Almost four decades separate us from our high
It’s been 35 years since
we walked out the door
of Central High School
into our futures.
Tonight we find ourselves
thirty five years older
looking back at these long-
haired, bellbottomed kids.
What were those three
years of our lives all
Perhaps Charles Dickens best describes the complex
nature of high school with the opening words from his book
A Tale of Two Cities:
"It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times;
it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness;
it was the epoch of belief,
it was the epoch of incredulity;
it was the season of Light,
it was the season of Darkness;
it was the spring of hope,
it was the winter of despair;
we had everything before us,
we had nothing before us ...”
For some of us, high school was the best
time of our lives…for others it was like
having a root canal that lasted for three
very long years.
Most of us take a stand somewhere
between the two and remember those
years as bittersweet.
With the wisdom of time, we know that kids of
all generations face challenges in high
school – we were no different.
Our world was colored by issues of health,
wealth - or more often poverty - drugs and
alcohol, love and love lost – and anxiety
about everything from will I do well in
sports? Will I pass this class? should I try out
for the school play? and always…what
should I do for the rest of my life?
Yet, we were the class of 1975…After thirty
five years, I wonder…was there
something about our high school
experience that was somehow different
than that of others? Did our experience
as children of the seventies shape our
lives in some unique way?
Like high school itself, the decade of the
seventies was complicated and filled with
The writer, Tom Wolfe,
seventies as the Me
Generation – a time
seemed to leave
behind the social and
political activism of
the 1960’s and
replace it with a new
focus on individual
I wondered about this – so I went to three
of our former high school teachers and
asked them to compare students in the
1960’s with student’s in the 1970’s.
Were we selfish and self absorbed?
Paul Goodnature taught
Humanities at Central High
School. He thought students
in the 1970’s were less aware
of social issues than their
contemporaries in the 1960’s.
“The war and the draft kept
students on their toes in the
1960’s,” Goodnature said “but
the assassinations and wars
of the 1960’s just seemed to
produce a tiredness in the
Lila Aas, English literature teacher at Central said “students often had
a lot of opinions, but were reluctant to say them. Frankly, they lacked
passion.” She did go on to say that participation in extracurricular
activities – such as theater – remained strong throughout the decade.
Leo Aeikins, German
language teacher at
Central, remembers an
throughout the seventies
at both a college and high
school level. In fact,
nationally, the S.A.T.
college entrance exam
scores fell 16 points
between 1970 and 1974
and in just one year, 1975,
our senior year of high
school, SAT scores
dropped yet another 10
Yet, there was a lot to celebrate about the
much maligned seventies as well…
the way into the
future with the
invention of the first
RAM chip by Intel in
1970, the Apple I
computer in 1976
and the video game
released in 1979.
Popular Culture, Fashion,
Music, Film, TV, Books and
more shaped our generation
and those generations to
come in significant
ways…what would the world
be without the Rocky Horror
Picture Show or Classic
And in spite of Tom Wolfe’s Me Generation
mantra, as we look back at the seventies
we can see that social activism in the
larger world did not stop as the sixties
sizzled out. In fact, the cultural changes
in the seventies literally reinvented
Our children and
grandchildren live in a
better world because of
the steadfast work of
movement, gay rights,
feminism, civil rights
and of particular
importance to us all
here tonight – the gray
panther movement and
the AARP – all
organizations that grew
strong in the 1970’s.
We did have a fair amount of social
activism in Albert Lea during the
seventies as well…maybe you
participated in some of these activities…
Boycotts on behalf of
the Farm Workers of
Solidarity for the Pine Ridge Lakota at the second
Wounded Knee …
And of course there was many good works
going on at our high school as well.
This is a picture from the 1975
Tiger of my wife, Jolyn
Thompson, giving blood when
the local Red Cross came to the
high school. The women laying
next to her is Janet Mathison – I
think the guy with no head is
What you can not see is that I
am laying two cots away giving
blood – all in an attempt to
impress the beautiful Jolyn.
When the nurse told me to rest
quietly after giving blood, I had
to be the tough guy – stood up
and keeled over in a dead faint
right at Jolyn’s feet.
It was not my proudest
So what’s this all about?
I think the bottom line is that our generation – the seventies – doesn’t
look too different from the decade we are in today. We have fuel
panics, over-population, ecological disasters, climate change,
recessions, nine year old wars, conspiracy theories and paranoia.
And the good news is (in the words of the immortal seventies singing
legend, Gloria Gaynor), we have survived…we are still here.
So tonight we come together to celebrate
with each other.
We celebrate those great kids we were 35
years ago – and the adults we have become. We
celebrate friends who are with us still – and
raise our glasses to the memories of those who
have left us. We celebrate and honor our school
staff - those principals and teachers and lunch
ladies and custodians and secretaries who
mentored and encouraged us and sent us out
into the world with their fingers crossed that
we wouldn’t muck it up.
We celebrate the memories of those three
years and are grateful for their part in making
us who we are today.
One last thing…
I wanted to share with you all my favorite pictures
from our 1975 year book.
I didn’t do many extracurricular activities while in
high school – actually, I didn’t do any…but I’m
especially proud of my stint as a male
cheerleader during a pep rally in the gym.
My squad members are Matt Hoffman, Robert
Wagner, Larry Kihlstadius, Dave Berg and Me.