Twenty-three members of Webster Elementary's class of 1962 recreate their sixth-grade class photo May 16. CLICK IMAGE FOR MORE PHOTOS FROM THE REUNION.
At Large in Ballard: We can't wait for the 50th
“I used to walk by your house,” Jeanette Johnson confessed to her sixth-grade crush and first “boyfriend.“
"I walked by your house last week,” Jim Hunter responded.
As they laughed, it was hard to believe 48 years separated those events, just as it was mind-boggling for people attending the reunion of Webster Elementary’s 1962 sixth-grade class to believe they were all turning 60.
“We’re just boys in old hair,” Knut Harjo said.
The sign above the sink in Shelley Tennant Butchart’s kitchen designated May 16 as hamburger day, with Bart as the “lunch lady."
In the requisite hairnet, reunion organizer Shelley Butchart’s husband was carefully tending small green hamburgers made from the original recipe found by Seattle Public School’s archivist.
For several hours, the Tennant’s house on Northwest 60th Street teemed with Webster’s class of 1962, along with some of the mothers who once led Girl Scout troops and/or participated in PTA.
Also attending as honored guests were a few “adults” from their school days: Mr. Matson, Mrs. D’Amico and Mrs. Davis. With each guest wearing a name tag suspended by ribbon, former students kept asking Mrs. Bertha Davis, “Do you remember me?”
“Of course I do,” she responded to each one, providing a specific story to prove her point.
Nothing ever escaped Mrs. Davis, who recently turned 96, in the classroom or the library; still doesn’t.
The idea of reuniting the sixth-grade class was hatched by a few friends from Webster days attending their 40th at Ballard High School. They realized they remembered more of their sixth-grade friends than those from high school.
At Webster, they had often been in the same class together since first grade, all lived in the same neighborhood, all eaten the strangely green, grain-filled hamburgers on every single Tuesday.
At Webster, they were a tight group of 70, not part of 1,000 students.
So Shelley Butchart decided to organize the reunion for what marks the 48th anniversary of sixth-grade graduation. As for why they didn’t wait for a more traditional year, Butchart said simply, “We’d already lost several people. We can’t wait for the 50th.”
One of her closest friends, Judy Gerke died last December and in tracking down classmates for the reunion she learned another classmate had also died last fall.
Butchart had been saving a story to share with him.
But, those who looked at old photos together and socialized throughout the house all looked hale and hearty, still handsome and still beautiful.
A woman did a double take as she read a name tag and then looked up and up from chest to beard to full head of white hair on Paul Matson.
“You got so tall,” she said, as amazed as if a sixth-grader had sprouted overnight.
Throughout the rooms, these grownups filled in the years for one another; they’re back in Ballard. They got as far as Magnolia. They live in Maltby but have a boat at Fishermen’s Terminal. Some see each other regularly; others haven’t seen each other in 40 years.
Mr. Matson’s wife, who taught at Crown Hill, remembered a drive to California for winter break with 30 boxes of cookies in the back seat, gifts from virtually every child in her class.
Everyone talked about how Ballard has changed, remembering the steep climb to the third floor of the Carnegie Library for the children’s room and Paul’s Café on the corner of Northwst 65th Street and 32nd Avenue Northwest.
Mrs. D’Amico (third grade) shared poems she had written; her daughter and family live in Ballard.
Bryce Williams brought copies of his writing, including a piece called “Baby Boomers,” which includes the lines, “Someday, some will ask who were they? Many deaths and decades removed, Their school bells silent since the 60s.”
As he was leaving, he paused to ask Knut Harjo, “Do you remember how you’d go behind the music teacher Mrs. Olson making funny gestures with your hands?”
Harjo didn’t confirm or deny this other than by grinning, but his wife Jill (they didn’t meet until she was in seventh grade at James Monroe because she was at Whittier instead of Webster) said his mother had saved all his report cards which hinted at his reputation as class clown.
As people began to say their farewells, preparing to travel to their homes, whether they lived within blocks or five hours by car, Butchart gathered everyone from the Class of 62 to recreate their class photo from the Webster steps on her front steps.
A woman said, “Remember in school we couldn’t wait to get up from this pose, now we can’t get up.”
Someone else suggested they sing the Webster fight song, so the boys in old hair began chanting, “Lutefisk, lutefisk, lutefisk.”
Within hours, Butchart had posted reunion photos on the Web site she created for the event. I clicked between the photos of 23 original class members taken at the reunion and the photos of their 12-year-old selves in June 1962.
It’s true what they were saying. Some of those kids haven’t changed a bit – just us.
For more about the Webster class of 1962, past and present, visit Shelley Butchart's Web site.
Photo gallery for this story