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Celebrating Forty Years of "Hornethood"

Observations of the HHS Class of 1961 40th Reunion from the Eyes of a Member of the Class of ‘60
Dennis W. Roberts, HHS Class of '60

Forty years is a significant period of time. The events that have occurred during the past 40 years and have affected the nation and individual people fill bookshelves, hard drives, and other archival repositories throughout the world.

In 1961, the United States was still reacting to the Soviet Union’s launching of Sputnik, the first manmade satellite to orbit the earth, in the late 1950’s. The nation’s school systems, daunted by the scientific progress made by this other great world power, beefed up its public school curricula with stricter math and science requirements. Students of this era received opportunities to achieve scholastic levels that surpassed those of their predecessors.

Highland High School’s academic program was traditionally recognized as outstanding among Albuquerque’s and the nation’s high schools. The average scores of HHS students on graduate record and college entrance exams was usually higher than national averages of other high schools throughout the country. Its athletic programs were among the best in New Mexico.

At the 2001 reunion on August 31 and September 1 (Labor Day weekend), it was apparent that the foundation Highland High School put in place for its students had paid off for many. One measurement is the number of scientists, business persons, academicians and educators, lawyers, medical doctors, architects, engineers, and other successful citizens who are among the graduates of 1961.

Another measurement is the spirit of the class, as evidenced by the enthusiastic turnout of graduates at the three major functions of the reunion---a welcome night reception on Friday, a tour of the school Saturday morning, and a banquet Saturday night at the Albuquerque Country Club.

Throughout the weekend, it became apparent that while many new things have happened over the past 40 years, some things remain the same. For example:

---The HHS gymnasium, built like a fortress in the early 1950’s, still is "Home of the Hornets" with very few noticeable additions or changes. Memories of assemblies, basketball games, cheerleader try-outs, and PE classes were no doubt triggered in the minds of those who walked the hardwood floor that Saturday morning. The names of Coaches Hugh Hackett and Bill Gentry are among those enshrined for having achieved national recognition for their work;

---The calm demeanor Mickey Miller and enthusiastic style of Al Kaplan were still apparent at the Welcome Night reception, as both displayed their continuing interest in the people they influenced during their teaching careers;

---During the contests held at the banquet, Bobby Martinez, Castle Rock, CO, continued to gain the most votes for being the person "who has changed the least" from when he was in high school. This was not the only time he won such an award;

---Rick Johnson and Bob Epstein, both of Albuquerque, continued to show their organizational and promotional talents in developing another successful ’61 reunion.

If there were two obvious and expected changes from previous HHS class reunions, they were the number of retirees among the class members and the increasing number of grandchildren about which they are able to boast.

Every reunion has distinctive memorabilia. One of the ’61 reunion’s most prominent of the Class of ‘61 was a bound volume of letters from graduates, indicating what they are presently doing, family information, and most memorable event at HHS.

Some of the recorded most memorable events are these:

Lorin Black Jr., Albuquerque: "Participating in the School Play—Pirates of Pensance."

Dr. Robert M. Carroll, Annandale, VA: "Coach Al Kaplan piling players into an old car to travel to tennis tournaments cross southwestern states."

Dr. Cecilia Cloughly, Claremont, CA: "Performing a French horn concerto with the HHS orchestra."

Michael Coleman, Las Vegas, NV: "Scoring a tying basket with two seconds left against Albuquerque High School---we later won the game and continued a winning streak which reached 13 games."

Herb Denish, Albuquerque: "Chorus, Arthur Loy, best teacher, friend."

Peter Fudge, Huntington, NY: "Great variety: academics, athletics, activities. Since then always had to limit and focus activities/work."

Sue (Kepler) Schmidt, Pacific Palisades, CA: "Lunch with friends at Frank’s Drive-In."

Roxie (Morrow) Moore, Roswell, NM : "Spanish Club trip to Chihuahua, Mexico."

Billie (Nichols) Thompson, Phoenix, AZ,: "Getting a sports letter after my junior year so I could wear it my senior year. I was one of two girls to do this. Back then, girls did not get the same letters as boys."

Lloyd Goff, Aurora, CO: "The first day!"

Karla (Mastin) Dean, Roswell, N.M.: " Mr. Key’s chemistry class—exciting and unpredictable labs! He was a great teacher!"

Many other memories were shared in this volume—too numerous to mention here.

Perhaps Susan Smith, 1961 Homecoming Queen, Alameda, CA, summarized it best: when she wrote: "I loved everything about Highland High, but mostly the activities and wonderful students"; or,

Kay (Marchant): Rhoades, ‘61 cheerleader, Castle Rock, CO, who said, "Too many to name."

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