OSAWATOMIE — When Gary Ford and his fellow members of the class of 1970 walked into Osawatomie High School on Saturday, Sept. 4, for the alumni banquet, memories came rushing back of the first time they set foot inside the building 50 years earlier.
At that time, in the spring of 1970, Ford and his classmates were moving out of the old high school near 5th and Brown and into the new high school at its current location.
“We picked up boxes and got on a bus and moved into the future,” Ford said.
He added that in 1970, they were moving out of a building that was 50 years old. Now, the school they moved into is 50 years old.
The classmates were the first to graduate from the new high school, and they left a lasting impact. Steve Stiffler of the class of 1970 even designed and painted the original Trojan logo on the gymnasium floor.
Several members of the class of 1970 attended the annual alumni banquet Saturday because they lost the opportunity to celebrate last year when the alumni festivities were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
They certainly weren’t alone either. They were joined by several members of other graduating classes, including the class of 1971, which was celebrating its 50-year reunion.
Tom Billam of the class of 1971 was the guest speaker at the banquet, and while he acknowledged that the class of 1970 moved into the high school, he pointed out that the class of 1971 was the first to experience an entire school year in the building.
“Really, they just rented the place for six weeks,” he jokingly said. “We owned this place.”
Charlie Cook of the class of 1971 made the first free throw in the new school gym, and the late Debbie Cook was crowned the new school’s first winter sports queen.
“There are fond memories in this building everywhere you look for us,” said 1971 classmate Stan Ricketts.
The gym was full of alumni during the banquet, including Anna Lee (Price) Billam and Barbara (Mullins) Kennedy of the class of 1950. They were the oldest alumni present.
Connie (Schasteen) Mulford of the class of 1977 traveled the farthest, coming all the way from Alabama for the event.
Two Outstanding Alumni Awards were presented during the banquet. The first was presented to the family of Kim (Bauder) Fisher of the class of 1981. Fisher worked for the Osawatomie State Hospital for many years and was active with the Osawatomie Alumni Association. She passed away in July.
The second award was presented to Wes Duncan, who is a member of the class of 2008. He is active in the community and is the technology director for the school district.
The banquet at the high school was just one part of the alumni festivities Saturday in Osawatomie. Rain canceled the parade in the morning, but classes still gathered together in different locations to celebrate.
The 50-year-class of 1971 met at the Loft on Sixth, which was decorated with memorabilia from their class.
The 51-year class of 1970 met at Memorial Hall. Their reunion included a special flag presentation for veterans and first responders in their class.
Harlen Fletcher, Paola Legion Commander and member of the class of 1970, distributed American flags that had flown over the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C. Classmate Richard Lewis, who is a defense researcher at the Pentagon, arranged for the flags to be flown and delivered.
Fletcher presented his flag to his wife Glenna, who rewarded him with a kiss.
Other alumni events Saturday included an afternoon social at the high school, a coffee social after the banquet, and a dance in the evening featuring Platinum Express at City Auditorium.