45-Year Reunion Speech!
Presented August 26, 2000 by Mary K. (Smith) Kase
Good evening and welcome to the forty-fifth anniversary of the Class of 1955.
It was a very warm evening, that June night 45 years ago when some three hundred thirty some fresh-faced kids wearing gray caps and gowns received diplomas from Mishawaka High School.
graduating class of 1955 (all of us) were Depression kids, born in the 30’s to
parents who had been struggling with life and fortune for some years. We were born to families where values were a simple fact of
daily life – not a phrase reserved for politicians anxious for a sound bite on
the evening news. We entered the
world in a troubled time and our early childhood years were marked by a terrible
war that we really could not comprehend. But
we did know that this war, this terrible thing, took our dads, older brothers,
uncles away from family and put them in harm’s way. We did not know where these places were: these places with
strange names, Guam, St. Lo, Saipan, Normandy, Guadacanal.
We did know that the grown-ups around us became sobered as they listened
intently for the latest news from the front.
When it was over some of us had dads, older brothers, uncles who did not
come home. Our families, our young lives were forever marked by this
of us started 1st grade in the fall of 1942.
The war carried itself to the classroom as we saved our dime cards to buy
War Bonds and packed soap and toothbrushes into Red Cross boxes for distribution
to refugee kids overseas.
Whether we attended public or parochial schools, our grade school years were pretty much the same. Teachers or nuns – we were there to be taught—to be molded into something that would be acceptable to society at large. At least that was their hope. We weren’t thinking about those kinds of things. We had other things to concern us:
sent to the Principal’s office was nothing compared to the fate that
awaited you when you got home.
We had ink pens instead of ballpoints.
We had radios not cyberspace.
Do you remember Saturday afternoon movies, not Saturday morning cartoons.
Your bike had coaster brakes.
Catching lightening bugs in a jar.
Playing soldiers and sailors when the Germans and the Japs were the bad guys.
When you were a little third grade girl and all boys were dumb.
When you were a little third grade boy and all girls were stupid.
When all of that began to change.
Playing jacks and jump rope in the schoolyard.
Playing ‘kick the can’ in the street until the street light came on, then dashing for home so that you would ‘be home before dark’.
Remember the wonder of Robertson’s Toyland at Christmas.
around the corner seemed far away and taking the bus to downtown South Bend
seemed like really going somewhere.
when there was a downtown South
Indiana: A city that typified small-town, middle class, Midwest America.
Ethnically diverse, we treasure our European heritages.
Some of us are children of immigrants.
Others had grandparents who were a part of the great European immigration
of the early part of the twentieth century.
we came together that fall of 1951 as the freshman class of Mishawaka High
School, we were known and always will be known as the Class of 1955.
We were proud of our ethnicity. When
the United Nations was in its infancy in 1955, Mishawaka High School was already
a miniature United Nations and had been for some time.
at the way it is reflected in our Miskodeed:
Zappia, Weinkauf, Zirille, Werbrouck, Katterheinrich, Rossi, and we had
our Smiths and Millers as well. (No Jones’s though – at least not in our
developed a strong work ethic. This
a legacy from our parents who provided the manpower for local industry. Ball Band, Dodge, Wheelabrator, Bendix and Studebaker put
dinner on the table in many Mishawaka homes.
As a community we had yet to experience the upsetting effects of a local
economy shifting from an industrial employment base to one of service and
began our lives as members of the Class of 1955 as timid freshmen. We struggled with our class load as the homework grew harder.
We struggled with ourselves as well as we tried new ideas and new
interests, seeking to find something that fit comfortably into our adolescent
skins. We looked for acceptance
from our peers and quickly adopted the fads and the fashion of the day:
YOU REMEMBER WHEN. . .
We dressed up to go to school and girls wore skirts—not jeans.
When you knew what high school a girl attended by the way she wore her bobby sox. (We wore ours rolled like tubes and stuffed with old nylons)
When we wore hose and flats to school and panty hose did not exist.
When every guy had a pair of gray flannels and a pink shirt.
Do you remember wearing a sterling silver name medallion – and if you had a steady it was someone else’s name.
When the school administration outlawed Jacket Clubs.
Remember the Dariette and Rosemary Spalding’s dad. (She was Rosie Zirille then.)
When you took typing, not keyboarding.
Your first pizza at the Volcano Restaurant.
When going to the LH Inn with a date was a rite of passage.
When the HiY officers escorted the Queen’s Court at Homecoming.
Do you remember the picnics at Tower Hill the day after the prom . . . and the resulting sunburns.
When the White Spot was on the edge of town.
Do you remember the Service Station where sombody else pumped your gas.
Remember when you could take a girl to a movie and then have hamburgers, fries and shakes at Bonnie Doone’s and the whole date would cost less than five bucks? Remember that?
years passed as a heartbeat and with proud families looking on we graduated that
June as the Class of 1955. We would
never again be together as that same group.
As we took our first tentative steps to adulthood we went in many
separate ways. We looked ahead to
‘making it’. We took jobs, went
to trade school or college or the military.
We became skilled tradesmen, teachers, secretaries, business owners,
bankers, artists and artisans, musicians, college professors, farmers,
ministers, retail clerks, doctors and nurses.
married and became moms and dads as we formed our own new families. Mom and Dad who had given us so much, now became Grandma and
Grandpa and continued to take pride in us as we assumed these new
responsibilities. As our parent’s
struggles became our own, we began to recognize something of the sacrifices they
had made as we were now called upon to do the same.
own children are now grown and face the responsibilities of marriage and
parenting. Families and family
pressures are now very different. Many
of us have seen our kids marry, divorce, and remarry. Very
recently a dear friend commented, “Mary K., I have three sons and have been to
seven weddings.” As grandparents
we often provide an anchor both for our grown children and for their children as
well. If this is our role, then we
must play it well. Support without
is what happens to us while we are busy planning other things. Turn
around twice and all of a sudden you realize that the word ‘senior’ applies
to you. We can plan for tomorrow,
but we cannot guarantee that tomorrow will be there for us to enjoy.
We cannot guarantee that our spouse and kids will be there to enjoy it
with us. Life
can be full of left hooks and right jabs and sometimes we cannot avoid the
knockout punch. The only moment in
time we can be absolutely sure of is NOW
– TODAY – THIS MOMENT. Live
in the moment, treasure it, savor it, wrap yourself and those you love within it
and hold on tight.
would leave you this evening with the closing lines from a play by Joseph
Patrick, The Teahouse of the August Moon. The
character Sakini speaks…
History of world unfinished.
Lovely ladies…kind gentlemen —
Go home to ponder.
What was true at the beginning remains true.
Pain makes man think.
Thought makes man wise.
Wisdom makes life endurable.
Our play has ended.
August moon bring gentle sleep.
August 26, 2000