Fifty Plus Years of Memories
by Sharon Bardole McBlain
Class of 1961
I am proud to be from Rippey, Iowa. One thing that always sticks with me is how fondly I have always remembered my school days and my classmates. I love returning to the comfort of relatives and old friends from “home.”
Of course, as with every member of a 50 year class, I can't really believe that it has been 50 years since we graduated. Even more mind-numbing is that it has been 63 years since many of us greeted each other and Miss Johnson on our first day of kindergarten.
I know that we didn't all have the same experiences during our school years and that my classmates memories of those years may be different than mine on some things. I should warn you that, while I think these personal recollections are accurate, I can make mistakes. Last week, I was talking on the phone to my sister-in-law Rachel, whom many of you know. I had put the phone on speaker and set it down on the back of the toilet. I wandered out into the kitchen and kept chatting but finally noticed that Rachel wasn't holding up her end of the conversation. When I looked down at the phone in my hand, I found that I was speaking into a tube of toothpaste.
At any rate, here are some of my recollections.
There was no pre-school in Rippey but the Methodist Church did have Sunday School and Vacation Bible School with classes for pre-schoolers. I still remember the tables with sand in the basement of the Church Annex, our treats of Kool- Aid and cookies, the games of Red Rover, Duck Duck Goose Goose and Drop the Handkerchief. I also remember that the young mothers who taught those church classes seemed so old and so wise.
Then came our years of school from Kindergarten to 12 th grade. Our parents were so proud that Rippey had a full day Kindergarten and hot lunches. The hot lunches were good most of the time, but I remember that awful rule that required us to eat everything on our plate before we could go out to play. Dick Schlicht was the first in our class to find a loophole to that food rule and will always be remembered for his drawer full of discarded food in Miss Wilson's first grade. Personally, I hated sauerkraut and didn't have the nerve to stuff my desk full of food so I spent many lunch hours staring helplessly at my plate. For as long as she lived, I visited Ethyl Corey, who had been one of the lunch ladies, and thanked her again and again for all the times that she gave me only one or two little strands of kraut when I asked for just a little.
I think we were in kindergarten when Keith Hiddleson fell off of the top of the slide and got the wind knocked out of him. Now that was scary! And a few years later it was Bill Heater who broke a leg and made us jealous by getting to use crutches. I remember how almost all of the boys in our class had a crush on Miss Hess, our pretty Second Grade teacher. Of course, by then Roy Bardole already had a crush on Phylis Heater.
I remember fondly our teachers over the years. It would have been great to see them again to thank them. I also remember fondly Charlie Wishman, the school custodian, who kept track of everybody's birthday and somehow pretended to spank us on our birthday without really doing so.
I remember the excitement of the PTA programs when everybody in our class went on stage to put on our “class play. Did we do that every year? I can't imagine being any more nervous or excited if it had been a NYC theater debut.
Recess was great. I always liked running around and playing outdoor games. I loved the swings, the merry go round, the slide, the climbing dome and playing German bat ball. I also remember when we used to use those skate keys to clamp on those old metal roller skates and then skate around and around on the circular driveway. Do you remember playing crack the whip on skates? I don't know why we didn't break every bone in our bodies but I think the worst that happened was a lot of painful scraped knees.
I always loved sports. Rippey was a baseball town in those days and baseball was the sport that I really loved. I spent endless hours practicing at home with my brother, John. John pretended he was Mickey Mantle in our games and assigned me to be Minnie Minoso. We tried to get my little sister Nancy to be our permanent outfielder but, for some reason, she resisted.
I have to admit that I may have been the only girl in our class that wanted desperately to play baseball. I was thrilled to get a chance to play on a real basketball team in 7th grade. Barbara and I played every year thereafter until we graduated. I came to love playing basketball and appreciated the enthusiastic cheer leading by Delores, Marilyn and Phyllis. And I remember Janice being our dependable team manager.
Thanks to Charlie Tipton, Rippey finally got to have a girl's softball team in the summer after we graduated. It wasn't baseball and the ball was too big but I enjoyed playing. Unfortunately, I stood behind the pitcher's mound during one of our pre-game warm-ups and was chatting with Bev Rhoads at first base instead of paying attention to the batter.. Kathy Heater blasted a hard line drive that gave me a broken nose, two black eyes and a memorable end to my athletic career at Rippey.
