Jim O'Leary

Waverly Star

By Jim O'Leary

An e-mail newsletter for and about Waverly people, used with permission in the HLW Herald and on this web site.

   June 9, 2003

The Waverly class of 1949

On this date in June, 54 years ago, I graduated from St. Mary's High School in Waverly with 12 of the nicest people I have ever known.

People don't believe me when I tell them there were only 13 people in my senior class, coming as they do from classes numbering in the hundreds.

Those poor people meet some of their classmates for the first time at their 25th reunion!

Along the way, we had lost, either by transfers or dropouts, some really great people, people I have never stopped missing.

We lost Alvin Broll, Billy Secora, Bob Poirier, and Rita Chevalier, among others. On Rita's last day in school before she moved to Hamel, we had a party for her.

Everybody really liked her, and it wasn't just because she was such a pretty girl. I still remember that when we sat at our desks and sang a farewell song to her, that she put her head down on her desk and sobbed so hard her shoulders shook.

Alvin Broll lives up in Backus now near my brother John in Nisswa and I have the fun of being on e-mail with him.

Bob Poirier lives in Big Lake and Billy Secora, his old neighbor, lives in Mesa, Ariz.

The 13 of us at the finish line were myself, Bernard Althoff, Marion Borrell, Margaret Decker, John Gagnon, Margaret Galvin, Rose Mary Galvin, Annella Negus, Edward Paul, Joan Quast, Agnes Reardon, Margaret Rogers, and Donald Smith.

We had grown up together through WWII. Before the war, sleepy Waverly and, indeed the entire planet, seemed to be on a steady course through the universe.

The post-war explosions in industrial growth, the economy, and world population soon had all of us reeling. We didn't know any of that in 1949.

Harry S. Truman, the choice of all of our good Catholic Democrat parents, was just beginning his second term. Mao Tse Tung came to power in China.

We had heard all about those communists from a missionary or two when they visited our school.

Konrad Adenauer became the first Chancellor of West Germany. The Berlin blockade was lifted.

India had won her independence from dear Mother England that year. Ominously, for some of us, the US occupation forces were withdrawn from South Korea.

It turned out later that I was the only male in the class who never served in the military.

Alger Hiss of the state department was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union and a freshman Congressman from California, Richard Milhous Nixon, made a name for himself by making it appear to the press that he was the vigorous prosecutor himself, rather than the FBI.

President Truman had announced Sept. 23, "We have evidence that within recent weeks, an atomic explosion occurred in the USSR."

For the American people, it meant bomb shelters and doomsday, and we had just been graduated.

"Hamlet," with Laurence Olivier, won the academy award for best motion picture. The senior class all went to "the cities" to see it.

The top song for 1949 was "Now is the Hour," preferably rendered by Bing Crosby and artfully imitated by Bernie Althoff.

The St. Mary's girls used to sing this on our outings, in great harmony, singing like I have never heard since. We had some great music teachers among the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Other popular songs were "Ghost Riders in the Sky" by the Vaughn Monroe orchestra and, of course, "Stardust" by Hoagy Carmichael.

Does anyone remember our sensational St. Mary's baseball team that spring? Ches Ogle was still around. I was scorekeeper.

Jackie McHale, down in the seventh grade, had beat me out for shortstop. We defeated Buffalo High School that year, as well as Dassel, Maple Lake, Howard Lake, and Lester Prairie, along with some others. We went undefeated the whole season.

Does anyone remember how Buffalo tried to give Don Smith an intentional walk and he leaned over the plate and slammed a homerun into Waverly Lake?

The New York Yankees won the World Series that year, much to the delight of Bobby Decker.

There were parties at the Sawatzke farm, at the McDonnells' house, and at the Vaughn and Des Marais farms.

There was skating every winter night at the rink Tom O'Connell kept flooded so well.

Our basketball team didn't fare so well. Again, I was the scorekeeper. I was suited up but seldom got into a game. I never scored one field goal in four years of trying to play basketball.

One of my most grateful memories was that of Bernie Althoff stealing the ball from the other team when I was a senior, going down for an easy lay-up, but then passing the ball off to me, blocking off an opposing player, and yelling at me, "Shoot, shoot!"

I did shoot, and missed, of course, but Bernie wanted me to have one . . . just one . . . to remember for the rest of my life.

"The Class of 1949" will be continued next week.

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