CLAREMONT HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1958
REUNION BANQUET ADDRESS

I represent about 1% of our class, so my remarks can be expanded by 100 times to get a truer picture.

WHO ARE THE PEOPLE OF THE CLASS OF 1958? HOW DID WE TURN OUT?

In his remarks at our graduation June 6, 1958, Principal Lyle Martin called this class ”The Class of Leaders”. I think he got it right.

We are architects, artists, farmers, lawyers, doctors, teachers and educators, businessmen, engineers, dentists, judges, nurses and clergy. A number of us were also soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines. Let me read that list again: architects, artists, farmers, lawyers, doctors, teachers and educators, businessmen, engineers, dentists, judges, nurses, clergy, and military. We have gone into the world, spread out and entered virtually every part of our society…except maybe the criminal part.

In the last few years a group of Claremont High School supporters have established a “Football Hall of Fame” to honor outstanding performance on the football field. We have a couple of those honorees in our class. With this in mind, I would like to mention a few of our classmates who I think should be honored for their pursuit of life in a number of different ways. Some of these lives were unfortunately cut short before their full potential could be reached.

  1. I’d like to see a plaque honoring Bob Pieters for being selected and completing the General Motors Design Internship program.
  2. A plaque honoring Ben Molina for his community work in Montclair.
  3. One for John Hardy for pursuing his desire to be a doctor against all odds…achieving his goal…serving in the military, and, after retirement, performing medical work at the Oakland Free Clinic.
  4. One for my sister-in-law, Sandy Briney, for her courage fighting painful, crippling and disfiguring rheumatoid arthritis for well more than half of her life.
  5. One for Rose Hernandez French for her work as a nurse. I have been blessed with extraordinary good health, but if I had to deal with illness on a regular basis, especially if I knew that the prognosis only gets worse every day, I would want Rose’s warm, cheerful aura working and caring for me.
  6. A plaque for Curt Butler for his work with troubled kids. Curt told me once that he credited his success on the fact that he knew all the excuses these kids offered up…heck, he invented them!
  7. Robin Chen Leonhard for her volunteer work, especially with the House of Ruth shelter for battered women in Pomona.
  8. One for Jim Hynd for the pleasure his company, Fiesta Floats, gives to the world every New Year’s Day in the Rose Parade.
  9. And maybe one to include all the names of class members who served without pay on city boards and commissions, service clubs, non-profit organizations, school boards, PTA’s, fundraisers, classroom aides, youth activity groups such as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Y-Indian Guide and Princess programs, Little League, Pop Warner football, Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs, AYSO soccer, charitable church activities. I would like to recognize the unheralded financial and labor contributions to such activities as building houses for the poor in Mexico. I know that you are in the audience, but I can’t personally line up your names and your contributions.

For these named and unnamed heroes of our generation, I thank you and salute you.

I think that we have all seen some of the internet stuff listing things that didn’t exist when we were born…1940 for most of us. Things like frozen food and paper towels. I remember my Grandfather telling me about the summer day when he was at his cousin’s farm in Pennsylvania when he and his cousin heard a loud, unfamiliar noise coming from the other side of a small hill at the edge of the farm. The boys ran to the top of the hill and saw for the first time a motorcar chugging and spitting its way down the narrow country dirt road. Our generation has seen and lived through a period of unparalleled change in human history.

Remember when:

  1. Automobile air conditioning was an open window. In fact, ALL air conditioning was an open window, a fan, or an evaporative cooler.
  2. Water bags hung over the front hood of your car when you crossed the desert.
  3. A 1200 s.f. house was plenty big enough for a family of five…and one bathroom was all you needed.
  4. You could repair your own engine.
  5. Clerks could make change.
  6. Stores could continue to operate during a power outage,
  7. The Ed Sullivan Show ( a really Big Shew)
  8. Spelling was important
  9. Alexander and Cucamonga Avenues
  10. Hand-held calculators cost $750.00
  11. Signs were in one language…so were ballots
  12. The first TV set (Jonny Peek’s had a round screen; Bill Colby had a magnifier on a frame in front of the set to make the picture larger)
  13. Miss Bindewald
  14. Gas was $0.25 per gallon, somebody else pumped it, checked your radiator water level, tire pressure, and washed your windows!
  15. Arithmetic: addition was addition, not a “combining situation”; subtraction was subtraction, not a “separating situation”
  16. Smudging (try open burning today…especially burning crude oil!)
  17. Almost everything North of Foothill was lemon groves.
  18. The marked-out quarter-mile on Wheeler-La Verne Road.
  19. You didn’t have to order by number to be understood.
  20. You paid for things with cash,
  21. Margarine came in a clear soft plastic pouch, with a lump of what looked like lard in one part, and a liquid yellow dye in a separate section that you could mix with the lard to approximate the color of butter.
  22. Dial telephones; party lines; Lycoming and Yukon prefixes.
  23. Pay phones.
  24. You avoided crowds in the summer because of the risk of polio.

