Top story of 2015: 80 year West Bend High School reunion

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Quite a few people have asked what I feel have been some of the top stories of 2015 – so I’ll roll a couple out in these final two weeks of the year.  This one from Sept. 5, 2015 with Lillian and Frieda and covering their 80-year high school reunion is one of my favorites.

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There was an 80 year West Bend High School class reunion Friday. It was a rather intimate affair as the two remaining students, Lillian Moritz Oelhafen and Frieda Kaehny Hauser, from the class of 1935 got together for breakfast.

“We’re both 98 and we both walked down the aisle together at graduation,” said Lillian Oelhafen.

The ladies arrived with daughters in tow. Judy Etta chauffeured her mother Lillian. “Both Frieda and my mother also worked at the Ziegler Company and Frieda held a hanky bridal shower for my mother,” Etta said. “Everybody brought hankies to the shower for the bride instead of other gifts and my mother used that hanky for her wedding and she still has it today.”

In 1935 the President of the United States was Franklin D. Roosevelt. The principal at the West Bend High School was D. E. McLane. The top hit on the billboard charts was Fred Astaire and ‘Cheek to Cheek.’ The Homecoming king at West Bend High School was Roger O’Meara and the makeup of businesses across from the school on Main Street included Amity Leather Company and the Schmidt family farm.

The entire class of 1935 fit in the corner at Perkins Restaurant. Two silver helium balloons that read ‘Congratulations’ floated above the table. Frieda and Lillian wore special red-and-white corsages (the school colors) designed by Bits n’ Pieces floral. The flowers were finished off with a red ribbon that had ‘Class of 1935’ stamped in gold print.

The reminiscing drifted back to an era that included things like earning certificates for shorthand, courses of typing and bookkeeping, and commercial teacher and guidance Chairman Miss Gertrude Forrester. “She was an old maid,” said Lillian. “She had long hair and a coil and she always had a handkerchief up in that coil.”

The Class of 35 laughed and teased a lot. “Both of us were on the Honor Roll but Lillian was a smarty,” said Frieda downplaying her own class status. Lillian graduated third in her class and Frieda, according to Lillian’s recollection, was 10th.

Both were hired after school to work at the B.C. Ziegler Company. “I got 25 cents an hour and had to run from school to the office downtown because I wanted to get another hour in,” said Lillian. The Ziegler Company, at the time, was located by First National Bank. “I worked for D.J. Kenny, Walter Kratz and Arnold Miller and they were the guys that worked on the prospectus,” she said.

Frieda was a bookkeeper and worked for a ‘tough guy’ named Leonard Thorson. “At least we had a job,” she said. “It was very hard for a woman to get a job in those days and we had to have a certain grade point or they wouldn’t have hired us.”

 

 

Both women were extremely sharp and grateful recalling how fortunate they were to even go to high school. Lillian, whose parents were in Kohlsville, lived with her grandparents on Highway 33, also known as Cedar Street. Frieda lived several miles out of town at Gumm’s Corner, in the home where she resides today.

“I was involved in everything, all the sports,” said Frieda. “I don’t recall having uniforms; we had them for gym but we wore our regular shoes.”

According to the class yearbook Frieda Kaehny was involved in basketball, baseball, track, volleyball, Bend staff, prom committee, home economics club and Dust Pan Staff.

Lillian was involved in the Dust Pan too. “It was our school newspaper,” she said. “Actually, it was a newsletter that came out once a month.” The rest of Lillian’s high school participation included things like operetta, glee club, guidance chairman, prom committee and honor roll.

A waitress from Perkins stopped by the table to inquire about the celebration. “Is it a birthday,” she asked. “This is our 80th class reunion,” said Lillian. “Ooh awesome. I love it,” said the waitress. “You’re awesome. That is too cool; I just had to be nosy and come check it out.”

Frieda and Lillian were then encouraged to launch into their school song (sung to the tune of On Wisconsin).

The 80 year reunion was organized by Etta. “You know how you always say, ‘Oh yes, we have to do something’ but then it doesn’t happen in our busy lives,” she said. “But this is an occasion and we can’t let it go by without having them together… and they’re both alive. We’re very blessed.”

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