It was a year suspended somewhere between Elvis and the Beatles, a year that looms large in Seattle history, as the ongoing events marking the 50th anniversary of the Seattle World’s Fair testify.
1962: If innocence is an over-worked word — after all, the kids who graduated from high school in 1962 were conceived and born during the most terrible war in history — fast forward just three years to 1965 and the innocence of 1962 seems real enough.
As the Queen Anne High School class of 1962 prepares to celebrate its 50th class reunion next month, the World’s Fair looms large in their memory, too: Queen Anne High students had a bird’s eye view of the Fair’s construction, especially from the library and study hall. Legend has it that, in one classroom, the distraction became so powerful the teacher realigned desks.
The high school, at 201 Galer St. served Queen Anne and Magnolia. It closed in 1981. The landmark building houses a residential community. If Grizzly alums can’t walk the old hallways, maybe their memories of high school are stronger for that.
“Perhaps we’ve put it on a pedestal a bit,” L.D. Zobrist, class of 1962 and one of the mainstays of the Queen Anne Alumni Association, mused. “If the high school were open would we have this kind of support?”
Zobrist is referring to the expected turnout for the Sept. 7-9 reunion. Zobrist, 68, is also one of the stalwarts organizing the affair. He said more than 260 people, which includes significant others, have registered for the Sept. 8 dinner and dance. Out of the nearly 500 people in the class of 1962, more than 70 are unaccounted for and more than 60 have died.
The 50th anniversary proceedings begin Sept. 7, a Friday, at the Ballard Elks Club at Shilshole at 6 p.m. with a no-host bar and “music from our era,” as the reunion program states. The Saturday night buffet dinner and celebration starts at 6 p.m. at the Seattle Design Center Atrium, followed by a nostalgic video at 9 p.m. Then comes the dancing.
Sunday, Sept. 9, is a day to mellow out — a phrase not in the air in 1962. Alums will gather at the International Fountain Pavilion at 10:45 a.m. for an architectural tour of the Seattle Center grounds followed by a 1 p.m. picnic at the fountain.
The logistics behind all this represent a major undertaking, driven by a reunion committee of nearly 30 people, chaired by Nancy Williams. The effort includes reunion packets, memory books, and donation solicitations to keep reunion costs affordable — not to mention the three-day-event coordination.
Music for close dancing
The soundtrack from 1962 — the “music from our era” — opens a window into another time which was to last only a little while longer.
In April 21, 1962, the day the World’s Fair opened, Shelley Fabre’s “Johnny Angel” topped the Billboard Hot 100 list. The next month Acker Bilk’s melancholic “Stranger on the Shore” climbed to number one, just in time for graduation-season close dancing.
In its final issue of the 1961-62 school year, dated June 1, the student newspaper, KUAY Weekly, led with the headline: “Seniors to Graduate June 10 at Ice Arena, reception in new gym.” The story foretold how 486 seniors will “march up the isle (sic) to the World’s Fair Arena to be graduated from Queen Anne.”
The commencement theme was “The Crisis of Consciousness” and, the newspaper reported, “the Reverend John Darrah will give the invocation.”
Obviously, a lot has changed in 50 years.
And there’s something about a 50th reunion that carries more meaning than 45 years, the last time the class of '62 held a reunion.
“When you’re younger you’d look at people and think, they’ve been out of school for 50 years. I’m surprised they could make it (to a 50th reunion),” Zobrist, who still likes to ski, said.
“When you get to 50 years, so much has happened in your life,” he added. “It’s an opportunity to celebrate a little bit. It’s a great opportunity to look around and catch up. Everybody’s kind of settled out the competition we go through life with. We’re in a place of enjoying the fruits of our labors and reassessing what life’s all about.”
The blue, 1962 yearbook, “Grizzly,” also opens a window to another time. The faces, like all high schools annuals, seem poignant from such a distance, many with their Sandra Dee and Buddy Holly-Elvis hairdos — some of the boys remained close-cropped — and thick-framed glasses. The richness of student activities is striking: Latin Club, Ski Club, Cantorians, Chess Club, Usher Squad, Swim Team, Quill and Scroll, Girl’s Glee, Senior Band, Debate and Bowling teams, besides the language clubs and student government roles.
On the edge of the drug culture
For Dennis Helmick, who became a real estate tax attorney, 50 years is also a big deal. “It’s a bigger milestone. I hope I’m still young enough to keep looking forward. High school was happy, but not the happiest years of my life,” the Magnolia resident said.
Over the summer of 1962 Helmick worked at the World’s Fair and, pedaling a rickshaw for tourists, got a taste of being his own boss. As Helmick noted, and history verifies, “There was a lot of money flowing around town then.”
The 50-year divide is a source of wonder for Helmick, who is on the reunion committee: “We were just on the edge of the drug culture. It’s stunning, the changes we’ve seen in our lifetime.”
Reunion committee member Sharon Johnston says there’s something special about the class of 1962. Other classes, she noted, have had a harder time reuniting over the decades.
“Our class has had a reunion every five years and been successful at it,” she said. “So many connections have lasted.” In fact, Johnston attends an every-other-month lunch at Anthony’s at Shilshole with her female friends from the old days. Some of those connections reach back to kindergarten. She said even high school cliques have dissolved; people she never saw together in the hallways are friends.
Queen Anne resident Chuck Dagg is another reunion committee member along with his wife Linda.
For Dagg, who owned his own insurance business, 50 years carries special meaning, though some of his friendships, too, go back to kindergarten: “It’s recognizing the fact that time is passing so quickly. I’ve been seeing these friends for 50 years,” he said.
For all the changes, some things abide: “Queen Anne is still a great place to live,” Dagg noted. “There are little kids running all over my block. Once it was my kids running around the block.”
Of the businesses advertising in the 1962 yearbook, a number are still operating, including Blackstock Lumber, Ballard Blossom Shop, Bostonian Barber Shop, LeRoux Men & Boys’ Wear (as it was known then), Carnolia Cleaners, Ray’s Boathouse and Ozzie’s Restaurant. Washington Mutual and the Magnolia House of Charm are no more.
As for the reunion, Dagg said, “It’s just going to be fun to see friends you haven’t seen for so long.” Dagg, like Zobrist, noted how age brings a certain equanimity and acceptance of life on its own terms. He said it doesn’t matter what worldly station people have achieved. “You’ve experienced enough life so that you see the person,” he said.
The Queen Anne Alumni Association maintains a website at www.qagrizzlies.org and publishes, twice a year, a 16-page newsletter full of photos and news of alums, recent and distant.