Irish Blessing

Irish Blessing

Thursday, May 3, 2018

A Trip Down Memory Lane: Skyline Reunion

If I'm honest, I don't remember that very first day, walking into a brand new school as a fifth grader.

I know what I was wearing because my mom always took a photo on our first day of school. My sister Darci probably remembers without the photo cue, but not me.

Mom had made my olive green print dress, which I'd paired with white bobby socks and loafers. She put my hair in pin curls the night before, but even brushed out, the curls clung tightly to my head since I had a fresh home perm. As I boarded the school bus, I'm sure I had a bag full of new school supplies, including a Big Chief tablet, yellow No. 2 pencils and that coveted extra-large box of Crayola crayons with the built-in sharpener.

Our DNA and many of the incumbent personality traits are already set by grade school. So even though I don't remember the actual moment of pulling open those heavy doors and walking through them, I'm sure my stomach was in knots and my heart was in my throat. The anxiety was likely tinged with excitement, but this was a big change in a 10-year-old's life. 

It was 1967 and the first day at Skyline Schools, a rural consolidated school just west of Pratt. I was walking into a classroom of strangers.

3rd and 4th grade class at Byers Grade School - I'm front and center! I was in 3rd grade at the time.
At Byers Grade School, where I'd attended 1st through 4th grades, my class had just 3 to 5 students, depending on the year. There were two classes in each room taught by one teacher, so we worked with other students, too.

Those familiar faces filled the school bus as we traveled toward rural Pratt. Before, I had only 3 1/2 miles to ride from my farm home to Byers. Now, it was closer to 12.
Evidently, my tendency to be taking the photo and not in it was alive and well in 5th grade, too! This was my 5th grade class at Skyline - minus me! Thanks to my mom for labeling it. I wouldn't have known some of them otherwise!
Bottom row: Tom Durall, Robbie Statts, Randy Pinkerton, Steven Campbell, Paul Petrowsky, Eugene Stotts.
2nd Row: LaTricia Pritchard, Cindy Blasi, Trella Konkell, Cheryl Hickey, Margo Bale, Betty Carson.
Back row: Mrs. Opal Hemphill, Judy Lee, Marilyn Lambert, Carol Beberstine, Darci Jones, Cindi Snyder, Tina Maphet, Lindi Snyder, Kay Brown
Once I got off the bus, my classroom at Skyline would be filled with new faces from Cullison, Coats and Sawyer. At least there was one familiar adult face. My 3rd and 4th grade teacher at Byers - Opal Hemphill - was the new 5th grade teacher at Skyline.

It's not that I didn't know the details about how Skyline came to be. My dad, Bob Moore, was president of the consolidated school board. Long before that opening day in 1967, he and his fellow board members had been touring the rural towns of Pratt County talking about the state-mandated consolidation and trying to build consensus on something that was inevitable. It wasn't always an easy "sell." Small towns love their school and look at it as their very life blood. And for good reason.
6th Grade Girls with Mrs. Bales - again, minus me!

But the Byers Hornets and Coats Bulldogs and Cullison Owls and Sawyer Eagles were going to become Skyline Thunderbirds. Their old school colors would be traded in for Columbia blue and white.
My dad and other board members had toured other schools, looking for designs and ideas that would ease the transition and provide the best possible education for students. So, yes, I knew all about Skyline because it had been a conversation around our dinner table for several years. But knowing about something and experiencing a big change are two very different things, especially for a 10-year-old, first-born girl who liked order and routine.

However, as with most other situations in my life when I've dreaded a big change, it turned out to be one of the best things that could have happened to me.
Last Saturday night, April 28, we celebrated Skyline's 50th anniversary. In the gym where I'd sung the National Anthem in my basketball uniform before holding down the far end of the bench during girls' basketball games, 550-plus people came to celebrate the school and its role in making us who we are today.
Some just had to travel a few miles to walk back through the doors of their alma mater.
Others came from across the country. There were farmers and lawyers and doctors and accountants and pastors and the proverbial "butchers and bakers and candlestick makers." (Well, maybe not candlestick makers.)

