by Bill Monson


We're gathering this week at Legends and Soangetaha. From all around the compass, we're coming together to relive our high school years at GHS.

It was a different world, then. Our radios had tubes. Our cars had clutches and chokes and starters on the floor and shifters on the steering column. Some had Hollywood mufflers and Malibu Bells. Our records were hard shellac 78's. Our TV sets showed black and white pictures and only pulled in WOC and WHBF because most of us aimed our antennas toward the Quad Cities.

We didn't know about the Pill, bungee cords, DNA or plate tectonics; our airliners had propellers. Galesburg Airport was at Henderson and Fremont, which was the northwest edge of town. The County Courthouse was gray because everyone burned coal, which had grimed the stone. GHS was right across the street at South Broad and Simmons. We played our football games at Lombard Field, our basketball games at Steele Gym, and our baseball games at Lake Storey. Our football team was lousy, winning only one game out of nine--but that one was a 16-12 upset of previously undefeated rival Monmouth. The coach's name was Clifford Van Dyke and now adorns the football field behind the current GHS. Our basketball team had a new coach--Ken Menke--and went 11-12 before winning the regional and then losing to revenge-minded Monmouth 64-62 in overtime at the Macomb Sectional. The cross- country team, however, won the Northwest Conference; the baseball team won the Illini Conference; and the track team also won the Illlini Conference and sent seven men to the state finals. We held sock hops in the downstairs gyms and formal dances upstairs in Steele Gym. We bought our corsages at Ray Brown's floral shop in the Hill Arcade or Anderson's Florists on North Kellogg. We could buy our malts and shakes at Hawthorne's Drugs at 15 East Main or Brady's at 90 South Cherry. There was also the Tasty Grill on South Kellogg, across from the Orpheum. If we had wheels, we could try the Gold-N-Nugget Drive-In at 614 West Main or the Steak and Shake at East Main and Fulton. For a real treat, there were tenderloins at the Huddle on North Henderson.

We went to movies at the Orpheum, Grove, West, Colonial, and the Galesburg Drive-In (where there was often more action in the cars than on the screen!) For serious necking, there was 13 Curves at Lake Storey. Our senior year was one of international turmoil. There was deadlock in Korea and war in IndoChina. Joe McCarthy still chased Reds in government. Stalin died and was replaced by Malenkov. The Mau Mau ran amok in Kenya. Dwight Eisenhower was elected President over Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson, and Queen Elizabeth was coronated.

Carl Sandburg came to Galesburg to promote his new book "Always the Young Strangers" about his boyhood here.

The NCAA did away with free substitution in college football. The Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee. Rocky Marciano was heavyweight boxing champ. DiMaggio was gone, but Mickey Mantle took over center field and led the Yankees to another World Series. To battle television, Hollywood made pictures in wide-screen and 3-D. We wore special glasses to see "Bwana Devil" and "The Wax Museum" at the Orpheum. The gals were crazy over Tyrone Power, Burt Lancaster, Gregory Peck and Eddie Fisher. The guys panted for Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe.

"Rock Around the Clock" opened the door for rock-and-roll; and RCA introduced a record changer you could wire into the back of your radio to play your new vinyl 45-rpm records.

Galesburg voters defeated an April 1953 referendum for a new high school on 70 acres out on North Seminary; and on Thursday, June 4, 275 of us marched into Steele Gym in our wedgewood blue caps and gowns and graduated into a world full of promise and peril.

And now, half a century later, we're gathering to compare notes on how well we and the world did. I'll report in a couple weeks on the grades we gave ourselves at our reunion.