"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Golden Years, Part Two (The 50th Reunion of the AHS CLass of 1960)

(From loudspeaker)

And now, Ladies and Gentlemen….

Muskeg Manor Productions and Gullible’s Travels are proud to present….

..live and onstage at the Anchorage High School auditorium….

…for the first time in fifty years…..

the one, the only…Gu-u-u-u-u-l-l-l-l-l-lible!

(Gullible didn't take those pictures. A classmate who said he couldn't keep his hands from shaking did. They really aren't blurry. That's called soft focus. It's a technique used when photographing older persons.)

(Lengthy applause finally dies)

Gullible: Thank you, ladies and gent…

(Voice interrupts from stage right wings:)

Thang kyew, thang kyew verrr mush

Gullible: Uh…. No… Uh, El… Ummm, excuse me just a moment, ladies and gentlemen.

(Walks offstage, not realizing lapel microphone is still live.)

El, El, not now. It’s my turn. This is my gig. Tonight is your turn. I promise, tonight you’ll be the center of attention.

(Gullible returns to center stage:)

Sorry, folks. That was my friend El. He misses the stage and the spotlight, you know. Hasn’t quite finished his transformation, as you probably guessed from all the sightings. You’ll see him tonight at the dinner dance.

Anyway, here we are in this beautifully restored auditorium, the largest one in Anchorage. It’s been fifty years since I crossed this stage. Fifty years. And that was one of the happiest moments of my life.

(That's Mr. Montgomery at the far left. He was the school principal then. He'll be at the dinner-dance tonight.)

Free at last, free at last, by the skin of my teeth, I was free at last.

Truth is, I hated my senior year in high school. Not my classmates—my friends—and certainly not the school itself. And not the teachers, either. I simply didn’t want to be there any more, and considering all the trouble I created for myself that year, I almost got my wish before I got my diploma. But those are stories for later—if we have time.

Right now, I want to take you on a tour of my school. This is what it looked like when I was attending.

And, this is what it looks like now:

Notice anything different? Besides the color, I mean.

If you saw that it’s no longer a two-story school, you’re right. That’s because in March of 1964, a 9.2 Mm earthquake hit Anchorage, and the second story was ruined, so they took it off. Later it was determined that the reason the second story failed is that it was built just as strong and just as heavy as the first floor. Couldn’t take all the movement.

(photo used courtesy of AFHAM Collection; Anchorage Museum, B69.11.25)

The only two-story part that survived is the end that houses this auditorium...

the gymnasium...

and the music rooms upstairs...

Choir room. Hmm. Workman's taking his noon lunch break just about where I used to stand during practice. Right beside my friend Renetta. You'll meet her later.

Band room.

And, this little practice room? Woo-wee. Did I ever catch heck from the choir teacher in there one day. To make matters worse, it involved none other than our guest of honor at our reunion--the Royal Coachman. One of my more embarrassing moments, I should say. As I said earlier, another story for another time. Assuming we have time, that is.

So. Let’s get this tour on the road…or maybe I should say, down the hallway.

Ah, but before we go, I want to draw your attention to this painting on your left. It was painted by Alaska’s most famous artist, Sydney Laurence, and was presented to the auditorium in 1955. The painting is titled “Arctic King.” It’s of Denali. That’s Mt. McKinley to those of you who don’t live in Alaska.

Oh, and one more thing. Just in case you’re wondering what a far off city like Anchorage needs with a 2000-seat auditorium (besides, of course, a place for me and all my choir buddies to perform, and all the band kids to knock your socks off), well, listen. Here are only a few of the performers that have trod the boards of this stage:

Mary Martin

James Whitmore

Johnny Cash

The Bee Gees


Ozzy Osbourne (though he may not recall it)

Itzhak Perlman

Ray Charles

The Grateful Dead

The Paul Taylor Dance Company

A Prarie Home Companion

Do I have your attention now? See why we love this auditorium?

Back to the tour, now that you’re suitably impressed. After all, Your very own Gullible performed on this stage many times. Yes, and those high school years were almost the last time, too. See, there was this one night after I ate a funny-tasting brownie and I found myself playing the guitar and singing in front of a room full of people and… Oh, it’s getting late. We have to hurry now.

May as well start where our reunion group started. A couple dozen of us gathered outside the doors of the auditorium/gym to tour the school.

Here we are:

Now, the first thing I noticed that was really different was this rooftop. What the heck are those things? Bird catchers?

Inside, the passage of five decades was evident. I don't mean this hallway (excuse the ladders, please. They’re up-dating the sprinkler system.) Sprinkler system? Must have been a retrograde.

No, what I mean is this sign:

And this one:

Here’s what used to be the round library. Now it’s a Native studies lab.

Now, be careful here. Don’t step on the eagle. It’s the original.

This is the original granite flooring from 1953. Incredible how it’s held up. I know of whole schools that were built in Anchorage after this that have since been demolished and rebuilt.

You’ll notice that they have real "temporary" buildings out back for extra classrooms, instead of Quonset huts. Kids just don’t know what they’re missing. I mean, Quonset huts have cachet.

During my senior year, when I was co-editor of the school newspaper, they let us have an actual classroom instead of a Quonset.

This one below might be it. Don’t know if it survived the earthquake, but this is the right location—top of the stairs, across from the entry to the music department, which did survive.

Boy, just standing here I can still hear the cheers coming from the gym downstairs.

Everyone’s at the basketball

game but me. I’m up here late on a Friday night, doing a paste-up of the paper.


And somewhere along here is one of my old lockers…one of these….

Don’t remember which one, exactly. Which is quite appropriate, because every time we had more than two days off from school, I’d have to go to the office and ask Mrs. McGuin for the combination to my locker. I still have trouble that way with numbers.

This locker is right across from what used to be the cafeteria. I’m really glad the area now contains offices, because a photo of the old cafeteria would give me nightmares. THAT cafeteria almost got me expelled from school in my senior year, and expulsion meant I wouldn’t graduate, and not graduating was unthinkable.

Yes, that’s another one of those stories.

But, oh, dear, I see we’ve run out time. Too bad. So sorry. Maybe another time. Hope you enjoyed the tour.

(to be continued--it's El's turn next)

1 comment:

  1. Buck as affiliated with the Class of '54 (PHS) group instead of his own Class of '55 because they are more fun. He has been "officially" adopted. I've never been to a class reunion, but am enjoying reading about yours!