In 1963, the Corvette Stingray set a new standard for sports cars. It wasn’t just another sports car, it had style. It was light and handled unlike any sports car for its time. It swam along the road, and people noticed.
So, when Larry Clement brought his ’63 Corvette to his class reunion at Cardinal Hills last weekend, he wasn’t just showing off a collectible item: It became a centerpiece for the reunion. It symbolized more than just success in business for himself and his close friends Tom Ross and Jim Getz. It wasn’t just about nostalgia. For them, this car symbolized their camaraderie. It reminded them of their class’s prowess on the gridiron, court, pool, track, stage and even the debate round.
The trio’s senior year was laced with success. The basketball team won the championship game. The debate team won numerous awards and so did several individuals for their musical abilities. But Ross and Clement said it wasn’t all because of the students.
“We had people that took a deep and sincere interest in what was happening in Newton, Iowa,” Ross said.
While Clement and Ross can recount many helpful mentors in the classroom and on the court, Ross said it wasn’t just about the people they saw every day in high school.
“The memories of Newton, Iowa, revolve around the people of Newton,” Ross said. “Not only the coaches and teammates but the populace of Newton.”
Before and after games, Ross said the town would be vivacious. Red and black, students, parents and other Newtonians invaded downtown all in support of whatever event happened to be going on that night. After winning the basketball championship, Clement recounts going back to the gymnasium and being joined by classmates and many people of the town.
“It wasn’t about the individual,” Ross said. “That was the best thing about what we did. Nobody was looking for ink for themselves.”
Everyone had a chance to succeed. Clement remembers that discipline played an important role in his life growing up as well as the idea of competition. He said the only difference between a game and business is that the scoreboard changes. But Newton never has been, a cutthroat, every-man-for-themselves community, according to Ross.
“This community allows you, if you have a group of people that are outstanding or exceptional or even to a point to where they are trying to be exceptional in any given way ... whatever you choose, this community has a tendency to grab their arms around it and be a part of it,” Ross said.
Clement had been on the lookout for a ’63 Corvette for several years, specifically for the reunion. He still remembers when he got the call about the car; he was walking around Disney World with his grandkids.
“My wife wasn’t sure that I needed another Corvette,” he said. “I said, ‘I gotta have a ’63.’”
Clement’s first car wasn’t nearly as glamorous, but his ’56 Chevy got him from point A to point B — that is, after he overhauled the engine and changed the automatic into a stick shift. He remembers the first ’63 Corvette he saw and was blown away. But 50 years later, it’s not the car that blows him away but the compliments from one of his closest friends.
“Larry was tenacious in athletics and then he was tenacious in business,” Ross said. “And he is a tremendously loyal friend. Fifty years ago, we graduated from Newton High School together, and in the remaining 50 years our friendship has never wavered.”
The car didn’t symbolize simpler times or a better era, but a past that shaped the three men into who they were, and reminded them of what Newton — as a community and town — expected from them and gave back to them.
Staff writer Dave Hon may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.