Some of the kids who graduated from Sheridan Elementary School in 1955 say they're stunned to learn that their 50-year reunion is right around the corner. ¯It's a little hard to figure out, since I'm only 39," joked class member Carolyn Jodie Hagford.
A group of them have started planning a 50 year reunion party for 2005, she said, and they're trying to find all of their classmates. But it's not easy, she added, because there were more than 100 of them. But they've been making some calls and they've got a website devoted solely to the reunion.
Many say they're excited about sharing memories with the youngsters they once knew so well. (The school building, 1201 University Ave. NE, was built in 1896 and has had two additions, one in 1932 and another in 1967, according to Minneapolis Public Library information.)
School in the 50s
In those 'Leave it to Beaver' days in the 1950s where most of the women were housewives and usually only the men went to work, Hagford said the Sheridan schoolgirls took sewing and cooking classes and the boys took woodworking, metal working and mechanical drawing. 'We made potholders and aprons and dresses in sewing class,' Hagford said. 'In gym, girls weren't supposed to run too much because we'd get overheated. Sometimes we played badminton and did floor exercises. We had a lot of hygiene talks about keeping our fingernails clean and our underarms shaved.'
The Sheridan group got to know each other well, she said, because the school was K-9, which meant they were all together from ages 5 through 14. When they were very young, they played tag and kick the can in the alleys, she said. 'Every night you used to hear the sounds of all the mothers yelling for us. Hopefully, we were within hearing distance. If you couldn't hear your mom calling, you didn't get anything to eat that night.
'We all lived within a close circle. There were no buses, so we walked everywhere, whether it was 20 below or 100 degrees. There was no TV and no video games. Our mothers didn't drive. Whatever excitement we had, we did it within our group.' The 'group' spent a lot of time at Logan Park, in the days when the old pavilion was still standing. Hagford said there were three ice skating rinks, including one for speed skaters. When they got older, they went to school dances. 'Sheridan's gym was open Friday nights for dances; they played 45s [45 RPM records] and it cost 10 cents to get in. At Christmastime there were mistletoe dances, where everybody ran around kissing each other. There were even pre-mistletoe dances. We were really amorous. That was our sex education.' She said when the first girl in the class came to school wearing a bra, she was the most popular girl at the dances that season, 'until the rest of us popped up too.'
They went swimming at John Ryan Baths, 20 2nd St. NE, where 'they put so much chlorine in the water that if you were blond, it turned your hair green. Your eyes got all bloodshot. They didn't have any hair driers, and in
the winter we'd have to walk home more than a mile. Your hair would still be wet and it would freeze. 'I remember stopping off at the Ukrainian store. They sold salted pumpkin seeds. You could get a whole bag for five cents,' Hagford said.
A favorite activity for everybody was going to the Ritz Theater on 13th Avenue. Sheridan graduate Rodney Nelson, who now lives in North Minneapolis, said, 'The Ritz Theater was the place. Sometimes we'd even sit through a movie a couple of times. A group of guys would go and the girls would be there. I remember when Cinemascope came in, and the Ritz went to the wide screen. We'd watch Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis movies, cowboy movies, Saturday afternoon matinees and serials. 'They showed the Three Stooges and musicals. In those days the Catholic League of Decency pretty much determined what you could see. Kids could only see movies rated A1 and A2. Adults could see Bs, but Cs were condemned. 'The show used to cost 12 cents, then it went up to 25 cents,' Nelson added. 'For us to get 25 cents that might have been your weekly allowance, if you got an allowance. We usually brought enough money to buy either a candy bar or box of popcorn.'
Hagford also remembers the shocking price increase. 'I used to take 17 cents12 cents to get in, and 5 cents for candy. Then it went up to 25 and then 50 cents!' Her memory of the boys and girls meeting up at the show was a bit different than Nelson's. 'The boys threw popcorn boxes at us,' she said.
Another classmate, Lou Paff, who lives in Oregon, has set up a reunion website. It includes old black and white photos of the students and pictures of the school. He too mentioned the Ritz, and one film in particular, 'The
Long Long Trailer,' with Lucille Ball. 'It was about a trailer that they pulled behind a car. I remember in one scene, the car was a yellow Ford. But in another scene where the car had to pull the trailer up a hill, it turned into a yellow Mercury. That was odd.'
