I had many friends at Kalida, both male and female. I have many fond memories of those three years and very few sour ones. I now fully appreciate how fortunate I was. Every single person in our class was friendly, accepting, supportive, and respectful. At no time in my life did I feel so nurtured. Of course, I spent more time with classmates who shared common interests. But there was not a single person I disliked or avoided.
In a rural area, much of the social life centers around school activities, especially sports, and hanging out at the local restaurants. In Kalida in the 60s, that meant Dick’s Restaurant. My mother even worked there as a cook for a couple years. After a basketball game, it was standing room only, with people of all ages jammed in with overflow spilling out onto the sidewalk.
At that time, fish on Fridays was pretty well mandatory for all my Catholic friends. After the basketball games, we’d head to Dick’s Restaurant. They ordered their fish sandwiches, and then I ordered my fish sandwich. Their initial response was, “We have to! Why are you eating fish?” I took joy in replying, “Cause I love it!” Still do!
Older folks, and those celebrating a special occasion, would wander over to The Black Angus Steakhouse in the village square. Teens typically only are there with their with families, as it was a bit expensive. It had an excellent reputation, and steak lovers would drive all the way from Toledo, Lima or Fort Wayne for dinner.
On summer evenings, we often congregated at the Kalida ballpark, as a baseball or softball game was scheduled almost every evening. Of course, there was beer for sale, or some men brought their own 12-packs.
We would walk or cruise the town, often ending up on some girls’ porch chatting about the latest movie or pop song. I vividly recall watching the Beatles for the very first time on the Ed Sullivan Show, with a group of friends in Rita Shumaker’s living room. It was so different from anything else we had ever seen. Everyone was mesmerized. The girls of television were screaming so wildly, I couldn’t image they heard the songs
I greatly admired Norbert Hoffman. He was honest, unpretentious, and genuine. I remember he insisted that our science teacher change his grade from an A to a B, claiming he had not earned it. He often said things I wish I had said. He had real character; certainly not obsessed with what others thought of him.
Denny Potts, the son of Evangeline Potts, our French and English teacher, was a very reliable friend. When I became a teacher, I often thought of Mrs. Potts as a decent role model. Denny’s uncle also taught at the high school. Denny seemed to excel at everything he did. He was an outstanding basketball and baseball player, a superb student, a very kind and supportive, friend, and funny in a unique way. He married another good friend Barbara Unverferth, and taught and coached at one of the other high schools in the county. They had eight children.
In my junior year, Bob Fortman appeared in our class. He had given the seminary a shot and decided it just wasn’t for him. Our gain! He was funny and always fun to be around. He worked in his Dad’s auto repair shop, so he always drove cool cars – Fords, as I recall. We cruised many miles on the county back roads, with sometimes deep philosophical explorations and more often just crazy hilarious bents.
Rachel Rampe was a cheerful, hilarious gal, genuinely supportive, and always fun to be around. I asked her to go to the junior prom – my first real date! At our 50th class reunion, I announced that my biggest regret in high school was not kissing Rachel on our junior prom date. I walked over and when she stood up we shared a big one right on the lips!
Ruth Wehri was my date for the senior prom. A unique tradition at the Kalida proms was inviting all the parents of the senior students to chaperone. Probably the only time my parents ever went to a dance together!
Obviously, our proms were pretty calm. No wild stuff. However, I did steal my first kiss with Ruth when I took her home. Yeah, I was a late bloomer, but made up for it later. Sadly, 15 months later, she was killed in a drunk driving auto accident, as was another classmate, Bill Nartker, a couple years after Ruth.
Pete Dauer moved to Kalida after I had. Like me, he was “from away.” We bonded. I recall one of his first cars was an old Willie, with the front floorboard completely rusted out. He had a wooden plank in its place where you had to put your feet. You could see the pavement as it rolled by below.
There were some very bright students in our class. One, Betty Wehri, who shocked me when she left for the convent after graduation. She spent many decades as a nun in Ecuador.
For our senior trip, we chartered a bus and went all the way to Detroit and Windsor! We snag and laughed all the way there and back. I recall riding part of the way sprawled in the luggage rack above the seats.
I have many special memories with all of my classmates. (I apologize to those I didn’t include by name. Maybe later.) We have had class reunions every five years since we graduated. I did not realize that the only real duty of the senior class president was to organize the class reunion every five years! Should have read that contract closer.
It is always fun to reminisce about our time together, an era of innocence and growth. When we had our 50th high school reunion, in 2014, 30 of the 32 original classmates were living; only Ruth & Bill, victims of those tragic drunk driving accidents, had passed.