Juneau-Douglas High School was just a few years old in 1962 when an avalanche swept down the mountain, stopping a few hundred feet from the new school.
"It wiped out some of the houses in the Highland area, just a block or two up, on Behrends," said Lennie Gorsuch, a graduate of the Class of 1962. "I remember sneaking out of school to go check it out and I ran into a bunch of teachers."
Gorsuch was a member of the first class to go through the "new" high school on the Juneau waterfront. The old high school was on Sixth Street downtown.
Gorsuch and her classmates are celebrating their 40-year reunion this weekend with a dance, a cruise and a potluck picnic. Classmate Sam Trivette, who helped Gorsuch and others organize the reunion, said 92 people graduated in the Class of 1962.
"There are a bunch of people coming I haven't seen in years," he said. "George Quinto will be coming from Anchorage and driving in the parade, and I haven't seen him in at least 20 years."
Quinto will drive a 1954 International pickup in the Fourth of July parade, and classmates will ride and walk in the parade with him. On Saturday, the Class of '62 will have picnic at Auke Bay Recreation Area from 11 a.m. to about 3 p.m.
At 5:30 p.m. Friday, folks will meet at Auke Bay for a whale-watching dinner cruise aboard an Allen Marine vessel.
"It will be a nice chance to get out," Trivette said. "I had a boat when I was 15, a skiff, and most of us who grew up here like the water. People who have been away can get back out."
Trivette said that in the early 1960s, before Egan Drive was built, the high school was right on the water.
"I remember a couple kids got suspended for a few days and the whole time they were, quote, being punished, they were waterskiing in front of the school. Made us all feel good," he said.
Gorsuch, who works with Allen Marine Tours, said people should be able to see some whales on the cruise.
"There has been a big increase in the whale population since we were in school," she said. "They were whaling back then, not in our front yard, but they have quit whaling since then and it seems like there are a lot more whales today."
Reunion events kick off tonight from 8 to 11 with a sock hop at the Terry Miller Legislative Building, known as Capital School to the Class of '62. J. Allan MacKinnon, a musician and class member, said songs such as "Stand By Me," "Twisting the Night Away," by Sam Cooke, and the Isley Brothers' version of "Twist and Shout" - before the Beatles - were hits when he was in school.
MacKinnon said when he started at JDHS, the first year the building was opened, the third floor was still being completed. The gym and auditorium were finished between his freshman and senior years.
Class members are coming from California, the Washington, D.C., area, Anchorage, and as far as the island of Saipan. Len Asper works in the South Pacific but has kept a house in Juneau and returns each summer.
Some classmates, such as Larry Hurlock, Alan Graves and Fred Baxter, are still in Juneau.
"One of our teachers, Betty Green, just passed away on the 16th (of June)," said MacKinnon. "She was 95."
Juneau had a population of about 7,500 in 1962, and Gorsuch said there were a lot fewer stoplights.
"Just the one at 12th and maybe at the bridge," she said. "That was the old bridge. It had ruts in it and was guaranteed to get you to the other side."
For more information on Class of '62 reunion events, call 789-0732 or 789-0320.
Riley Woodford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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