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100 years, millions of memories

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by MATTHEW NASH
Sequim Gazette

To paraphrase the 1964 Sequim High School yearbook — A school is teachers and pupils; ideas formed and expressed; the people sometimes forgotten like a friendly janitor, a helpful cook, a dependable bus driver, an understanding nurse. A school is different as its people are different; as their opinions and habits change as they hope or despair; as they work to make it what it is in the truest sense — people.

Thousands of people influenced the rich history of Sequim High School and some seniors and staff are celebrating this year as 2011 marks the centennial of the first official ninth-grade class.

On Thursday, Jan. 13, the school opens to the public for tours from 8:15 a.m.-1:30 p.m. with a special assembly to follow.

The assembly includes musical performances from alumni, a look through sports history, speakers Dave Blake and teacher Larry Hill, and a video with interviews of alumni. A reception follows the assembly with a dinner and sports games afterward.

Sequim senior Audrey Lichten and few classmates were tasked with organizing the activities.
“You think about history but never apply it to where you live,” Lichten said.

“(The project) really opened my eyes to Sequim.”

As Lichten researched, she found the most enjoyable parts were how much Sequim has shifted from a focus on agriculture and how the buildings have changed.

“Overall, some things don’t change — like kids and their involvement, spirit days, sports and learning,” Lichten said.
Leading up to the celebration, students created a second homecoming for the centennial with a spirit week: Monday, 1930s; Tuesday, 1950s; Wednesdays, 1970s; Thursday, Purple and Gold, and Friday, 1990s.

Not forgotten
Students accidentally discovered the milestone last April in the library, said leadership teacher
Jennifer Van De Wege.

They saw a crest commemorating 1911 as the first year for the high school; it had five students. In 1915, Sequim had its first graduating class, comprised of Leonard Fernie, Helen Knoph, Goodwin O’Brien and Neva Peterson.

Van De Wege said the students wanted to celebrate the centennial when they found out.

“We started from scratch and it’s been word-of-mouth thing,” she said. “We’re trying to do something interesting for current students and alumni.”

Carol Wagner, cooking and floral design teacher, became inspired by the students’ research. She looked through yearbooks and found at least 40 of her family members who graduated from Sequim High, with another to finish by 2012.

“I had quite a bit of fun going through the pictures and getting the dates right,” Wagner said. 

“I started with my parents and their siblings and went from there. My mom is from the Cays family and it gets very crazy with all of the first cousins once removed, second cousins, etc. I decided I better just stick to my own parents, aunts, uncles and cousins, my siblings, our children and my husband’s family.”

Wagner was born and raised in Sequim, graduated in 1971 and married a classmate in 1974.

“I have a lot of good memories, but family and close friends are the best you can have and if you want to have some great memories, just walk the hall,” Wagner said. “You can laugh like I did looking at the pictures.”

Interviewing the community
Charles Kleinberg’s students interviewed several alumni for the video to be shown at the special assembly. Van De Wege said it has been the best part of the research process.

“They are really excited to share their stories and are some of the most genuine, nicest people,” Van De Wege said.

Douglas McInnes, an alumnus from 1948, was interviewed.

He’s been gathering information on the school since 2001 when he helped form The Ditchwalker, a publication profiling alumni for the Sequim Alumni Association.

McInnes said he’s amazed by how far Sequim has come as a community and as a whole society from rural to urban in a short amount of time.

“One hundred years ago, 60 or 70 percent of people here were on a farm but now it’s 1 to 3 percent,” he said.

“Compared to people living in the city, we are relatively country even if there’s a house on every acre.”
When he went to school, there were about 50 students per grade level and most lived on farms.

“Back then you’d know all the kids in your class. It was a smaller community,” McInnes said.

“Now, you hit a point where you don’t try to know everyone because there are so many people. It’s just not possible.”

McInnes said the most treasured part of graduating from Sequim High School has been the lifelong friends he’s made that he still sees and talks to regularly.

 

 

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