The Liberty Memorial High School Class of 1940 was ready for a reunion. In the 50 years since graduation, they had never held a formal get-together.
Class members, who hoped to make up for lost time this weekend, arrived in droves at the Lawrence Holidome Friday evening for their first and "golden" reunion.
Bob Nelson, secretary/treasurer of the reunion committee, said tracking down some of his former classmates was "like a big jigsaw puzzle." Most of the pieces fit, however, and the committee found all but 11 members of the graduating class. Nelson said 51 class members had died.
One reason for the much-delayed reunion was World War II, which scattered classmates across the country and overseas, Nelson said. In fact, LMHS graduates traveled to their reunion from 20 states.
About 90 classmates more than 60 percent of the class, registered for the reunion, something that surprised committee members who expected a much smaller crowd of about 50.
"I was surprised at how eager everyone was to get together," Nelson said.
THE CLASS of `40 braved hot, muggy weather to tour Lawrence by bus Saturday. After a short stop at the Riverfront Plaza, the group made a long-awaited visit to its alma mater, now Central Junior High School.
Many class members commented that the school hadn't changed much over the last 50 years. "It seemed a lot bigger back then," joked Maurice Abele, a retired Boeing engineer from Seattle. "I think they must've knocked a wall out or something."
Abele, who last visited Lawrence in 1969, said his childhood home on Tennessee Street was still standing, although much of the city looked unfamiliar. "What used to be pastures and daisy fields are homes now," he said.
IDA FRANCES Moyer Hekhuis, a retired nursing administrator from Bethesda, Md., said the city's growth didn't stand in the way of her memories.
"It's changed a lot, but there's enough landmarks to make it exciting," she said.
She recalled Watkins Bank, which is now Elizabeth M. Watkins Community Museum, the old county courthouse, and Bowersock Theater, now Liberty Hall. She also performed in band concerts in South Park.
Elizabeth Rothchild Parker, of Seahurst, Wash., last visited Lawrence 40 years ago. She left the city soon after graduating from LMHS and returned shortly in 1947 when her mother died.
"I haven't seen any of these people since I graduated from high school," she said. "I was very impressed. The homes are painted, the lawns look good and I don't even mind the weather. It's a wonderful reunion."
A BANQUET and dance was scheduled for class members Saturday evening with a program highlighting events of the last 50 years. This morning marks the end of the reunion. In a memory book compiled for the reunion, Nelson had one final request of his former classmates, "Let's please not wait another fifty years to hold our next reunion."