SOME OF MY MEMORIES OF THE FIFTIES IN CLAREMONT:
(My 1% memories)

  1. Stinky’s: screened dining room; picnic tables; greasy smoke.
  2. Mel’s Drive-in: deep-fried mushrooms
  3. Henry’s Drive-in: Whetherby’s “T”; Randy Hargrave’s ’57 Chevy; Robert Mitchum in the bar (his son went to Webb School)
  4. Dancing classes at Sycamore School
  5. Naming Sycamore School
  6. 9th Street with Pepper Trees and Music Building at Sycamore School
  7. Mrs. Condit, Principal
  8. The house across from Barbara Norton’s where the murder occurred.
  9. Orange Julius across from CHS
  10. A & W Drive-in on Holt; pretty carhops.
  11. Scrap metal drives; paper drives; canned food drives.
  12. Iron lungs; polio
  13. Refugees from Europe: “DP’s – displaced persons”. I especially remember Hardu Keck at Norton School for Boys. Hardu went on to Webb and then to Rhode Island School of Design where he earned a BFA and MFA and taught for nearly 40 years before he died in August, 2003.
  14. The Class of 1956 performing “The Machado” on the center quad lawn at Sycamore School
  15. “Bicycle Bittler” - 4th Grade teacher trainee
  16. Frank Zappa, Johnny Peek and I competing in the afternoon T.V. talent show (hand puppets and Spike Jones’ rendition of “Chloe”)
  17. The orange grove at the location of Memorial Park
  18. Mrs. Noble
  19. Miss Bindewald. My mother had me transferred to Mrs. Noble’s English class (for the uninitiated, Miss Bindewald was a “fox”).
  20. Jim Putnam and the cherry bombs. (Everyone remembers this one)
  21. Donahoo’s Fried Chicken
  22. The three-day rainstorm in 1957: 11” of rain; closed school after the third day and we all went to the snow on the fourth day.
  23. Mr. Gates and his puppets.
  24. Lance Newman – cutting a hole in the bus barn with a machete
  25. Mr. Papstorff and the new wood shop; the old shop classrooms in the bus barn
  26. Jack Rains reading “The Power of Negative Thinking” in Mr. Booth’s geometry class.
  27. The rapid decline of Stevie Plummer because of his brain tumor.
  28. The charity of the Plummers to take in the Streich sisters to keep that family together after their parents were killed in an auto accident. Mr. Plummer and Terry Plummer came to a 1956 Reunion gathering at my house a few years ago. Heidi Streich Balch was a 1956 CHS graduate.
  29. Janice Boggess collapsing while running to catch the bus on Mills Avenue and then dying from an unknown heart defect.
  30. Parking my 1948 4-door Ford on the hill behind the shop building so I could jump-start it after school.
  31. Cruising Indian Hill in Wagy Hendricks’ 1953 Corvette while delivering prescriptions for Hendricks Pharmacy.
  32. Digging Bob Pieters’ pit in his garage.
  33. The friendship of Curt Butler, Jim Manley and Johnny Peek the summer of 1952 when I was bed-ridden for the entire summer because of a ruptured appendix. Jim is now a retired minister living at Pilgrim Place.

