Reflections from the Class of ’65 Reunion
Is it ironic that during the year of our 50th class reunion, our hallowed Del Rio High School would stand as only a hollow shell of its former magnificence? Is that also how many of us in the class of 1965 feel? You would not have believed that if you had joined us during the October weekend as we celebrated our milestone reunion! The old high school building was the centerpiece of a tradition that should have been respected and carried on. The feelings for that building and its impact on those of us who passed through its halls are still very strong. That is why the old girl is getting a face lift and will continue to represent what is positive and grounded in each of us.
As we celebrated recently, many of us commented that we could not have imagined us sitting here fifty years after our May, 1965 graduation. All that had been on our minds then was freedom from high school and expectations for life after DRHS. We had closed the books (yes, we still used books rather than tablets for our school work) on our senior year. Many of us scattered like the leaves on the wind and our paths would lead us even further apart as life led us in many divergent directions. Some remained close to home and family; others would later return to stay. Those of you living in and around Del Rio deserve recognition for keeping the home fires going. It was a time of changing friendships, making new alignments, and even testing new waters as adulthood came our way. Many boyfriends and girlfriends chose that special song and vowed never to part. Some actually didn’t part and we congratulate them—they are truly remarkable!
Others fell into a “Burning Ring of Fire” and crashed and burned along the way. While we didn’t all keep up with each other as well as we could have, or lost touch over time, we were bonded by the brotherhood and sisterhood of the Class of ’65 and we always reunited. Many would suggest that we returned to the scene of the crime. Along the way a few of us have been misplaced; we simply have not been able to find you. Wherever you may be, we wish you the best and would welcome you back into “the family”.
Some, sadly, are no longer with us. We miss you and on this very special weekend, we honored your memory and called out the names of as many as we knew so that memories of you brought a smile to our lips.
So here we are, like old time capsules just having been opened, the “relics of 1965”. As old timers now, we can look back on the times where we once used to look ahead. History is not something we have to study in a book or look up on the internet, we’re actually part of it. When we were very young, the traces of WWII and the Depression still lingered because our parents and grandparents talked to us about it many times. Our fathers’ uniforms still hung in the closets, pictures of the bomber-filled skies filled old magazines in the house, and yellowed newspaper clippings in scrap books reminded us of family members who had been lost somewhere across the globe. We were given opportunities and possessions that maybe we didn’t deserve because our parents wanted us to have the things they had missed out on and they also wanted to shelter us from the bad while praying that we would never have to experience another war or depression in our lifetimes. Despite what we may have thought sometimes, they only wanted the best for us.
I am truly thankful that I grew up in Del Rio and attended school here. I am sure that we surely frustrated many of our teachers. In retrospect, I wonder if it was truly a mark of success for our class that every English teacher we had from 8th grade through 12th grade decided to retire at the end of the year after teaching us. I am sure that it was because we were so outstanding that they wanted to end with a positive memory!!! Who would have thought that I would one day encounter and teach with the person, Mary Barker, who taught me Spanish in DRHS? And this would happen across the nation in Orlando, Florida. It is a smaller world than we thought. Through all of our teachers’ efforts, we somehow absorbed enough knowledge to survive. Some of us even excelled and during the reunion we were still reflecting on grammar, parts of speech, punctuation, and spelling that teachers such as Mrs. Rowland taught to us even though it was shorthand or typing class. Mr. Dickinson taught us more about being a decent person than just Biology and the coaches made lasting impressions on us more than just how to run a pass play or make a free throw.
We were truly blessed to have grown up during the “Ike years” when the economy was good, the mood was upbeat, morals and manners were taught and expected by everyone and all my neighbors and people in the community monitored our behavior. That was the original version of “It takes a village to raise a child”. We just didn’t know that it had a motto. Entertainment was clean and brought a smile or even a laugh to the entire family. When television entered our lives in the fifties, it opened our eyes to the entire world. Many of us began our day with Dave Garroway or Romper Room and I Love Lucy, American Bandstand, and the Ed Sullivan Show kept us informed with trends and music from the rest of our nation. I can remember how jealous I was when the Beatles first came on Ed Sullivan and David, Carl and Jerry Horne were allowed to stay home from church that Sunday night to watch them. How smugly they walked into church late that night letting all of us know that they had seen something that the rest of us had not—the first appearance of the Beatles in the United States. We even enjoyed watching M-I-C-K-E-Y (although some would not admit it) which has evolved into a multibillion dollar enterprise today and Disney is still very much a part of our lives today. Gunsmoke and Bonanza were family events each week that lasted for years.
