These elders — many of them grandmas and grandpas — were kids back in the 1960s when Kodiak was in step with the rest of the world with new dances, flat-top, fuzzy and puffy hair-dos, Nehru jackets, bikinis and mini-skirts.
These aging folks became lawyers, fishermen, Native leaders, artists, teachers, wives, businessmen, mechanics, laborers, pastors and Hebrew scholars.
These were the Kodiak High School graduates of 1965 and 1966, and recently they came together for their 50th class reunion.
They laughed about the pranks they pulled in school, marveled over the paths their classmates followed, and paid homage to fellow graduates whose lives had been snuffed out much too early. The departed included Dan Harmon and his cousin Fred Simeonoff, who lost their lives serving their country in the Vietnam War.
Larry Lautaret, pastor of Ekklesia church in Flathead, Montana, who gave the opening prayer during a Saturday night KHS dinner and dance at the Elks, said the untimely deaths of his classmates drove him to ask deep questions about the purpose of life and a relationship with the Creator.
On a lighter note, State Sen. Gary Stevens, husband of KHS alumnus Rita (Johnson) Stevens, quizzed grads about significant music, movies, fashions and political movements of the 1960s. He brought his audience back to the days of the Grateful Dead, Simon and Garfunkel, the Beatles, Cool hand Luke and the Sound of Music.
“You grew up in a great place, a great time,” Stevens said. “Don’t think for a moment that your generation wasn’t influential.”
The youth of the 1960s inspired anti-war and environmental movements, marched for social justice, racial and gender equality and brought about the sexual revolution.
The 1960s, a decade identified with peace, love and social justice, was also a time of multiple assassinations, said Stevens, acknowledging the shooting of Dr. Martin Luther King, Sen. Robert Kennedy and his brother, President John F. Kennedy.
Everyone remembered where they were when John Kennedy was assassinated, Stevens said. And, closer to home, every alumnus who was on Kodiak Island during the 1964 earthquake and tsunami, remembered that fateful day which occurred on Good Friday.
Dr. Weston Fields, keynote speaker at the Saturday dinner, was proof to his classmates that boyhood dreams can live beyond adolescence. Ever since he was in 8th grade, Fields wanted to do something that was related to the Bible.
Fields, valedictorian of the KHS class of 1966, ended up teaching at the Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem (currently Jerusalem University College) while working on his second doctorate at the Hebrew University.
Emanuel Tov, professor in the Department of Bible at Hebrew University, asked Fields to become part of an international effort to create a foundation that would raise money for the preservation and publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls. This was the beginning of the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation. Weston has been its executive director for 25 years.
In his presentation, Fields also talked about the family gillnet sites on Bear Island and other parts of Uyak Bay.
“Being a fisherman has always been a part of my life,” he said.
In spite of his accomplishments, Fields recognized that some of his most inspiring and influential role models were fellow classmates and their families who included fishermen, artists, pilots, attorneys, Native leaders and biologists. He took the opportunity to thank them, one by one.
He had special words of thanks to those who spearheaded the reunion: Marya (Springhill) Nault, master of ceremonies at the Saturday night dinner, Mary (Short) Doubt, Louise (Harvey) Cobb, Margaret Hamilton, Howard Valley, Sandee (Stewart) Drabek and Cathy (Vosgien) Magnusen.
Other reunion activities included a breakfast at King’s Diner, dinner at the Old Powerhouse Restaurant, a picnic at USCG Buskin Beach House and tours of the new high school and harbor.
“Meet and greet” barbecues were held at the homes of Louise Cobb (class of 1966,) and Gerald Markham (1965.)
At practically every gathering, graduates had stories to tell. Some of them involved teachers and administrators.
It was told that one teacher made boys run laps through the halls after he caught them holding hands with their girlfriends.
Marvin Frost had his classmates in stitches when he told about his friend, David, who took a cigarette break in the men’s bathroom during a KHS basketball game.
“He starts puffing on a Marlboro, and then walks in … the superintendent,” said Frost.
The superintendent informed David that he was going to get a three-day suspension. When he motioned for David to come with him, the student replied, “’Wait until I finish my cigarette.’”
Cobb said she had “wonderful teachers” and was part of a class that “got along so well.”
Markham said he and fellow students “got a great education. We had great teachers. We were very tight, very friendly. Everybody loved everybody else.”
Markham shared a story about Kodiak’s intermural basketball players who were divided up into the blue and gold teams.
“The blues were the better athletes, who may have made it to the high school basketball team,” he said. “Those of us who were not very athletic, were always on the gold team.
During their senior year, the golds changed their name to the Senior Pinks.
Consisting of “brainy guys” from calculus and other challenging classes, the players took a more academic approach to the game. They devised various plays based on research.
“We won the championship that year,” Markham said.
The team wears pink T-shirts to reunions to keep the memory alive.
Another memorable part of Kodiak student life in the 1960s was the dancing.
Those attending the Saturday night dinner were pleased when DJ Marc Ignacio played the hit songs of their era.
As soon as the music blared from the loud speaker, they dashed to the dance floor like kids running to the playground.
These elders, some of them graying and balding, once again mastered the twist, the mashed potato and the frug —dances of the golden, unforgettable ’60s.