by Bill Monson


The tocsin sounded, and the GHS Class of 1953 answered. From 18 states – Atlantic to Pacific – they flew and drove and rocked on Amtrak. A total of 150 (88 grads and 62 spouses) turned up in Galesburg September 19-21 to celebrate their golden anniversary.

Autumn arrived with them as a cold front moved through with showers and blustery winds. Not enough to stop the golf fanatics, though, who borrowed clubs and donned windbreakers to try the fairways Friday at Lake Bracken. The distaff side shopped the Sandburg Mall or the boutiques of South Seminary. Many spent time with relatives or old friends in the area.

Friday night saw a large turnout at the Legends for the first official get-together – a reception highlighted by a choral group organized by Fran Hanley. There was a lot of squinting to match name cards to faces unseen for years. Very few attended the GHS Homecoming game vs. Moline. Too chilly – and out-of-towners were just a trifle concerned about those Nile Virus mosquitoes they'd heard about. When the final score was reported, with GHS on the losing end, we weren't judgmental. After all, our senior year, GHS won only one game and lost eight!

Many folks spent the night catching up on each other's lives, reviewing displays of old pictures, and mourning a little at the Memorial Wall of departed classmates.

Saturday proved warmer, and more golfers took off for a morning at Lake Bracken. A hardy double-dozen gathered at the Orpheum to follow manager Amy Kelso and her 14-months-old son Lucas (nickname: The Chairman) from the basement dressing rooms all the way up to the projection booth of the historic old theater. They marveled at the lobby chandelier and admired the ancient ticket box restored by Lynn (Pud) Nelson in 1988 and dedicated in honor of the Class of 1953.

Others visited the Carl Sandburg Birthplace or strolled downtown Galesburg. A few took in the Knox game vs. Ripon – also a loss for the home team. Evening saw everyone at Soangetaha for the class party. With assistance from Gloria Peabody Gallagher, yours truly emceed the program, which featured remarks by the class president Jerry Stanners, memories from Carol Baldwin, music by Frank Hilligoss, and satiric poetry by a whole group of class members. The Rev. Gary Parks gave the invocation. Bill Leeper's Soangetaha staff handled the food and drinks smoothly. Photographer Tom Foley needed a shaky stepladder and wide-angle lens to get all 88 class members into the picture on the west side of the clubhouse. Despite the general enthusiasm, the party wrapped up by ten o'clock as our years took their inevitable toll. Sunday, a gorgeous red-orange dawn promised rain, but a considerable number showed up for a continental breakfast at Dale and Lucille Morling's lovely home on North Broad. More pictures, more talk, more exchanging of E-mail addresses – and finally, tears from a few as the morning moved too swiftly by. Dick Nelson told me the story of his grandfather's radio station WBKY, started in 1919 in the backyard of 227 Duffield and which burned down in 1934. Richard Bern wore a Bears sweatshirt and took some kidding about the team's poor start and the nasty reviews their Soldiers Field addition got in the morning's TRIBUNE. Larry Thomson was still beaming over his Oregon Ducks' Saturday upset of Michigan. I got too little time with my old pal Rex Dobey from the Blaine Avenue Bulldogs, but Jackie Johnson, grand-daughter of Frank Tucker, shared some memories with me. Her family used to live in a big white house where Walgreen's new store is now situated. (Even the Monkey Town gang members from north of the Santa Fe tracks like Pud Nelson and Dale Harvey remembered Jackie's golden curls as a little girl!) Frank Tucker ran a confectionery store on the triangle between Pine and Grand where we often tested his patience by reading – but rarely buying – comic books and magazines.

There was much talk of changes in Galesburg, especially the Maytag closure. Ron Pearson, GHS '50, retired controller of Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation, reminded me that his company employs about 150 people and is dedicated to Galesburg. (No "hasta la vista" from these folks!) Ron's wife Arline, GHS '53, stressed that getting new industry is essential, however. "We need the youth," she said. (We should all look as youthful as Arline...!) The general consensus was a top grade on the Class of 1953's report card. Dick Watson summed up: "A great gang. Made a real contribution to Galesburg. A good class of good people." Phil Johnston added: "They all worked hard and made a contribution to Galesburg and every place they went. A great bunch of people."

The verdict was unanimous on the reunion itself. Everyone agreed that Chairperson Kathy Huff Alstedt and her co-planners – Lucille Malcolm Morling, Frances Bradburn Henley, Carole Johnson Pickrel, Carol Rich Hertenstein, and Dick Webber – did a great job.

Soon, they intend to start preparing all over again for 2008 and our 55th!