Alumni calling all classes for reunion

Posted: Friday, April 02, 2004

Paula (Cook) Critchfield of Friday Harbor, Wash., is looking forward to seeing old friends and the town she grew up in. She's one of the 124 Juneau-Douglas High School alumni who have registered so far for the all-class reunion set for July 2-3.

Critchfield, 70, graduated from the old Juneau High School near the Capitol in the Class of 1951. Her class had 47 members, as she recalls.

"We were very close," she said.

Residents have been planning the reunion for about two years, said organizer Betty (West) Miller, Class of 1955. She spent part of Thursday tracking down graduates from the late 1940s whose letters of invitation were returned with addresses unknown.

Miller, 67, who has organized other reunions and who keeps an alumni database of her own, knew some of the missing graduates or their siblings, and she discovered six addresses by working the phone. It all adds up.

"It's like detective work," Miller said.

Miller, a former federal administrative clerk, describes herself as a people person and a paper shuffler.

"I love doing this kind of stuff. You don't realize how good this makes me feel when we're all assembled ... and people are talking and laughing," she said.

The reunion will include a reception from 10 a.m. to noon on July 2, with a group photo at 11 a.m. A picnic at Sandy Beach starts at noon.

On July 3, alumni can tour the old high school building, now used as state offices, at 10 a.m. A whale-watching dinner cruise on a Four Seasons vessel, for an extra $80, is scheduled for noon to 4 p.m.

The evenings were left open because some classes are holding parties then.

Critchfield, who left Alaska in the early 1960s, has attended other reunions in Juneau and Seattle so she still keeps in touch with some former classmates. But she's looking forward to walking around Juneau and visiting old friends during the reunion in July.

"I just thoroughly, thoroughly enjoy it," Critchfield said.

Miller said the organizers planned the reunion for the Fourth of July weekend because people like to come home for the holiday.

"It's a small-town parade, it's a small-town doings, but these kids that live stateside miss that, and they want to bring their children home to see grandparents and be part of the Fourth," Miller said.

By "kids," she means people in their 50s, 60s and 70s. She still thinks of classmates by their childhood names like Eddie and Bobby.

At reunions, she said, "I learn that we still have a bond. ... And there's some that haven't come to any and they finally do show up. It's like we're back in the old school - the same companionship, the same personalities. Of course, we look different now and we have different shapes."

So far, most of the registrants are from out of town. The oldest are from the Class of 1931: Mary (Simpkins) Metzgar of Lynnwood, Wash., and Alice (Merritt) Petterson of Portland, Ore. The most recent are from the Class of 1970.

Miller speculated that more recent graduates don't feel the same ties to the high school that older generations feel.

The alumnus traveling the farthest is Dick Folta, who is coming from Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands.

"This one is a little different because it is the 100th year of the high school. Going back 100 years it will give us something of a variety of people who are interested in coming," said Juneau native Mary Lou Spartz, 73, a member of the class of 1949.

"I like to see people I never see otherwise," she said. "I think it kind of reaffirms your own little part in the universe, your own little space."



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