About 100 students from the Mercer Island High School Class of 1968 reunited for their 50th reunion festivities, which included a tour of their alma mater, a dinner and party at a golf club in Bellevue and of course, a gathering at the Roanoke Inn, the weekend before Labor Day.
They walked the halls of their high school again on Aug. 24, marveling at the changes and talking about old times. Many lamented the demise of the “Mushroom,” a futuristic-looking cafeteria building that was torn down in 1997 and replaced with the “Commons.”
The building, which some believed should have been given historical status, offered a chance for adventure for the Class of ‘68, most of whom are 68 years old now. Mercer Island High School opened in 1955, and the first class graduated in 1958.
“We weren’t supposed to climb [the ‘Mushroom’],” said Chris Mochel, who still lives on the Island. “But let’s put it this way, at least half of us knew what the top of it looked like.”
The tour group also got to observe a marching band practice in Islander Stadium, and reminisced about their own high school activities, from chess team to basketball. Some of the women said there weren’t a lot of varsity sports for girls when they were young, aside from swimming and tennis.
Still, they remember going to the games and cheering on their teams. One of the top male athletes from the class of 1968, Steve Hawes, still holds school records in scoring and rebounds.
The Class of ‘68’s high school history is particularly well documented, thanks to the efforts of Hilding Larson. Larson was not just part of the AV Club; he “was the AV club,” according to his peers. He photographed almost all of the MIHS events, from sports games to school dances. For the reunion, he made a slideshow with pictures, and a background track of the school song and audio from the school play that year (“The King & I”).
Songs from the ‘60s played at the reunion on Saturday night, Aug. 25, where the Class of ‘68 and their spouses and guests also enjoyed a photo booth and no-host bar.
“We decided not to have a band, because what we really wanted to do is talk to people,” said Dick Brashen, who helped plan the event. “Your 50-year reunion is a once-in-a-lifetime deal.”
Though not everyone has kept in touch, the classmates said they were quick to recognize one another and relished the chance to catch up. Unfortunately, from their class of 340 students, 43 have already passed away.
There was a lot going on in 1968, from the Vietnam War, the Apollo 7 flight and the assasinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. It also marked the debut of the Boeing 747, “60 Minutes” and the Big Mac.
But locally, the MIHS alumni said that the biggest changes over the past 50 years have come in transportation and technology. Mercer Island was “an isolated place” in the ‘50s and ‘60s, they said, “with a bunch of three-bedroom ramblers and kids everywhere.”
Many talked about how they didn’t use computers in high school, though they did have to take typing classes.
“We were the Sputnik generation,” said Jeffrey Fox. “But the word STEM hadn’t even been invented.”
He said that Mercer Island was ahead of its time, and offered one of the few calculus classes at the high school level. He also remembered that the Class of 1968 had a record number of National Merit Scholars.
Many said they were grateful to have grown up on the Island, and to have the chance to reconnect. They usually plan reunions every 10 years as a “celebration of the friendships that have shaped us and the memories that remain,” according to the reunion invitation.