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Then and now, graduation a milestone in seniors’ lives

By Linda Emley

We all know that April showers bring May flowers, but there is something that May brings that is more important than flowers. Every year in May, another group of seniors leaves its old life behind and scatters in different directions.
We spend 18 years looking forward to the day we graduate and life as we know it is never the same again.
Everyone moves on but some of the bonds we make in high school last forever. Growing up I remember asking my parents how they know someone and they would answer, “Oh we went to school together.” A few years later, I heard myself giving my children the same answer.
This picture was taken from the 1945 RHS Echo. It’s football coach Woodford Denton, his daughter Mary Gertrude and the team mascot, Earl Willie Dale. Mary Gertrude was the Dentons’ only child, so I’m sure daddy’s little girl learned to love football.
Earl was the brother of Dick B. Dale, who many of us remember. I’ve always loved this picture because it reminds me of a time when life was simple and Mary Gertrude looks so cute standing next to her father.
In honor of all the high school seniors past, present and future, please allow me to tell you about the RHS graduating class of 1945. Some may ask, “Why the class of 1945?” America was in the middle of World War II and many in this class went off to war or knew someone that was already fighting in the war. It was a bittersweet time to grow up in America.
After reading the 1945 RHS yearbook, I felt like I knew many of the students and actually I did because there were many names I remember. We never think about our parents as being teenagers, but my parents where in the class of 1946 and 1947, so they grew up with the seniors of 1945.
This ECHO was dedicated as follows, “The senior class of 1945 dedicates this twenty-seventh volume of the ECHO to the children and youth of the Richmond Public Schools. These students are the hope of tomorrow. We leave as a heritage to them the high standards and traditions of our Alma Mater. May there ever be a challenger for them to reach higher goals. We will eagerly watch our successors and expect them to bring honor and glory to our Alma Mater.”
There were 54 seniors listed in the 1945 yearbook. It’s easy to see guys that you know, but it’s harder to pick out the girls because they are all listed by their maiden names. The senior class was not listed in alphabetical order but here are the names: Bobby Conner, Leonard Leach, Barbara Gore, Violet Cox, James Massey, Eugene Allen, Paul Summers, Lola Fern Steva, Clyde Sprouse, Joan Keller, Betty Bryan, Donald Hankins, Leverne Endsley, Maurice Outersky, Bill Johnson, Joan Ottman, Earl Norris, Betty Clark, Glenda Sue Kincaid, Lewis Sprouse, Frances Schwesen, Paul Windsor, Jackie Bryant, Jean Bryant, Jack Pointer, Mary Ann Harshner, Pauline Watson, Melvin Thacker, Mary Blair, Donald Carter, Millard Adams, Thelma Beasley, Harold Burnett, Everlyn Lillard, Suzanne Bernard, William Green, Alicia Williams, Bill Steveson, Earl Foley, Shirley Joiner, Billy Weber, Betty Jo Quick, Ernestine Brown, Junior Gorham, L’Berta Coats, Morris Lillard, Joe Outersky, Zelma Stanley, Jim Bob Harrison, Thelma Stanley, Mary Lou Joiner, Sanford Leach, Emma Jane Stevens and Keith Sullenger.
The ECHO covered the school year in pictures, but I wanted to know more about the day-to-day life at RHS, so I pulled out the 1945 Richmond Missourian newspaper. Every few days there was a column called “The Echoette” that was written by members of the senior English class.
Here’s what the kids wrote in April that year:
• April 2: “The juniors have begun preparation for the annual junior-senior party. The seniors are trying their best to discover the theme of the party, but it appears it will remain a secret.”
• The April 9 Echoette was a bit more official: “The members of the senior class took aptitude tests last Tuesday. The total number of questions was 150 and the high score was 141. These tests are prepared by Ohio University and are given to the graduating class of high schools in many states. By combining the grade made on the test and the grade on the permanent record of a student, his chances of being successful in college or university work is determined.”
Maybe we should take some hints from the good-ol’ days and simplify how our children pick a college or how a college picks our children.
• On April 16, the Missourian headline had this to say: “President Harry S. Truman of Missouri.” Harry Truman became the 33rd president because Franklin D. Roosevelt died on April 12. The course of history changed forever but life went on for the class of 1945.
• One highlight of the April 23 Echoette was that “Miss Ethel Kirkpatrick’s trigonometry class had a party Friday afternoon for Jack Pointer, who will leave for the Navy soon.”
• The final Echoette for the class of 1945 was published on May 10. After a story about meeting the senior class, there was a story about the upcoming school programs. “Commencement week was begun Sunday night with baccalaureate services that were held at the Woodson Auditorium. Diplomas will be handed out Thursday night at commencement exercises, which will also be held at the Woodson Auditorium at 8:00. The week will draw to an eventful end Friday morning at the annual senior assembly. The seniors will be in charge of the program and will tell all. Various awards and certificates will also be awarded.”
The senior will was read at the class’s final assembly. Another RHS tradition took place at this assembly when the senior class passed two hats down to the junior class. One hat went to a junior girl and the other one to a junior boy.
After the assembly, the seniors were “entertained royally by the Rotary Club with a dinner at the Methodist Church.”
We can’t end this story without the highlights of the senior party that was given by the junior class on Friday night, April 27. The party was held in the high school auditorium. The program consisted of several skits, a reading by Betty Lou Schooler, a French horn solo by Mary Julia Groce and a song by Mary Hughes. Francis Deane Carter and Phyliss Wilkerson sang a duet. Paul Revere was Master of Ceremonies. Bob Ed Swafford gave the welcome speech and Barbara Gore replied on behalf of the seniors. A dance followed where punch and cookies were served.
And that is how members of the RHS class of 1945 said goodbye to their days of high school and moved forward to their brave new world.
Please join me as we share best wishes to all the seniors of Ray County as they move on to the next chapter in their book of life.

Linda always enjoys hearing from her readers. You can write her at rayc...@aol.com, see her at Ray County Museum during business hours or find her scrolling through microfilm at Ray County Library.

1945 Richmond High School football coach Woodford Denton, his daughter Mary Gertrude and the team mascot, Earl Willie Dale.

One Response to Then and now, graduation a milestone in seniors’ lives

  1. Robert Schroeder

    June 10, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    Mary Gstrein Denton and I were grade scool class-mates. Her father went on to become Principal at RHS.

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