HISTORY WE HAVE BRUSHED AGAINST

  1. Probably the first memories that members of our class have are of the end of WWII. My mother made an Army uniform for me that I proudly paraded around under the apple trees of our house near Valley Forge in Pennsylvania. In July, 1945, my uncle, a naval aviator, returned home from the European Theater and the entire family (my paternal grandfather and grandmother each came from families of nine) gathered at our house to celebrate Christmas in July to welcome my uncle home. We cut a dead tree from the woods next to our house and decorated it with wrapped boxes and bows. Until I had children of my own, it was the best Christmas ever.
  2. Bob Beard’s dad, Lt. Colonel Paul S. Beard, Finance Corps, was one of the highest-ranking officers on the Bataan Death March, Phillipines, 1942. He remained a P.O.W. until January 30, 1945 when Army Special Forces and Philippine guerillas made a successful raid on the P.O.W. camp at Cabanatuan, Luzon, Philippines. The four Beard children were raised in an orphanage during the war until Colonel Beard could come home and get his family back together.
  3. 1953: General Douglas MacArthur recalled from Korea by President Truman. We watched on television as MacArthur addressed the nation when he arrived in San Francisco.
  4. June 1953: The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (remember the plastic models of her coronation coach and horses?)
  5. 1954: Brown v. Board of Education
  6. 1955: Salk Polio vaccinations
  7. 1955: USS Nautilus launched; first nuclear-powered ship
  8. 1957 Asian Flu pandemic
  9. October 1957: Sputnik
  10. 1961 Berlin Wall erected. Larry Van Dolsen was in the Army in Europe at the time and kept me advised.
  11. 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
  12. 1962: Sabin polio vaccines (live virus on sugar cubes) and mass distribution at public parks throughout the state.
  13. Summer 1963: we all got drafted (well, a lot of us).
  14. September 1963: JFK Executive Order prohibiting draft of married men (about one-half of my basic training company were drafted married men…there were a lot of upset draftees in my Basic Training company!)
  15. Assassination of JFK: October 1963. Lockdown at Ft. Benning, Georgia, where I was in Officer Candidate School.
  16. March 1965: Selma, Alabama march; Atlanta Sit-ins; Lester Maddox and his ax handle. I was stationed at Fort Benning…across the Chattahoochee River from Phenix City, Alabama.
  17. 1965: LBJ’s “Guns and Butter” approach to the economy initiates Medicare while paying for the Vietnam War.
  18. 1965-1973: Vietnam War: Gulf of Tonkin attack that leads to Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. The war escalates to 500,000 men under arms and over 58,000 killed. Our forces were not allowed to pursue beyond certain limits or to do damage to infrastructure, such as the dikes in Hanoi. In visits to Washington D.C. in 1988 and 1996 I have been unable to view the Vietnam War Memorial because of the names of my comrades listed there.
  19. May 13, 1965: My Officer Candidate School classmate 2nd LT. Charles Q. Williams receives Congressional Medal of Honor for actions with 5th Special Forces Group, Dong Xoai, Vietnam.
  20. October 1966: Riots in Hunter’s Point, South of San Francisco. My California National Guard unit bivouacs at Candlestick Park to bring the riots under control.
  21. January 1968: Marines at Khe Sahn airbase. Tom Melz, a friend from Chino, Boy’s State, Eagle Scout society and who played center on Chino HS football team was one of the 5000 marines who fought there.
  22. August 1968: Woodstock. We lived in Pittsfield, MA, about 50 miles away. Currently, a museum to drugs, free sex, and rock-and-roll is under construction. $38 million of your tax dollars have been earmarked (no vote) to pay for this museum.
  23. July 20, 1969: My birthday; USA lands men on the moon.

    In the 1970’s, in my opinion, as our generation begins reach a significant level of influence, we begin to lose our way:
     

  24. 1973: Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant completed. Designed for 7.5 earthquake and later strengthened. San Onofre Units 2 and 3 under construction (1983, 1984). Anti-nuclear activists insure that no more nuclear power plants are built and nationwide 24 plants are closed or cancelled.
  25. 1973: Roe v. Wade.
  26. March 28, 1979: Three-Mile Island nuclear accident. Subsequent research determined that an average dose of radiation for nearby residents was 1 millirem. A full set of chest X-rays is about 6 millirems. The annual dose from natural background radiation is 100-125 millirems. Unfortunately, there has never been widespread dissemination of this information.
  27. 70’s. 80’s, 90’s: off-shore drilling prohibited in CA and FL; oil-shale production limited in Wyoming, Colorado; low-sulfur coal deposits in NM/AZ/UT/NV (four corners) placed in national monument to preclude mining. Wind turbines prohibited off Nantucket Island.
  28. The Department of Defense has operated nuclear-powered ships since the USS Nautilus in 1955 and has logged more than 5500 years of accident-free service. Russia has logged more than 6000 years. Over 400 nuclear-powered ships have been in service worldwide.
  29. November 1989: Berlin Wall comes down; Soviet Union fragments; Eastern European states establish independence.
  30. 1998: Mark McGwire, son of my dentist, breaks baseball home run record.
  31. 9-11-01: World Trade Center. My brother-in-law was in Tower Two that morning. He and most of his fellow employees of Morgan Stanley survived. His story is harrowing.
  32. 2004- 2008: Congress fails to address the problems of Social Security, energy policy, and immigration but manages to hold hearings on steroid use by professional athletes.
  33. 6-3-08: Voters in South Dakota approve construction of the first new refinery in the US in nearly 30 years.

From an historical frame of reference, 25 years is too short a period to determine the success or failure of a generation. Our parents’ generation gave us technology and infrastructure and the opportunity for education that never existed for any previous generation. We have marked successes in certain areas: science, technology, medicine, and civil rights, but also have startling failures in basic education and in passing on fundamental understanding of what has made our system great. We have created huge indebtedness for our children and grandchildren in order to fund programs to serve ourselves. We allow distortions and rumor to go unchallenged. Some find conspiracies everywhere and these unfounded theories are promoted and legitimized by pop culture celebrities. News sources have been politicized. Most traditional news sources have become unabashedly agenda driven. The millennium generation gets their information from Stephen Colbert and unvetted internet sources. We have not been well served by our elected representatives who look only to the next election cycle and who seek to frighten or reward voters in exchange for another term.

Our parents’ generation made sacrifices and investments for the future. We should do no less. Principal Lyle Martin called us a “Class of Leaders”. As architects, artists, farmers, lawyers, doctors, teachers and educators, businessmen, engineers, dentists, judges, nurses and clergy we must use our remaining years to make the necessary sacrifices and investments to pass the gifts given to us onto succeeding generations. We owe them no less.

May God bless you, your families and friends.

Thank you,
Nelson

June 7, 2008



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