July 22, 2012
After 80 years, Duluth Central grads still
By Robin Washington
They probably won’t need a ballroom at the
DECC for the Central High School class reunion on Friday.
The Northland Country Club should be able to handle
it just fine. In one of its 12-person meeting rooms. With half the
space to spare.
“This is going to be our last reunion. We
had our 50th reunion in 1982. We had a big gang there. We had it
in the Moorish Room at Hotel Duluth,” says Janet Falconer
Petersen of Lakeside after a morning round of golf.
If the long-gone Hotel Duluth name doesn’t
tip you off, do the math and you’ll realize that Petersen,
98, is talking about the Class of 1932, making this the 80th reunion
for all five of the classmates known to be alive.
Or five and an honorary member. Art Wright of
the Class of ’30 has joined the group in recent years, not
holding out a lot of hope of finding many grads from his class.
“I was instrumental in a number of reunion
affairs for the Class of ’30, but we gave up after the 77th,”
he e-mailed — his preferred form of communicating over trying
to hear people. “This computer is a godsend,” he wrote.
“One of the huge problems the Methuselahs of my acquaintance
have is understanding one another.”
Back to the classes, he said, the Class of ’32
“had over 500 grads. My class had 455. The old folks in the
Class of ’32 got careless a few years ago and invited me and
one other, Millard LaJoy, old grunt to join them.”
That would be Millard LaJoy of Pike Lake, from
the Class of ’29. Also, Lana Kay Ramig, daughter of the late
Louise Johnson Ramig, ’31, has taken to traveling from Texas
to join them.
Along with Petersen, the ’32 crew who made
last year’s 79th reunion included Bob Rhode (called by Wright
a fellow “inmate” at the Pines III assisted living residence),
Margaret Nossum Rathe, Betty Haslam McShane and Mary Heimick Braine,
about whom Petersen got word of a minor scare last week.
“No broken bones, but she fell. I don’t
know if she’s going to be able to come this time or not,”
Petersen said, adding if Braine doesn’t make it, she’ll
visit with her anyway.
If they’re still searching for attendees,
they could invite a youngster from the Class of ’35. Oddly
enough, not long after meeting Petersen, I ran into a young journalist
living in New York who told me her grandfather was 98 and went to
Turned out George Staudohar is only 96, but loves
reunions, with those in the double-digit years dominated by the
distaff side of the class.
“He took them all out on a date afterward,”
said Staudohar’s granddaughter, Courtney Stein.
So what do high school graduates from the year
Franklin Roosevelt first ran for president talk about?
“Everything that happened in 1932. How much
we paid for gas back then, all that stuff,” Petersen says,
reaching for a sheet of “Reflections from the Class of 32”
– written (on a typewriter, of course) by a classmate whose
identity is long forgotten.
“It says, ‘In our day, Coke was something
you drank. Grass was mowed. And pot was something you cooked in,’
” she reads. “You could buy a new Chevy Coupe for 650
bucks. But who could afford that in 1932? A pity, too, because gas
was only 10 cents a gallon.”
Another artifact is her 1932 edition of the Zenith,
which prompts me to ask who were the most famous members of the
class, at least by Duluth standards. She names (too fast for me)
a few BMOCs but no one really famous, she says – before I
stumble on a picture of Phil Myzel, whose immigration story was
made into a book, “Bridge to America,” by Duluth author
Myzel also was known for heralding in the Jewish
New Year by blowing the ram’s horn at Temple Israel until
his death four years ago.
I also spot Isadore Cohen, a longtime DNT editor,
and there are no end of peculiar-to-the-Northland surnames that
live on today: Akervik, Barbo, Bongy, Ek, Glazman, Jeronimus, Magie,
Makela, Ness, Ringsred, Wickstrom and Widdes, to say nothing of
Andersons and Carlsons and Makis and Johnsons.
Like I said, classmates famous by Duluth standards,
which very much includes Petersen — a self-described tomboy
who went on to marry a Denfeld man and teach physical education
at the rival school for 17 years. As “Mrs. Pete,” she’s
now being inducted into the Denfeld Hall of Fame.
“I get invited to the (Denfeld) Class of
1960 reunions,” she said. “They’re all turning
70 this year. I think that’s what keeps me young. Being with
all these young kids.”