In my 1975 Class Prophecy, someone predicted I'd become a New York Times reporter. But this  small-town girl was better suited to work at a regional newspaper, rather than a gig in the Big Apple, and that's fine with me.

Probably not a lot of those far-reaching prophecies came true. But we all came together Saturday night as a T-bird family pieced together by common memories and a place we called "home" for so many of our formative years.

I remembered some teachers who left a huge impact.
  • It seemed I spent most math classes parked at Mr. Bisel's desk, where he patiently tried to explain algebra and geometry to me ... yet again. 
  • I only typed 55 words a minute in Mrs. Kennedy's typing class. She'd be amazed at how quick I am on a computer today. And, boy, that job typing and mimeographing the Sawyer CWF's cookbook for a junior class fundraiser would have been so much faster with a word processor, but that newfangled contraption was still a few years away.
  • I thought about Mr. Sittner, our science teacher. He was no pushover, and I was thankful for that when I got to K-State. This girl from a rural consolidated school could help girls from Kansas City with their chemistry.
  • Mrs. Jones was the home ec teacher. Yes, it was called that back then. And she awarded me the Betty Crocker Homemaker Award, probably based on a written test. But, if truth is told and if we could have predicted the future, it should have gone to her daughter, Darci, or to Diana Hemphill, both of whom use their home ec sewing skills a whole lot more than I do these days. 
  • My stint as yearbook editor was my first experience laying out pages and writing copy, something that eventually became my career.
  • The reunion planners had organized an alumni band to play with the current T-bird band during the banquet. But I was afraid I couldn't remember the fingering on the saxophone. I don't think I've played it since walking out the door of the band room that final day. Instead, I joined in the impromptu alumni choir and sang the National Anthem yet again in the Skyline gym.
    Some alumni have children who are also Skyline graduates. Some have grandchildren who are now Thunderbirds, too. Some of us have adopted new mascots as our children have made their own journeys through their school years. But on Saturday night, we were all Thunderbirds again.

    My dad is the only surviving "founding father," or member of the original Skyline board.  He and my mom manned a memorabilia table and visited with former students, faculty members and friends.
    In the crowded gym, I am sure I didn't see everyone. Facebook connects me with several of my Class of 1975 classmates, but it was good to see 14 of them in person and not scrolling down a computer screen. The eyes of those eager 5th graders were still lurking underneath a few more wrinkles as we greeted one another and "remembered when."
    Class of 1975
    My cousin, Dr. Justin Moore, was the emcee for the evening. He said it better than I could with his closing remarks. (It hardly seems fair that he's smart enough to be a doctor AND a talented writer. Read it in its entirety here.)
    So much of life is temporary: what we do, who we love, our friends, our enemies, even our names. But where we come from is permanent. And just like a church isn’t its walls, where we come from isn’t just a dot on the map. For many of us, where we come from doesn’t even warrant a dot, just coordinates.

    Where we come from really is the sum total and interaction of the people and experiences of our youth. Not geographic happenstance. ...
    Once upon a time, people decided that it was worth their time and their money to give the kids of the little towns and farms of this county their own place to be proud of and their own place to be from, and it’s the reassuring knowledge that the voters, some of whom are in this room, but many of whom are no longer with us, approved their plan in a special election by a 3:1 margin. ...  Thanks to all the people who have poured their taxes and their careers and all their good intentions into the futures of the kids who attended school in this building.
    I know I'm thankful, too.

    Thanks so much to the Skyline Schools Foundation board led by President Lisa Befort for their work in organizing the reunion. The current staff and students at Skyline also made our evening a pleasure through their hard work.

    Note: Several of these photos were pulled from Facebook and friends. Uncharacteristically, I took very few photos that night. I'm glad others did a better job than I did!

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