58 years later, Westies return to alma mater
Leave it to a kid to come up with a mischievous “age” joke.
When a group of “Westies,” the self-named West Junior High Class of 1954, toured the school as part of a reunion Sept. 14, they dropped by Mike Wheeler's Introduction to Technology class. So naturally, one of the students had to ask Wheeler if he had taught any of the visitors' classes.
“I didn't because I wasn't born then,” Wheeler responded, after which of course he had to make nice with the 20 or so alumni, who either thought it was all quite funny or were not paying much attention because they were fascinated at the changes in that general area that used to hold the school's wood, electricity and auto shops.
The visit, led by Principal Clay Gomez, marked the first time most of the group had been back to West (now a middle school) since 1954, said David Bylund, one of the reunion organizers. They spent much of the roughly hour-long tour commenting on the differences - or in some cases, trying to remember what it actually had been like 58 years ago.
Random observations were made along the way. Sharon Jackson recalled that until her class was in ninth grade, there was no cafeteria. “We sat cross-legged on the floor of the gym to eat our lunches,” she said.
Seeing Gomez talk on a portable radio during the tour, one of the visitors commented that nothing like that existed in the '50s. “We had a PA then,” he said.
The school took some pains in those days to separate boys and girls, including wooden doors across the middle of the gym, said Lloyd Needham.
Bylund expressed fond memories for a teacher named Mrs. Caldwell who had gone out of her way to teach him proper print-handwriting technique when he had trouble with cursive. This later helped him when his career path led him into drafting and engineering, he said.
Alumnus Art Inness commented that the windows, now vinyl, were wood back then. Asked if they had screens, he thought a moment and said no. “I remember because a girl threw her books out of a window upstairs.”
Guiding the visitors into the venerable West auditorium at the end of the tour, Gomez asked with a smile, “Do these look like the same chairs?” Several Westies nodded.
Afterward, the visitors were besieged by about 10 students who interviewed them as part of a class assignment to learn about school history. One of the kids, Gabe Cowardin, asked Westie Jim Reid if there was a school song in 1954, and Reid proceeded to sing it for him (“On West Junior, on West Junior…”)
The 1954 class is a little unusual because they were especially tight as kids - they went by the name “Westies” even then. After several of them met up again at the Colorado Springs High School 50th in 2007, they decided to meet more frequently than reunion calendars typically call for, even though several of them live out of state. They have since gotten together for lunch at Thorndale Park (a favorite stomping grounds from their youth) in 2008, 2010 and again Sept. 14 (before visiting West).
Bylund, whose father (now age 95) also went to West, said he and his classmates plan to continue rendezvousing regularly, and also welcome West alumni from other years. A few from later classes even joined them Sept. 14. One of these, Glenys (Ray) Griffith, had fond memories from her Class of '62: “ I found lifetime friends here,” she said.
How soon will the next Westie reunion be? “There were a few remarks about having one again in two years,” Bylund said afterward. “A few joked (ha ha, not funny) we better not wait longer than two years so we will still have some left to come.”
Westside Pioneer article