Paff remembers coming out of the afternoon movies into bright sun and 'squinting like mad.' He also remembers stopping at the drug store's soda fountain at 13th and 4th for a lemon Coke. He, Nelson and Hagford were all in the school band, he said. He played the clarinet but switched to sax, Hagford played the flute, and Nelson played the trumpet.
'Some of us were together in church groups and Boy Scouts,' Paff said. 'Our friendships had time to build up. When I saw Carolyn and Rod at Edison's reunion I hadn't talked to either of them for 25 years, but we had full recognition. We just started talking, and picked up where we'd left off.'
Hagford said the Northeast group was a bit rough. 'If you made it through school without being sent up the river or getting pregnant, you were doing pretty good. We were rebels. There were a lot of fights in the alley after school. We didn't have hockey teams, so everybody had to get their aggression out some way.
'One year we had a teacher who was sick a lot, and we had a series of substitute teachers,' Hagford said. 'We were so mean to one of them that one day she started to cry. She told us all to go home. She said, 'Don't come back. I never want to see you again!' Some of us crawled back to class after lunch, though.'
Hagford said the teachers at Sheridan in those days included Mr. Boylan, the boys' gym teacher, Miss Farrell, the girls' gym teacher, Mr. Thill the art teacher and Mr. Russell Erickson, the band director. Miss Oas was the sewing teacher and the principals were Miss Barron and Mr. Schwiekart.
Nelson said they started playing in the band in the summer before fifth grade. The concert was the social event of the year; kids would cut lilacs and bring them to decorate the gym. The band members wore green and white uniforms, and the auditorium was filled with parents and other relatives. The school chorus sang at Christmas and Easter pageants.'Those two music programs were extremely strong.'
He said the boys' shop classes offered good training for their future lives. 'We became familiar with tools and working with them. We weren't afraid of handling tools. The mechanical drawing classes were good, too. You could hone your fine hand coordination skills. The same with printing. We set the type by hand.' Nelson said sometimes the boys would just 'happen' to be in the halls when the girls were baking cookies in their cooking class. 'I don't think they were supposed to give us cookies, but they always did.'
'After graduation from Sheridan, most went on to Edison High School for another three years of togetherness. 'We were known as the party class,' Hagford said. 'When we were seniors we wanted to have two proms, a winter and a spring one, because we all kept changing boyfriends and girlfriends.' Nelson, she said, was Edison's first boy cheerleader. In the summer, she said, she and her girlfriends often went swimming at Lake Calhoun. 'It took us three streetcars to get there. It probably took an hour and a half. We spent the whole day there. Nobody worried about us; we were safe. You just had to make sure you got home around supper time.'
Dating couples sometimes took the streetcars downtown to go to a movie at Radio City, she said. 'In our class, there were at least 15 couples of classmates who got married,' Hagford said. 'It was kind of incestuous,' she added, laughing. 'A lot of them stayed in the area, and their children went to Edison or Columbia Heights High School.'
Hagford said she has fond memories of her school days, and is enjoying planning the reunion with her classmates. 'You say to yourself, 'this person has known me since I went to kindergarten,' and it just feels good.'
When she and some of her Edison classmates turned 50, she said, they had a reunion in Las Vegas. The group who is now planning the Sheridan 50th got together at Edison's 45-year reunion last fall. They are considering not inviting spouses to the reunion, she said. When teased about that causing risks on the marriage front, she said, 'We're too old to have orgies.
We just thought it would get too mixed up with other people.' Paff said, 'We thought if we left the spouses at home there'd be fewer people to remember. At our age, that makes a difference.' This way, he added, they'll know that no matter who they're talking to, it's somebody they know.
The reunion date isn't set yet, he said, but they're thinking about the end of summer or early fall, 2005. Paff's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. The website is http://www.paffl.net/ sheridan.html. For information about the reunion, or to give the group information about a 1955 Sheridan graduate, call 952-920-6362 or 612-529-2693.