PAOLA — When members of the Paola High School class of 1969 walked into the Paola American Legion on Saturday, June 1, to celebrate their 50-year anniversary, they were greeted with a blast from the past.
The decor was reminiscent of the dances they used enjoy at the old Paola PlayMart, and multiple tables featured photos, newspaper clippings and other mementos telling the stories of their youth.
And above it all was a banner emblazoned with the saying: “Beer, sex, sin and wine, we’re the class of 69.”
That saying was proudly declared a time or two earlier in the day too when the classmates joined other graduates from different years during the annual Paola alumni luncheon at PHS.
“We were a class caught up in love, peace and hate,” Mary Kay (Layland) Sillyman said during her speech to her fellow members of the class of 1969.
Sillyman recalled protests and sit-ins, gatherings at the PlayMart, Lake Miola gatherings, low-water bridge and barn parties, and cruising the Square.
“My dad told me to start driving the other direction because I was wearing the tread out on one side of my tires,” Sillyman said.
Many of the classmates traveled hundreds of miles for the reunion, but it didn’t take them long to strike up conversations and start sharing stories with their fellow class members.
Don Muchow talked about the time he defended his girlfriend’s honor and incidentally started a riot on the Square in the summer of 1971.
And members of the class of 1969 weren’t the only ones sharing stories during Saturday’s luncheon.
John Rhea of the class of 1959 said he remembers getting arrested for using a slingshot to shoot a street light out in Osawatomie the day before graduation.
Daryl Benedict of the class of 1967 said he’s part of the last graduating class to see the original tom-tom trophy that used to be given out to the winner of the annual Paola vs. Osawatomie football game. The original trophy was stolen, and its whereabouts are unknown to this day.
Chad Wilson walked around the gym with a microphone to let alumni share stories and to learn more about those present.
Dale Duncan from the class of 1969 traveled the farthest, coming all the way from Alaska, and the oldest alumni present was 92-year-old Helen Carter from the class of 1944.
Many of the classes were mourning the loss of friends and classmates during the past year, and a candle was lit while their names were read.
Those who have died since last year’s alumni event, and their classes, are:
Edna Austin Bradley, 1936; Maxine Mary Viets Deckard, 1940; Wendell Dale Winkler, 1941; Loveta Mae Beets Medlin, 1944; Betty Marie Slyter Spindle, 1945; Margaret Chambers Detar Stevens, 1945; Vernice Iona Wilhoite Greenwood, 1947; Charles Elmer Beckman, 1948; Helen R. Coburn Mott, 1949; Lois Ann Chester Richards, 1950; Mary Margaret Mayes Thomas, 1950; Charles O. Crouch, 1952; Joan Sherar Hunt, 1952; Donna Gates Kern, 1954; Robert L. Sherman, 1955; Vaughn Keith Shores, 1956; Vicki Marie Peuser Armstrong, 1956; Charles L. Matteson, 1958; Roger C. Obermeier, 1958; Marlene Darner Leach, 1959; Richard D. Lentz, 1961; Donna E. Thomas Kuhn, 1963; Jewel Charles Jentzsch III, 1965; Michael L. Reiter, 1965; Steve Marion Hefley, 1965; Joseph A. Bennett, 1966; Joseph Lawrence Plummer, 1969; Robert Eugene Minden, 1969; John Joseph Grimes, 1980; and Verenia Alonzo Nash, 1984.