Monday, July 13, 2009

It seems like just yesterday...

She may not have been there in person, but the spirit of Margo Means was palpable last weekend at a school reunion in Chadron. It was a joint gathering of students who graduated from Chadron High School in 1958 and 1959.

We had a chance to sneak in to the informal outdoor “picnic” at the home of Cleo Steele Koerber (’58) on Friday evening, hosted by Cleo and her brother, Ben (’59). Despite a thunderstorm – replete with some marble-sized hail – the event was a real success, with folks ducking onto the patio and into the house and garage. It was a pleasurable gathering for attendees to get reacquainted.

Amidst the hugging, conversations, and laughter, we also saw a few tears of joy. Such is the way of classmates who’ve not seen or talked with one another for years – even decades! We snapped a few photos at the event and posted them in our CHS 58-59 Gallery.

Reunions don't just "happen." Lots of obvious hard work went in to planning and executing this one, and we suspect that hometowners Cleo Steele Koerber and Barb Barnum McDaniel from the Class of 1958 and Judy Dau Blundell and Con Marshall from the Class of 1959 led the way. What helped make this reunion particularly special was a terrific informational booklet compiled, produced and distributed by none other than Con Marshall (’59). We’ve all seen similar publications for family or school gatherings – but none like this. With photographs, contact information, and dozens of great anecdotes from reunion participants, this is a collector’s item for any Chadronite from the 1950s!

Scanning through my booklet, I began to notice a pattern emerging. These people really appreciated Chadron High School and most of their teachers. And one name kept popping up repeatedly – Margo Means. Of course, Con quickly noted this trend and wisely wrote about Margo in the booklet, injecting portions of an article he had written about her nearly 40 years ago.

Teachers do make a difference in the lives of their students. Some teachers make a BIG difference. I was touched by the fact that so many memories of Margo Means emerged independently from so many people. She was no pushover. Words like “tough,” “old school,” and “no nonsense” come to mind. But so do words like “understanding,” “student oriented,” and even “compassionate.” To be sure, we all had our favorite teachers, and it appears Mrs. Means was right at the top of the list for many. After her five-year stint at Chadron High School, she taught for another 11 years at Chadron State College and married CSC Business Manager Paul McCawley in 1964.

Chadron is always a busy place during Fur Trade Days. We suspect there were lots of reunion gatherings of old friends in homes, restaurants, bars and parks around town Friday night. Saturday was the really busy day with lots of things planned around Fur Trade Days. Our CHS alumni folks gathered at 9:30 Friday morning to visit some more before climbing aboard a flatbed truck captained by Orville Dau – husband to Judy Blundell Dau (’59) – as part of the Fur Trade Days parade. As modern day parades in rural America go, it wasn’t bad. But with an apparent shortage of marching bands, crepe paper floats, and teenage ingenuity, it fell far short of parades a half century ago. I mean, how many tractors, riding lawn mowers, and old cars does it take to “make” a parade these days?

After the parade broke up, attendees were left to their own devices, but we saw many wandering around the Fur Trade Days booths on the courthouse grounds. More than a few people sampled the tasty desserts on the lawn just outside the Congregational Church. I believe others explored new exhibits at the impressive Dawes County Museum south of town. And almost everyone “dragged Main Street” to see just how much things had changed. Chadron Prep alums were also in town over the weekend, too, so there was an opportunity to visit with some of the “Junior Eagles.”

Alas, we did not attend the CHS evening banquet at the old Legion Club, but we understand that good friends and former teachers Ron and Jane Becker drove in from Sioux Falls for the event. LaVona Smith Lemmons and her husband, Larry, came from North Platte to join the festivities, too. Another former teacher and coach, Verne Lewellen, had hoped to attend, but was undergoing rabies treatment as a result of an altercation with a cat some time back. He and Erma live in Mitchell, Nebraska.

We’re told the Legion Club gathering went off without a hitch – lots of good food and some great story telling. All in all, it was an excellent ending for a wonderful reunion weekend.

It’s worth mentioning that a dozen or so CHS alums toured the old school Saturday afternoon. Many commented on just how good the three-story structure looks after all these years. Of course, there’ve been some major renovations – but enough remains of the old building to evoke lots of memories. There’s no auditorium in the building – now used as the Middle School – but as you walk the halls, you can almost hear the class bells ringing and leather slapping the floor as late-comers race to class.

And perhaps even the ominous echo of Principal Jim Myers – after squinting his eyes while gazing upon some tomfoolery in a classroom – admonishing us with:

“Nothing to do?..........Don’t do it here!”