PAOLA — Paul Haley didn’t just share school memories with his fellow members of the honored 50-year Paola High School class of 1972, he brought pieces of Panther history with him to this year’s alumni luncheon.

The 133rd PHS Alumni Reunion celebration took place Saturday, June 4, at Paola High School, and Haley and his classmates had front row seats as the guests of honor.

During Haley’s speech, he unveiled some pieces of memorabilia he salvaged from the old high school downtown before it was transformed into the current Paola Fire Station. He lifted a sheet revealing two wooden seats from the old auditorium, and he pulled two trophies out of a bag that were won by students in a marble tournament in the 1920s.

Attendees at the luncheon got excited when Haley pulled out a tom-tom trophy, but he told them it is just a replica of the one that used to go to the winner of the annual Paola vs. Osawatomie football game. The original was stolen many years ago and never recovered.

Haley said he and his classmates spent two years of high school at the old school downtown before moving to the new high school (which is currently Paola Middle School) in the fall of 1970.

He talked about some pranks, like a classmate who mooned the school during lunch by pressing his bottom up against the library’s glass walls, and another classmate who drove a motorcycle naked around Park Square.

But Haley also talked about some significant milestones in the class, including the fact that it was the first time girls participated in FFA and sports like track and tennis.

Fellow classmate Jim Egger also spoke at the luncheon, and he thanked a number of former teachers, including Mr. Molina, Mr. Ventura, Mrs. Minden and Mrs. Kaiser.

Egger also recalled fond memories of eating cheap hamburgers while cruising around the Square, and the joys of communicating with rotary phones or by passing notes instead of today’s cell phones and text messaging.

Alumni president Glenda (Prentice) Watkins of the class of 1967 led the business meeting at the event, and roving reporter Chad Wilson of the class of 1971 told jokes and interviewed attendees about pranks and other school memories.

Elizabeth (Stoldt) Smith of the Paola High School class of 1945 was honored for being the oldest alumni present. Lillian Tallio, 100, of the class of 1940 has earned the honor at several previous alumni celebrations, but she was unable to attend Saturday’s event because she was serving as a flower girl in a wedding.

Alumni were recognized for coming from as far away as California, Florida and Maryland.

Superintendent Matt Meek talked about the current status of the school district, and he gave a brief update on a bond issue scheduled to go before voters this fall.

After the luncheon and meeting, several of the alumni moved on to the Paola Alumni Festival for more fun. It was the second year for the festival, which was originally scheduled to take place again at the Doherty property but was moved to the Miami County Fairgrounds on Saturday due to rain.

After a brief downpour around 4 p.m., the skies cleared and alumni were treated to music and more reminiscing during the event. The musicians had ties to Paola, which created a family atmosphere throughout the evening.

Alice Grandon received the Lifetime Achievement Award during the festival, and attendees also were excited to see Danny Carey, who is a PHS graduate and famous drummer for the band Tool.

Senior Managing Editor Brian McCauley can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or

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