Sunday, July 24, 2005

Where Were You In '35?

In 1935, there were 40 Seniors in the first graduating class of Pennsylvania's Washington Township High School. Of those who collected their diplomas that long ago day, there are now just eight left. And of the eight, six were able to attend their 70th reunion:

Much has changed since the first class ever to graduate from Washington Township High School donned caps and gowns in 1935 to receive their diplomas.

Twelve presidents have sat in the White House. Two states have joined the Union. The United States' population has grown from 127 million to nearly 297 million.
And not only is there a chicken in every pot, there's at least one car in every garage.

"It was an entirely different time," said Elizabeth (Scott) Mose, 87, of Wayne Heights.

"We're from the old school," agreed Virginia (Geesaman) Sease, 87, of Harbaugh Church Road, Rouzerville.

During their 70-year reunion Thursday in Chestnut Logs in Rouzerville, six of the eight remaining members of the Class of 1935 talked about what it was like to grow up in that different world - years during which the nation was enduring the Great Depression.

In addition to Mose and Sease, the get-together drew Pauline (Weaver) Benshoff, 88, of Ashland, Ohio; Emma L. Bowser, 88, of Waynesboro; Amy (Smith) Royer, 88, of Waynesboro; and Elaine (Gardner) Miller, 88, of Lakeland, Fla.

Paul G. Humer of Warner-Robins, Ga., and Charles E. Hoffman of Waynesboro were unable to attend.

The first class

Members of the Class of 1935 were seniors when they found themselves at the brand-new Washington Township High School, which opened in 1934 at the site of the current Hooverville Elementary School on Route 16.

High school was a lot different in 1935 than it is now, the group said. They agreed that kids today get too many days off school and have too much free time.

"I sometimes wonder when they're ever in school," Mose said.

Nobody drove to school because they didn't have cars. Bowser said only one student in all of Washington Township High School had a car.

It was folks like this who survived the Great Depression, and went on to fight and win The Second World War. After the War, they helped establish an America that was firmly based upon the idea that upward mobility could be achieved by anyone through education and hard work. Later, when they entered politics, they combated injustice and inequality with the passage of civil rights legislation.

They have become known as The Greatest Generation of Americans.

How times have changed. In 1935, only one student who attended Washington Township High drove a car. At the public high school in my native Winter Haven, Florida, students often drive much nicer and much newer autos than their teachers.

The kids don't know how good they've got it.
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