The Newton High School Class of 1954 is celebrating its 60th class reunion this weekend. On Friday, members will join the All-Class Reunion at the Newton Club on Rusty Wallace Drive at 6 p.m. On Saturday, the All-Class Breakfast will begin at 10:30 a.m. at Newton Senior High School. At 5 p.m. Saturday evening, the Class of 1954 will gather at the Newton American Legion Hall for a social hour and a sit down dinner. Class member Sue Robison of Newton was the contact person.
On Friday, May 28, 1954, 148 seniors were listed on the commencement program. It was held at 7:30 at the Fred Maytag Bowl. Superintendent B.C. Berg presided. He served Newton from 1922 to 1959, for 37 years. Classmate the late Ronald Tinnermeir led the pledge to the flag. Classmate Robert Woody gave the salutatory, and classmate Paul Stock the valedictory. The class motto was “The horizon widens as we climb.” By 2014, it is a good thing we didn’t say “belt line.”
Principal Harold A. “Pop” Lynn presented the Class of 1954. “Pop” Lynn began teaching in Newton in 1924, was named principal in 1928, retired as principal in 1967, and died Sept. 12, 1994, at the age of 93. He gave 43 years of dedicated service to Newton, not even counting his four additional years as principal at Kellogg and numerous days as a substitute teacher around the county. “Pop” Lynn spoke at our 40th class reunion in 1994 at the American Legion Hall. It must have been one of his last public appearances. My family lived only three houses down Second Avenue from the Lynns. I had to behave since I walked past the Lynn house on the way to and from school.
The baccalaureate for the class was held in the school gymnasium the evening of May 23 with the sermon given by the Rev. Maurice Irvin of Community Heights Church.
The 1952-53 football team was undefeated with a record of 302 points, opponents 58, and were CIC Champs. In the fall of 1953, the team hoped to again be undefeated but lost only to Boone 14 to 7. Star quarterback David Loupee broke his left leg. The 1953-54 team piled up 205 points in games to the opponents 54 and were again CIC Champs.
In 1953, the Maytag Foundation established The Maytag Scholarship Fund. It provided college scholarships for qualified Newton High School graduates and children of Maytag employees. This writer earned a college education with the help of a Maytag Scholarship. It changed my life. In 1954, 2,000 people and businesses of Newton gave $300,000 for a 45-bed east wing to Skiff Memorial Hospital.
The Newton Senior High School was built in 1952, and the Class of 1954 was the second to graduate from the brand new facility, which was much smaller than today. It was rather interesting that baby photos of all of the faculty were published in the 1954 Newtonia yearbook. Business advertisers in the back of the yearbook had only two-, three- or four-digit phone numbers. On Sept. 18, 1952, school was dismissed when Dwight D. Eisenhower made a brief whistle stop at the Newton Depot during his run for president. The high school band played while Ike and Mamie waved from the rear car.
In 1954, after the Korean War, the country was still divided at the 38th parallel. In 1953, Queen Elizabeth II was crowned. The Supreme Court ruled that segregation by color in public schools was a violation of the 14th Amendment. Pope Pius X was proclaimed a saint by Pope Pius XII. The U.S. tested a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific at Bikini. Dr. Jonas E. Salk developed anti-polio inoculations. In 1954, there were 1,768 U.S. newspapers publishing 59 million copies daily.
In 1954, at the age of 18, the 138 seniors marched out to face the challenges of the last half of the 20th century.
Most of Class of 1954 was born in 1935, 78 years ago right in the middle of the Great Depression, 1929-1941. Dust from the Great Plains Dust Bowl was blowing as far as Jasper County and on to the East Coast. As infants, we weren’t aware of the dust or the hard times, but our suffering parents were. Franklin Delano Roosevelt had been elected president in 1933 and was trying to push through Congress acts to alleviate the problems of 25 percent unemployment, the foreclosure of thousands of farms and homes, and to get America back working. Sounds a little like something we just went through. There was no federal unemployment insurance in the ‘30s or special farm or housing bailouts.
1935 was indeed a busy year. The Social Security Act was passed and signed as was the new federal withholding tax. Clark Gable and Charles Laughton were featured in “Mutiny on the Bounty.” Before television, radio was king with families gathered around vacuum tube sets listening to “Jack Benny,” “Burns & Allen,” “Gangbusters,” “The Green Hornet,” and “Fiber McGee & Molly.” The summer of 1935 saw another polio epidemic spread across the country. Comedian Will Rodgers and pilot Wiley Post died in a plane accident at Point Barrow, Alaska. The Great Depression brought out gangsters like John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, Baby Face Nelson, Machine Gun Kelly and Pretty Boy Floyd for FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to deal with. Acting on a tip that Dillinger was planning to rob a Newton bank Wednesday April 4, 1934, a trap was set but Dillinger never showed up. The Lindbergh baby kidnapping trial was held in Flemington, N.J. Radar was invented and would become useful five years later during The Battle of Britain.
In 1935, Fred Maytag purchased the former site of the Jasper County Fairgrounds to build the new Fred Maytag Park. The Fred Maytag Park Pool was dedicated Sept. 8, 1935, with WHO radio sportscaster Ronald “Dutch” Reagen on hand. “Dutch” later made his name in Hollywood and politics. The Fred Maytag Bowl was constructed in 1936. In Newton and across the country, movies cost 25 cents for adults and 10 cents for children. An electric washing machine cost $47.95, electric sewing machine $24.95, Pontiac coupe $585, Chrysler sedan $995, and Chevrolet half-ton pickup $650. The future Cardinals of Newton High School were born into unusual and hard times.
Sixty years is a long time ago. A lot of water has passed under the Skunk River bridge. The Class of 1954 witnessed many changes in the world, in America and in Newton in our 78 years of life as we moved from the 20th into the 21st century.
Interstate 80 replaced Highway 6 and diverted travelers away from businesses around the Newton square. McDonald’s and other national fast food eateries replaced locally-owned cafés. Members of the Class of 1954 witnessed many wars: Spanish Civil War 1936-1939, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, First Iraq War, Second Iraq War, Afghanistan and numerous brush fires around the world. There was an end to the Cold War, maybe. Classmates had to adjust from radio to television to computers, iPhones, email, cellular phones, air-conditioned cars and houses, microwave ovens and Walmarts, to name only a few.
The beautiful old 1902 Carnegie Library facing Highway 6 west of the square where I learned to love reading and books is gone, but a new modern library is located on the site of the old 1908 high school, where the Class of 1954 started their high school classes.
Now pushing 78 years, some of our classmates won’t be joining the 60th class celebration. By living one thousands miles southwest of Newton for the last 56 years, I missed seeing the Cardinals on a regular basis — my Cardinal classmates as well as the bright red birds. There are no beautiful cardinals flying in New Mexico. I still miss the annual Christmas lights on the 1911 courthouse. If Maid-Rite is still in business today, a stop will be required this weekend.
All those of us attending really look forward to the weekend’s 60th since the 70th in 10 more years looks more problematic. But every morning the sun still rises. I even have plans to attend the wedding of my middle grandson on June 27 in Boise, Idaho. Life goes on.