We country kids spent a lot of time on the school bus. The daily ride to and from school sometimes seemed endless. I think there were four school buses and I was on the one that picked up kids living west of town. One of my favorite memories of mornings on the school bus was how happy I was when I saw Karen Walrad and her sister standing out there waiting to get on the bus. There were also all of the bus trips for music, concert and marching band contests, speech contests and, of course, basketball games. I especially remember being exhausted on the return trips and feeling either the joy of winning or the pain of defeat.
I was always envious of the town kids who got to play chalk the corner, go to Squeaks restaurant to get treats, and even go to Jay States “drug store” to sit and read comic books. Well, sit and read comic books until Mr. States put a stop to it. Barbara, Carl and Marilyn were the only town kids in our graduating class. Living in the country in those days kept the rest of us much closer to home. I'm sure that most of the boys spent a lot of their time working on the farm. For me, my country playmates were usually my sister and brother, Jay and Roy Bardole, our cousins a quarter of a mile west of us and Dick and Bill Heater who lived a half-mile south of us.
It was a great treat for me to go with Barbara Overman, my sophisticated friend from town, to her home and watch “Superman” and the “Lone Ranger” on that amazing television set. I remember being confused and having to ask Barbara who the bad guys were. Riding horses with Mary Fry and singing around Wilmuth Peter's piano with Sheila DeMoss are two other fond memories of time spent with friends in town.
I remember one night when Sputnik was supposed to be in the sky, Janice McCurdy and I took some blankets and lay on the ground outside her house looking up into the sky for much of the night trying to spot it. As I remember, we had great fun, but the bright spot in the sky that we found to watch never moved. Sputnik had evaded us.
I remember marveling at Marilyn Barton's talent at drawing and at Delores Rhoads's ability to dance and spell. .And I remember being excited when Norman Devilbiss's new face and cowboy sensibility showed up in grade school.
The boys in our class had Boy Scouts and 4-H. They got to raise livestock and had Jake Peters to take them on trips to see Major League baseball games. For us girls there was Campfire Girl's and 4-H. Our Campfire trips with Lavina to Valley Junction were particularly memorable. Phyllis Heater and I practiced hard and long to prepare our 4-H team cooking demonstrations for the Greene County Fair. As I remember, the two of us turned out custards (rennet and egg) and rolls (dinner & cinnamon) by the dozens.
It was so much fun when our class went the Ledges State Park in Boone, splashed through the water that came across the road, roasted hot dogs and climbed on the trails. I don't think we ever left without someone falling in and getting their shoes and clothes soaked. I also remember our field trips to see the wonders of Des Moines such as the Colonial Bread bakery. I think it was our senior trip when we went to see the new North High School where I remember being amazed by the long hallways and the turquoise paint. Now that was exciting!
There were 12 of us at graduation. I love telling my friends in Connecticut about my class and the fact that half of my class married each other and stayed around my favorite town. Those home grown couples were Roy and Phyllis, Dick and Janice and Bill and Delores.
I can still see Carl Killam playing his clarinet and talking with Roger Crumley about the latest jazz bands and the Bullwinkle cartoon characters.
I wish that Carl and Delores were still living and could have been here with the rest of us today, but I know they are with us in spirit. I also know that they would have enjoyed Dick and Janice's wonderful hospitality at our 50th reunion.
Through many of the earlier years of my life, I regularly attended the Rippey Alumni Party. My dad, Clark, had graduated from the “New Rippey High School” around 1927 and tried never to miss the gathering of old friends. My mother, Esther, had come to Rippey in the the mid 1930's and taught 7th and 8th grade for a few years. I remember the 50 year graduates being honored every year. I also remember that those 50 year graduates used to be really old! It was amazing to be there when Mom was recognized as a teacher of the 50 year class. The passage of time is a strange thing. So many people to remember, so many memories, so much changes and yet much stays the same.
Now I guess it is time to say Congratulations to us. Now that it has been 50 years since the graduation of the class of 1961.
Sharon Bardole McBlain