Denfeld News

July 22, 2012
Duluth News Tribune

After 80 years, Duluth Central grads still have class
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 Central.

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 Linda Glaser.

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.”

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