The Nelson High School class of 1952 will come together for its 60 year reunion next week.
About 80 people — former students and their spouses — will be at the Hume Hotel for the three day celebration that runs Tuesday to Thursday.
The reunion is organized by eight members of the class who still live in Nelson and like to refer to themselves by the acronym T.H.E.Y. or The Healthy, Energetic and Youthful. The group hosts reunions for their class every five years, as well as a couple informal get-togethers per year.
“I don’t think you could find another class so close. It’s been 60 years and we all still see each other regularly,” said Bob Nuyens.
“The class is spread all over Canada and North America, but they still make it back to come to our reunions.”
Before wide use of the internet, Evelyn Trainor and Rose-Anne Mashall used to take it upon themselves to write all 65 people in their graduating class and invite them to events.
Rachel Paton jokes that the two woman could be somewhat forceful in insisting their classmates attend the get-togethers.
“They’re probably the bossiest women in Western Canada,” Paton laughed.
Of course, these days they only have to send an email to let people know what they’re organizing.
“So much has changed,” said Nuyens. “We graduated before TV, before computers and cell phones and before the first person walked on the moon.”
The group has many fond memories of their years at Nelson High. They remember riding the streetcar to school and how all the boys were required to be in the army cadets because the Second World War had so recently ended.
They also remember the profound impact of the school’s first music teacher, Don Cowan who is still alive at 93 and living in Victoria.
“Mr. Cowan organized everyone who could function. If you were vertical and could hold an instrument or sing, he got you into music,” said Paton.
Cowan organized a school orchestra, marching band, dance band, classical band and girls choral group.
“I don’t know if the man ever slept,” said Paton.
The marching band would practice by leading parades along Baker Street and performing during sporting events. They even had uniforms.
“We looked ridiculous [in the uniforms], but we thought we looked marvelous,” said Paton.
Besides music, the school prided itself on its athletics. Students competed at intercity track meets and the whole school was broken into four “houses” depending on students’ birthdays and they competed against each other in a number of sporting events.
“The boys basketball team had the same name as it does today. We were the Bombers and the girls were the Bombettes,” Nuyens said.
Some of their classmates went on to be doctors, professors, scientists and politicians. But the group doesn’t like to focus on the accomplishments of individual classmates.
“I think it stratifies us and we like to think of everyone as being an equally important part of our class,” said Paton, pointing out that a lot of women she graduated with stayed home and were housewives, as was common at the time.
“When we organized the first reunion, some people said they didn’t want to come because they hadn’t done anything, and we’re trying to avoid those feelings so that everybody comes,” Paton said. “It doesn’t matter who they are now, when we get together, everyone is just a down to earth person who grew up in Nelson.”