I spent several hours this week working with Melinda White on the World War II display that is going to be at the Friends Gallery next to the Farris Theatre this weekend. We took some of the best artifacts from our World War II room at the Ray County Museum to the gallery for this exhibit.
I have always been a collector and my three sons inherited my love of history. Our house has a “War Room “ that is a collection of World War II items. I also loaned some of my personal artifacts to the Farris for this show.
It will be open to the public Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. On Sunday, several World War II veterans will be at the gallery to share some of their stories.
I plan on being there Sunday and spending time listening to the stories of the men who served our country during World War II. I hope everyone will come out to join us and catch the “The Diary of Anne Frank” play in the theatre.
If you’d like to learn more about our local veterans, you can also go to Ray County Library and check out any of the 50 VHS tapes they have that are interviews with our veterans. If you don’t have a VHS player, I have one at the museum and anyone can come and watch them in our conference room.
The following story is about the RHS Class of 1945, many of whom went off to serve our county during the Second World War.
Every year in May, another group of seniors leave their old lives behind and scatter 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.
The picture here 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’s 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 simpler 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 expert 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.
This appeared 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 graduating classes 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-old days and simplify how our children pick a college or how a college picks our children.
On April 16, the Missourian headlines read: “President Harry S. Truman of Missouri.” Harry Truman became the 33rd president because Franklin D. Roosevelt died 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 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 p.m. 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 to be read at the seniors’ 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 given by the junior class 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 the RHS Class of 1945 said goodbye to its days of high school and moved forward to their brave new world.
Yes, the Betty Lou Schooler Martin listed above with her friends, Mary Julia Groce Merrifield and Francis Dean, is my mother. I’m happy to report that she and Mary Julia have been life-long friends. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Have an RHS or World War II story for Linda? Send her an email at rayc...@aol.com or see her in person Sunday afternoon at the Friends Gallery.