By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — It was 62 year ago that the Newkirk High School (NHS) Class of 1957 walked out of the doors of the school for the last time as students. Many of the classmates went their own way, leaving the community for far-reaching places. While they are no longer a class at NHS, that hasn’t stopped them from returning as a united group, however, as repeated reunions have brought them all back to Newkirk to celebrate what it means to be friends, and graduates of Newkirk High School.
The reunion was held July 20 at the Newkirk Senior Citizens Center from 2 – 4 p.m. Attendees enjoyed refreshments, including cake, ice cream and brownies.
The reunion is a testament to the closeness the class has always felt.
“We were a close-knit group, and always had a good time together,” said Kate Williams. “We’ve had a reunion every five years sine we graduated.”
Much has changed since the simpler times of the late 1950s, when the class graduated and moved on to college and careers. At one time, Newkirk had movie theaters, and even a skating rink, all of which are now gone. Weekend evenings were the highlight of the week.
“You always honked when you met someone you knew,” said Katie Bliss. “It cost 15 cents to get in the movie. You could get popcorn for a nickel, and a coke was a dime. You could have a good time with 15 cents.”
The main hangout, however, was Andrews Drug Store, also located downtown. Vic Andrews graduated with the class, and recalls the many memories of the place.
“My parents owned the drug store. It was where everyone congregated,” he said.
Many members of the class remember the good times at the shop.
“They had a pinball machine. The boys played the pinball, and the girls watched,” Bliss said.
There were plenty of other activities to do in Newkirk in the 1950s, such as sock hops and dragging Main Street.
“Most of us would, during the lunch hour, sit in our cars, or walk the street,” Bliss said. “We could drive our cars, because the lunch was at the grade school.”
There were many other ways life was different than today during the 1950s. For one, the girls wore dresses to school except Fridays.
“There were no sports for girls, it was all boys,” Bliss said.
Still it was an enjoyable time period for the class, an era many recall fondly.
“It was before electronic media. We would get together and enjoy each other,” Andrews said. “The 1950s were very simple.”
Many of the students moved off to college or military careers, making a new family in a new community outside Kay Cunty. That was the case for Larry Glass, who now resides near Alva, Okla. He met his wife at the University of Oklahoma, and later followed her back to her home to help her father on the farm, which he still operates today. He returns to Newkirk for each reunion.
“I see my friends, see how many of us are left,” he said. “We had a good class.”
Some left for faraway places, but eventually returned to the only place they really knew. Bliss’ first husband was in the U.S. Navy, but she eventually made her way back to Newkirk and Peckham.
“It’s home,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of nice, successful people, and we really managed to keep track of each other through the years.”
Some never really left. Andrews left Kay County to pursue a dentistry degree, but came back, where he now practices in Ponca City. He sees the reunion as a chance to reconnect with others who did leave.
“I’m renewing my old acquaintances,” he said.
About 56 graduated in 1957, and it’s estimated that about 35 are left in the class. The class may slowly be declining, but the spirit lives on in those who remain, who remember, who make the trek back to Newkirk because it’s home.
“I’ve left several times, but I’ve always comeback, because I get homesick,” Williams said. “It’s my town. I like the people in it. It just feels like home. There’s a lot of friendly people, a lot of family.”