Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Together again: Grand Forks grads reunite after 50 years

This weekend's reunion is special for the Class of '68 not only because it marks 50 years since they left high school, but because this group started out as classmates at Grand Forks Central and ended up graduating from two different schools.

Mike Stamness, a Red River High School alumnus, checks out the trophy case at Red River during a tour Friday for the 50th reunion of the class. Red River High School opened in the fall of 1967 and held the first graduation in the spring of 1968. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
Mike Stamness, a Red River High School alumnus, checks out the trophy case at Red River during a tour Friday for the 50th reunion of the class. Red River High School opened in the fall of 1967 and held the first graduation in the spring of 1968. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

This weekend's reunion is special for the Class of '68 not only because it marks 50 years since they left high school, but because this group started out as classmates at Grand Forks Central and ended up graduating from two different schools.

Members of this class at Red River High School were the first to graduate from that school, which opened in the fall of '67.

Reminiscing and renewing friendships will be high on the agenda when they get together for their reunion in Grand Forks.

The activities, organized by Cathy Wilson Rydell of Minneapolis and Bob Sellie of Charlotte, N.C., include tours of the high schools, a dinner and dance with the original Cornerstones band, and get-togethers at Lincoln Park and Sky's restaurant.

Socializing is planned for noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Kegs, Red Pepper, Mexican Village "or the dive of your choice," Rydell said.

ADVERTISEMENT

The reunion wraps up Sunday with a brunch at Kings Walk Golf Course.

Rydell estimated that the Class of '68 at Grand Forks Central totaled about 235 and, at Red River, about 220.

Event organizers are expecting about 100 classmates, as well as 50 or so guests, to attend the reunion.

'We were close'

In the fall of '67, about half of Grand Forks Central's seniors transferred to the newly constructed Red River High School on the city's south side.

Despite the split, "we were close, because we spent most of our high school careers together," said Rydell, a Red River alumna.

Rydell and some of her classmates, graduates of both high schools, met at her lake home earlier this week near Detroit Lakes, Minn.

"Fifty years later-even though some have stayed in touch and some have not-we felt so connected," she said.

ADVERTISEMENT

"No matter how many years have passed, you just pick up where you left off," Rydell said. "You share life stories, cry together, laugh together. What you thought your life was going to be at 18 is never what it is at 68."

Although theirs was the first class to be split between two public high schools, friendships endured.

"One of my friends, Sally Houkom Baumgartner-who was Grand Forks Central's Homecoming queen-said, 'It was a hard year, but we made it work.' It still feels like one class."

Splitting up teams

The opening of Red River High School meant that some of GFC's outstanding athletes became Red River students.

"Half the star players in basketball stayed at Central," Rydell said. "Grand Forks Central was a hockey force, a powerhouse.

"If not for the split, we would have dominated those sports for a number of years," she said.

The competitive spirit between the schools did not emerge right away.

ADVERTISEMENT

"We never felt the kind of rivalry you might expect there to be," Rydell said. "We enjoyed each other's successes. We were proud of each other."

"Our rivalry was more with St. James (former private high school in Grand Forks) than it ever was with Central," she said.

Rydell and some of her girlfriends were cheerleaders for their school's basketball, football and hockey teams.

"That was before Title IX, so women's sports didn't exist," she said. "We (girls) had synchronized swimming and, I think, track."

"We were active in Student Council and different clubs, but not as athletes in sports," she said.

"We would've been good athletes."

'Everything was new'

Looking back, "it wasn't difficult to switch allegiances" to Red River, Rydell said.

"My parents went to Grand Forks Central. It's an iconic building, more than a 100 years old. We remember the old gym, the locker rooms-we heard stories about how awful it was in there.

"At Red River, everything was brand new," she said. "(The layout) was open. We were in awe."

When the school was about to open in '67, "they had music for the school song, but no words," Rydell said.

She remembered when she and a few other cheerleaders and a couple athletes gathered to work on the song.

"We were in a second-story classroom at South Junior High, with a reel-to-reel tape machine-and basically told not to leave 'til we'd written the words," she said.

They were supposed to write two verses but, after one verse, decided to just put "repeat" at the end.

"To this day, the Red River song has one verse-no one ever questioned it," she said with a laugh.

Adopting a new identity, as the Red River Roughriders, was not difficult, she said.

"We built the identity."

Turbulent times

Members of the Grand Forks graduating high school classes of '68 were not insulated from the troubles that rocked America in the late '60s.

"Those were turbulent times," Rydell said. "You had the assassination of Kennedy, the assassination of Martin Luther King and Kent State (students killed)."

Although she and her classmates "were aware of those things," she said, theirs was a relatively sheltered environment.

Looking back on that unrest, Rydell and her friends agree "we were lucky to have had the kind of life we had in Grand Forks. It was a 'Happy Days' kind of life," she said, referring to the TV show which portrayed the stable, traditional family life in the simpler '50s era.

"We gathered at the Kegs. We have such good memories of high school."

As this reunion approached, Rydell was most looking forward to "reconnecting with folks," she said.

"At this time in our lives, it's not about where you live or what you have," she said.

"There's been drama in our lives. We've all had our journeys and challenges and successes in life, but we have the same bond.

"Growing up in Grand Forks, what we got here, molded us into the people we became. We're appreciative of what had growing up in Grand Forks," she said.

"What I treasure most is the friendships."

Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at pknudson@gfherald.com or (701) 780-1107.
What To Read Next
Josh Sipes was watching an in-flight movie when he became aware the flight crew were asking for help assisting a woman who was experiencing a medical problem.
Nonprofit hospitals are required to provide free or discounted care, also known as charity care; yet eligibility and application requirements vary across hospitals. Could you qualify? We found out.
Crisis pregnancy centers received almost $3 million in taxpayer funds in 2022. Soon, sharing only medically accurate information could be a prerequisite for funding.
The Grand Forks Blue Zones Project, which hopes to make Grand Forks not just a healthier city but a closer community, is hosting an event on Saturday, Jan. 21, at the Empire Arts Center from 3-5 p.m.