Wednesday, May 27, 2009


It's graduation season, yet a few days ago I received an invitation to a class reunion. It wasn’t from the school where I received my high school diploma, but in a way I’ve always felt more a part of that class than the one where I spent my senior year. It brought back a lot of memories.

I arrived at Dietrich High School right after Thanksgiving during my Freshman year. The rest of that year and both my Sophomore and Junior years were spent at one of the littlest high schools in Idaho. They were good years filled with good memories and good friends, some I’ve stayed in touch with through the years.

All twelve grades, there was no kindergarten, attended the same school with the east side of the top floor devoted to high school. We also used a room in the basement. That’s where science and math classes were taught by a top scientist who had decided he needed a change of pace so he took take a couple years sabbatical from his government nuclear physics job and taught in our little school. We didn’t have home economics, band, shop, or any language classes, but we had all of the basics including a strong sports program. The Government, Geography, and Social Sciences teacher was also the coach---for both the boys’ and girls’ teams.

One English teacher was most memorable for arriving at school every Monday morning with an intense hangover. Our Freshman class, which was his first class of the day, made a habit of giving the poor man a peanut shower as he stumbled through the door. He dodged our barrage of peanuts and candy until he reached his desk where he collapsed with his head on his desk until the dismissal bell rang. Every Friday he gave us a test, always the same test. His contract wasn’t renewed and the following year we had an excellent English teacher who instilled in me a great love for literature and drama.

Dietrich High School offered business classes. I took typing, bookkeeping, and shorthand. One teacher taught them all. Our teacher was only a few years older than her students and tried too hard to be one of us. She insulted her female students on a regular basis and had alternating crushes on various boys in her classes. She was moody and temperamental and one day after we’d put up with her black mood for about a week, she left the classroom for some reason, and all but one of us students crawled out our second floor window to hide behind an ell-shaped corner of the roof on the one story lunchroom below. The remaining student locked the window and crawled up an airshaft. Our teacher and the principal spent the remainder of that class period scouring the building for us. They had shocked looks on their faces, but never said a word, when the bell rang and we all trooped out of the classroom as though nothing was amiss. (The student in the airshaft, of course, opened the window and let us all back in when no one was looking).

With a school as small as ours, we had to travel long distances to find schools almost as small as ours for our teams to compete against. There was a grand total of 34 students in the entire high school, eight students were in my class, so we easily all fit in one school bus and we regularly attended all away games together. One winter evening we were playing our last basketball games to determine who would get to play in the state finals. Both our boys and girls teams were one win from the finals. Our opposing team that night was about an hour or two away and at a much higher altitude. Half way there we ran into a major snowstorm and the bus moved at a snail’s pace. Coach paced the aisle and fumed. When we got within a few miles of the school, he could see we were running out of time and might have to forfeit. He ordered all of the girls to the back of the bus and the boys to the front, strung a blanket between us and told the girls, who were to play first, to dress, but leave our shoes off. Our bus slid into the parking lot with seconds to spare. Wearing basketball shorts and holding our shoes high, we waded through the snow and charged onto the basketball court just as the starting whistle blew. Coach called a time out and we got our shoes on and done up. We won that night.

In the process of gaining an education we became close in a way I suspect students at larger schools never experience. We needed each other. We couldn’t hold a school dance or field a team without each other. There was a closeness between classes as well as within a class. With a studentbody that small, we didn’t worry too much about “upper” or “lower” classmen. There was a place for each of us. The next year I graduated from a high school that boasted 1500 students and it just wasn’t the same. Though I didn’t graduate in a year ending in nine, in fact I didn’t graduate from Dietrich High School at all, still I’ve been invited because Dietrich class reunions are a little different from most class reunions. They’re scheduled by decades instead of specific years, but this one is even more different. Anyone who ever attended Dietrich High School is invited because it’s the little town’s one hundredth birthday.

I attended a reunion once for my real graduating class and swore I’d never go to another reunion, but I think I’ll make an exception for this one. I wonder if any of my old classmates will remember me.


Michele Ashman Bell said...

I love your stories, Jennie. You are a master storyteller!

I hope you go to the reunion. I am positive it will be worth it, and I hope you'll blog about it . . . with pictures.

Cheri J. Crane said...

I hope you can attend this year's reunion as well, Jennie. I just received word that my graduating class is having a reunion this summer, too. While my class wasn't as small as yours (there were 49 of us) it's still small enough to make the reunions a fun event. We all became quite close since it took all of us to make anything happen in our school.

Wonderful post. =)

Gale Sears said...

I loved this blog! Your stories, Jennie, are delightful. I laughed so hard at the scene of the hung over teacher for one of my math teachers was his twin.
I also loved the race to the final game. What wonderful memories. Thanks for sharing!