Rich Franklin, Steve West, Donald Hart. No word has been heard of many others for quite a few years. I saw Duane Loomis of the ’43 crowd in the flesh two years ago.

I do miss those older days. In 1960 I drove alone about 750 miles non-stop (except for gas) to P.T., had a job interview (rejoining the Leader) the next morning, attended the reunion, drank beer and jawed with a friend through much of the night, drove back home to California the next day—about a 15-hour trip. I sold my country weekly newspaper there and in September Jean, I, the children—and a stray dog with the litter of pups she’d had under some uncompleted construction next door—drove home to Port Townsend.            

The newspaper was a simpler operation back in older times. I generally promoted the upcoming reunion with a Leader front-page item—in which I did my bit for education by utilizing proper reference to “alumni and alumnae” to include a certain measure of equality for women. When I was at PTHS, I took two semesters of Latin, and some things just stick with a person. When an old buddy tells you he’s an “alumni,” point out to him that singularly he is an alumnus . . . and the woman next to him is an alumna. However, “alumni” also has found its way into common usage to refer not only to multiple males but also to a group of mixed male and female graduates—thus PTHS Alumni Association. Male domination lives on (but the battle continues on other fronts).

In keeping with my assumed role as a purist, I also refuse to refer to myself as having “graduated high school.” That’s a snooty eastern affectation. I “graduated from high school,” thank you very much. Graduating was not something I did to high school, it was a process of moving up from one level to the next (whatever that level might be). Earlier back down the line, I also had graduated from grammar school to junior high school, but without all the fuss and feathers. When I moved on from high school, I did not enroll college; I enrolled in college.

Those years from my graduation onward, when the PTHS banquet was held in the basement of the American Legion Hall, the late Carl DeLeo (’49) traditionally cooked spaghetti and meatballs for the dinner. It was a massive production for which the sauce simmered much of the day in a huge pot. He also trucked the chairs and tables to and from the scene. 

I was talked into serving as alumni president one year. It was semi-disastrous. The program highlight was to have been presentation of the annual alumni medal. The winner that year was a girl from Brinnon. When I dropped in on jeweler Walt Wisniewski earlier in the day, he told me the medal hadn’t gotten back from the engraver. He sympathetically took me into his back room and poured me a large glass of whiskey, something of which he alway had plenty on hand. The poor girl got her medal unceremoniously in the mail a week or two later. And I escaped Walt’s OK that Saturday to preside over the banquet in the evening.

In other years the banquet has been held at the county fairgrounds, at Fort Worden and for quite a few years now at the B. P. O. Elks lodge building on Otto St., which accommodates the throng quite nicely—cocktail hour (4 p.m.), banquet (6 p.m.) and dance. 

Dinner tickets must be obtained in advance and sales will be cut off after June 4. Tickets are $25 for dinner plus $20 annual dues. If you did not receive the recent alumni news letter, put this link into your browser https://mail.yahoo.com/d/folders/1/messages/30074 or email maryc@ptpc.com (Alumni President Mary Baker Crozier ’70) for access to a banquet ticket order form.

I’ve rambled on as usual, but this all just skims the surface of 70-plus years.

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