Class of 1939 still going relatively strong after 70 years

Seventy-plus years ago, Arlene Sportsman and Lelia Morehead decided the spring weather was too nice to spend stuck in high school study hall.

So they jumped out the window.

Only to be caught by the janitor.

That was one of the stories members of the Class of 1939 recounted at the home of Alvin “Tyke” and Arlene (Sportsman) Sorseth on July 8. Twelve members of the class met at The Point for lunch to celebrate the 70th anniversary of their graduation. Nine retired to the Sorseth home to relax and share stories that afternoon.

“I never done nothing crazy,” Ron Fogel said €“ at least nothing he would admit to. Fogel did note that the risk for getting into trouble was higher back then. Whatever trouble a student got into at school was doubled once they went home, class members said.

At ages 88 to 90, they recall a time when strangers were not a big deal.

Arlene Sorseth walked to elementary school, where the District 55 Central Office is located, she said. She would walk from her home on top of the hill on Old Holley Road, where she still lives part of the year, to the school on Long Street.

There wasn’t as much traffic then, and the cars didn’t move as quickly. Walking that stretch wasn’t considered unsafe, the seniors recalled. Passing drivers would sometimes stop and offer rides to students. If they were driving a coupe, Sorseth said she would ride on the running board €“ outside the car.

“Every time I see the school bus go by now, I get so mad,” she said laughing.

Those visiting the Sorseths included their classmates Lelia Morehead Cole, Dorothy Barnes Wright, Ron Fogel, Doreen Rice Cookson, Velma Vitek Cosler, Jessie Myer Burnett and Lucille Paddock LaLonde. They were joined by Reva Hughes Jeffreys, Ivan Groshong and Leo Dewey at The Point.

Their class had a total of 43 members. Some were unable to attend due to health issues while they have lost contact with some and others have passed away.

Three of the women at the reunion were on the “cradle roll” together at the Church of Christ at 18th and Long. They included Morehead Cole, Sportsman Sorseth and Paddock LaLonde.

Alvin and Arlene Sorseth were the only two members of the Class of 1939 to marry each other.

Seven members attended the first through 12th grades together, including Jeanette Smith Fitzgerald, George Turbyne, Gladys Gedney Fulton, Jean Smith Mathers, Morehead Cole, Sportsman Sorseth and Paddock LaLonde.

They attended one of the oldest incarnations of Sweet Home High School, a small section of the structure torn down and replaced nearly a decade ago.

Arlene Sorseth’s father, Arthur Sportsman, was superintendent at Long Street elementary and then the high school.

After all the bids came back too high for the high school project, said Alvin Sorseth, “they decided to have him oversee the construction and he took it.”

He was the building superintendent and the contractor on the job, Sorseth said.

Sweet Home had no school buses, Sorseth said. Students living more than three miles from the school were paid 1.5 cents per mile to reimburse transportation costs. They received a check every week.

Members of the class climbed Rooster Rock and enjoyed the campgrounds and trails newly constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression.

“As you look at this bunch here, Ron and I are the only males here, so the weaker sex has taken over,” said Alvin Sorseth.

“Haven’t we always been,” Morehead Cole said, poking a little fun at Sorseth.