But television also brought us news about the Russians beating the United States into space during the late 50’s and did it really count if it was a dog? We worried when Francis Gary Powers had his U2 shot down over Russia in 1960 and wondered if that would affect our own Laughlin Air Force Base. Were we one of the main targets for a missile strike because of the pictures being taken and developed at Laughlin during this time of “cold war”? The father of one of our classmates, Bonnie McGough, was in charge of this job. Even though I spent many nights at their house, I never knew about this until years later. For 13 days in October, 1962 the Cuban Missile Crisis kept us glued to our televisions and radios and wishing that we had bomb shelters in case they did decide that Laughlin was a good target.
We watched the inauguration of John F. Kennedy in school on January 20, 1961 during our 8th grade year, but just to keep us well-rounded, we also watched the World Series. Most of us had never been to Washington, D.C. and I didn’t know anyone who had been to Cooperstown. But we felt like we were there. We were all stunned when the announcement came over the intercom on November 22, 1963 that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. I can vividly remember sitting in class during my junior year and hearing that everyone should be dismissed following the announcement. Our Thanksgiving holiday started early but there was very little thanks being given. We were shocked, saddened, and upset that something like this would happen in Texas.
However, everything of earth-shattering importance did not happen in other places in the world or even in the huge cities of Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston or even San Antonio. We had our share of excitement in Del Rio too. Maybe just on a scale that was more natural for us. How many movies went unwatched at the Rita Theater or the Drive-In? How many snuck into the drive-in in the trunks of cars? During the reunion there was even reminiscing of the first boy-girl party at Martin McFarlane’s and the games such as “Wink-Em” and a scavenger hunt (similar to snipe hunting) during that night. Some of our classmates even remembered drives along dusty backroads where the only other travelers were jackrabbits, armadillos, or the occasional rattlesnake. Others may have visited the scenic locale of Moore Park. During the reunion weekend we noticed the monarch butterflies at Moore Park- just another sign of our ability to appreciate the little things in life now. Many nights were spent driving up and down Avenue F or sitting at Mr. 15 Center often listening to Wolfman Jack on XERF in Acuna (even though they said it was from Del Rio. Many of us only listened to that station when we were hanging out together, not at home or in our cars. Somehow, we also did not worry about our gas mileage then because gas was only about $0.25 a gallon. Who says that American Graffiti had anything over the Del Rio Wildcats of 1965?
Elvis got our attention, but so did Buddy Holly, George Jones, and Patsy Cline. We also learned about Cheatin’ Hearts from Hank Williams even though he had gone to Hillbilly Heaven back in 1953. We travelled to Hawaii and Austria when we saw Blue Hawaii and The Sound of Music. We enjoyed Coke Floats just like Happy Days portrayed, but we didn’t hang out inside the malt shop. We bought our 45 rpm records for $.99 each week or two so that we could learn the words, sing and dance to them at slumber parties (where we did not slumber). We learned the Twist and the Stroll and even a modified jitterbug. However, nowhere in the nation did a dance like the Del Rio dance. It was much like the shag is to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It is unique, but you had to learn it if you were going to go to the sock hops, Homecoming dance, Juno Dance or Prom. We wore what we thought was the latest fashions that we could buy at the Guarantee. Man, you didn’t even have to try it on in the dressing room. They let you take them home, try them on and bring back what you did not want later. That would never fly today without a credit card and then some stores would charge a “restocking fee” for what you returned.
There is so much more that we reminisced about during our reunion weekend, but that will have to wait for the next reunion.
So what have we learned over these fifty years? What insights have we gained? Were we misguided in thinking that time would never catch us? I only know that if a call had gone out over this reunion weekend to build a bonfire or have a car smash, you should have watched out because the Wildcats who would have been right there! Let me tell you fellow classmates of the Del Rio Class of 1965, it ain’t over yet!! We can still cruise Avenue F with the best of them even if is called Veteran’s Hwy now. We could still roll (toilet paper) the coaches’ houses (even if someone else lives there now). We still enjoy getting together with each other, looking at old pictures, and taking pictures even though we know that in reality we do not look like we did. Many of us still stay in contact with each other by email, text, Facebook, and even the trusty phone. Our phone numbers may have changed, but the voices and the sentiment is stil there. Inside we are still the Class of 1965 who went through tough times when we lost classmates such as Martin McFarlane and Peggy Blankenship and struggled as many of our classmates moved when the SAC wing was transferred from Del Rio to Tucson prior to our Junior Year. We still have the same values and support for each other that we did when we were growing up.
So let’s keep the Spirit of the Del Rio Wildcats Class of 1965 alive and burning in each of us. Don’t allow others to dampen our spirit and our comradery. We are the Class of 1965 and let’s celebrate again in a few years as we remember what is good and valuable forever—that is our bond with each other and our affection for the Del Rio Wildcat Class of 1965.