The Alumni Bash

Six decades of students come together
by: John Lariviere, An Alumni Bash for the Lake Oswego School District drew a strong turnout Saturday to Millennium Plaza Park.
Reminiscing on the days during the 1950s at LOHS are Stu Fors, Class of ‘57; Joanne Donnelly McRae, Class of ‘53; Georgia Wilding Bullock, Class of ‘53; and Karen Kruse Pong, Class of ‘54.

Organizers set up tents, memorabilia and a registration table in Millennium Park Plaza last Saturday afternoon in preparation for the first Lake Oswego School District Alumni Bash.

Then, without knowing what to expect, they waited. And they wondered.

Would 25,000 - or 250 - Lake Oswego and Lakeridge high school graduates show up?

Would participants support the food vendors?

Would the overcast sky hold back the rain?

It wasn't long until they got their answer. Hundreds of enthusiastic alumni - spanning six decades -began to descend on the park, some toting strollers and yearbooks.

Libations began to flow. Big Blind - a blues band comprised of teachers and administrators - took to the stage with a cover of Tom Petty's 'Breakdown.'

The happy scene quickly eased the minds of committee members who spent the past eight months planning the special night, which they hope to make an annual tradition.

Afterward, they called the Alumni Bash a smashing success, with more than 600 graduates and their families in attendance throughout the four-hour celebration. Many also registered with the new LOSD Alumni Association, according to Mary Puskas, head of the association.

'We're very pleased,' Puskas said. 'It will only get stronger for next year and people are already sending their ideas.'

Still, there was a noticeable lack of participants from the classes of 1990 through 2007. Puskas hopes the association can bridge that gap in the coming year by using different communication tactics.

'Maybe they felt it wasn't an event for them, but it certainly was,' Puskas said. 'We're learning as we go.'

The admission-free event featured a flat-screen TV playing a looping video of district history and decade-themed tents that housed yearbooks, photos, trophies and uniforms from days gone by.

Pacer and Laker groups sold spirit wear and the Pacer Booster Club sold hotdogs and hamburgers to benefit the school's athletics.

Alumni clad in various shades of blue socialized and mingled after years of living apart in different towns, states or countries.

LOHS Class of '65 graduate Brenda Trainer-Huber drove in on a Harley with her husband, Randy Huber.

'It's nice to look at a face you recognize and try to figure out who they are,' said Trainer-Huber, of Milwaukee.

Many early classes, such as Trainer-Huber's, make a point to keep in touch and hold regular gatherings. The Class of '57, for example, met for its 50-year reunion last weekend.

Class networks helped spread the word about the Alumni Bash. Others found out via e-mail, by reading announcements in the Review or, in Janet Brassfield's case, the banner stretched across State Street.

'I was driving through town and I wondered if anyone would be here that I know,' said Brassfield, LOHS Class of '01. 'Of course, there isn't.'

She slowly walked through the 2000 tent, pointing out photos to her husband, Dan Phillips.

Brassfield described her high school experience as 'all right' and that she has lost touch with most of her high school friends since graduation.

She looked forward to checking in with long-lost classmates, but was disappointed by the lack of their turnout.

Former Lakeridge and LOHS Principal John Turchi, now a member of the Lake Oswego City Council, said high school isn't always an easy time for students and many opt not to reunite for a long time.

'Over time, their impression will soften and mellow and they'll come back to see their friends,' Turchi explained.

Class of '07 friends Jake Hardman and Kayla Charlton were close by, so they decided to walk over to the event.

'We hoped there would be more of our kind here,' he added.

Hardman and Charlton were probably the youngest alumni in attendance. According to Puskas, a few members of the district's first graduating class - LOHS Class of '52 - said they would be there, but she can't confirm they were.

The second district class had representation in Georgia Wilding-Bullock and Joanne Donnelly.

As seventh graders, the women chose to attend West Linn (Union) High School over Lincoln High School. Then, the first Lake Oswego High School was built on the hill where the school still stands.

Despite their love for West Linn, they returned to their hometown to become part of the Class of '53.

At the Alumni Bash, they paged through aged yearbooks and recalled the days when students chose school colors - then purple and white - and wrote the school song.

Back then, LOHS was considered a small school, even though it included seventh and eighth grade. Everyone seemed to be friends, despite age differences.

'It was a very, very exciting time,' said Donnelly, who lives in Lake Oswego.

'We had more freedom to do what we wanted to do,' said Wilding-Bullock, a West Linn resident.

Siblings Bill, David, Judy and Stuart Ralston attended the bash as a group after celebrating their dad's 80th birthday in Wilsonville.

David, a '73 graduate of LOHS who lives in Bellevue, Wash., spent the evening getting reacquainted with his brothers' high school friends.

Earlier in the day, he got his first glimpse at the new LOHS building and was impressed with the district's football stadium.

'The school was gorgeous and it gives you a little bit of pride to come back and celebrate,' he said. 'It's a real nice place to come back to.'

LOHS and Lakeridge alumni are encouraged to visit and register in the alumni database.