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CHASING DOWN THE MUSE: Reuniting with high school memories

This weekend, the Laguna Beach High School Class of ’67 will celebrate its 40th reunion. Hard to believe we have come this far!

Part of the Boomer generation, we share many things in common. Our parents were hooked on Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and Dean Martin. Elvis Presley and Chubby Checker were at the forefront of a musical revolution, which paved the way for the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Country Joe and the Fish, The Doors, Janis Joplin, The Who this list is long and mighty.

If we grew up in town, we have in common two elementary schools, Aliso (now Fred Lang Park) and El Morro. Top of the World Elementary wouldn’t debut until the mid-1960s.

Thurston Intermediate was the same two-year program, but classes were on the ground that now houses the community pool. The façade is the same, but the steps, classrooms and hallways "” filled with lockers and nervous laughter "” have long been displaced.

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These were our first lockers, the first time our classes were mixed with different kids during the day and the first time we had electives. It was also the first real mixing of Aliso and El Morro kids, and our social world expanded broadly.

Teachers’ names like McFarland, Paige, Messman, Tuttle, Wall, Bowen, Centeno, Sweet, Atkins and Arldt are a part of our legacy. My most cherished fifth grade teacher, David Lloyd, would continue on to be my Thurston principal.

For some of us, childhood friends carried all the way through to high school. The intimate framework of Laguna included shopkeepers who were also parents. The Jahruses owned the lumber yard, the Peacocks the insurance company, the Kawaratanis the nursery, Bushards and McCallas the drugstores, and the Iversons the gas station. It was hard to get away with much, but the familiarity also provided an extended family network that was of great comfort.

My first heartthrob was probably Cameron Smith, way back in the fifth grade, but he could have cared less for me. Along the way, heartstrings would tug for Charley Smale, Don Morshead, Jack Sexton, Nick Woodbury, Jamie Houston, and eventually connect with a transfer student, Chris Yeomans.

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We were so wise and all so innocent. Recreational drugs had yet to truly cross the threshold or grab our attention, although there was a great deal of alcohol at most parties. We wanted to be so grownup. Girls would put on fancy cocktail dresses, wear spiky heels, sneak out of the house and drink 7&7.

Friendships with girlfriends would last forever. While their intimacy and day-to-day attention might ebb and flow, through the end of high school I counted myself lucky for many great relationships.

From grammar school, Kathy Peacock, Betsy Gregory, Linda Kluer, Jill Allen and Gail Goodell were my best buddies. Actually, Jill’s dad was the principal at El Morro, and her younger sister, Lynn,was the same age as my sister, Claudia. We went through Brownies together and played for hours at one another’s houses. We had a “money" club, and when we had saved enough from chores, our moms would let us take a day off from school and spend it at Disneyland.

Kathy taught me how to ride her horse bareback on the beach at what is now Crystal Cove State Park. She had the handsomest brother, Steve, who was a tennis and basketball star, who of course couldn’t even see me. I did finally wrangle a few dates with him, but it was well after graduation.

Betsy had great sleepovers, aka slumber parties, and her mother made the most amazing rice cakes (something like pancakes) for breakfast.

Of course, we weren’t always angels. The slumber party at Nancy Jones’ house got sort of out of control. The Red Mountain wine stains on her mother’s white carpet were impossible to ignore, and a block of us were grounded for what seemed like forever.

Jenny Stevens was one of the first ones to have wheels, which meant mobility and adventures out of town. Newport was the “place" to go, since it was a big town and cruising Balboa or the Peninsula could make a great night.

The core of my high school days is a group of now extraordinary women, with whom I stay in weekly, if not daily, contact. These include Sue Klaasen, Val Iverson, Cathy Kauer and Merri Johns "” and when we can find her, Mary Stephenson. I feel especially blessed to have carried their friendship from grammar and intermediate school all the way through to the middle of our lives.

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Memories run in blocks, then split into wild spindly segments. They were “the best of times." We were good, we were goofy, we were spirited. We had stupid dress code rules and really ugly bathing suits for swim class and/or team.

We ended up being part of a war that was never a war, unless you happened to fight in it or die in it. We were "” yes children of the ‘60s, and some of us are still going strong, 40 years after we walked down the steps at Irvine Bowl and collected our diplomas.


CATHARINE COOPER still lives in Laguna! She can be reached via email : cooper@catharinecooper.com.


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