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Back together after 62 years; the PHS Class of 1960 holds reunion

In celebration of their 80th birthdays and their 62nd graduation anniversary, the Perham High School Class of 1960 gathered together on June 15 and 16.

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The graduates of the Perham High School Class of 1960 who attended the reunion are Dale Berger, Don Bernauer, Nick Brown, Mark Ceynowa, Ann Cummings, Gary Fick, Cathy Begandy, Pat (Hemmelgarn) Holper, Beverly (Honer) Wirth, Bette (Johnson) Reeder, Sharon (Kaufman) Shedlov, Bob Kawlewski, Marie (Keidel) Walk, Tom Klassen, Norm Knuttila Mark Lehman, Henry Moltzan, Dennis Ogroske, Karen (Ohman) Ohlde, Pamela Potvin, Penny Richter, Audrey (Ronning) Nyland, Tom Schepper, Dean Turcotte, Eva (Wallace) McAtee, and Ted Wenner.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus
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PERHAM — Alumni who graduated from Perham High School more than 60 years ago came all the way to Perham from California, Wisconsin, Georgia, North Dakota, Colorado, and throughout the rest of Minnesota in order to reunite on June 15 and 16.

As they gathered together for a meet-up at Zorbaz, a tour of the new high school, and dinner at the ITOW Veterans Museum — some meeting for the first time in 62 years — they shared memories and stories from their time in school together.

Back in the 1950s, school looked a little bit different, especially since students were in the old high school building, which is where the Hub is now located. There weren't many girls' sports outside of physical education, tumbling, and cheerleading. These sports weren't competitive, but tumbling did get to shine during their half-time shows.

Classmates joked that they didn't often get in trouble because when you did something you weren't supposed to, your parents would know five minutes later. So, for the most part, they went dancing at an old resort to live music in their free time.

Though, sometimes, they did get into a little trouble. Well, four students did at least.

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Ann Cummings, a graduate of the Perham High School Class of 1960, stands next to her old Perham Pep Band shirt on a mannequin. She wore the shirt throughout the 1950s.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

During the Class of 1960's senior year, there was a chief of police in town who many students thought was rough on them. Once, a girl drove through town, and the officer stopped her and said she could only drive through once, said one class alumna. Another time, the alumna continued, boys were bouncing a basketball in front of a cafe, and they were told to stop.

Now one night, this alumna and three of his friends were on dates when they saw a dead skunk on the road. The next day, they remembered that they'd seen this skunk, and they decided to throw it into this cop's car.

While they were searching for his car, however, they decided to place the skunk down near the Comet Theater. This caused quite the commotion because the smell of the dead skunk got into the air conditioner. The theater had to let everyone out because of the smell.

In the middle of this chaos, they found the police car, and threw the skunk in through the window.

The very next day, when the boys were at football practice, this officer showed up with a couple of deputies and sheriffs. Still in their football uniforms, the officers called them out to speak with them.

All the boys were told that if they didn't say who it was and the police later found it, it would go on their records. One of the boys who participated was 18, and it would have permanently been on his record. Because of this, the group of four fessed up.

They ended up going to court in Fergus Falls, and when the judge announced the case, he even laughed. Each of the boys had to pay about $49 to replace the car's seat, since the perfumes of the dead skunk sank into it.

A probation officer would occasionally come to school to check in on the boys, but, in the end, each of them were admitted to college. Though, in the mean time, the "skunk gang" were assumed to be the criminals behind everything that went awry in the school.

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The Perham High School Class of 1960 raises a toast in honor of their reunion and their 80th birthdays.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

When students weren't busy getting into trouble, they were busy participating in school activities, like band. Since many of them were band students in May 1958, this means they were in school when Minnesota celebrated 100 years as the 32nd state.

Perham High School band students got to travel to the Minnesota State Capitol, where they marched from there to the fairgrounds, playing "76 Trombones" all the way. The only problem? This trek was over five miles, they were in warm uniforms, and it was over 80 degrees outside.

The students who attended laughed as they remembered how miserable they were in the heat — trying not to pass out. Some students even remember their fellow band members fainting and needing medical attention. Because of this, one woman even remembers being left behind when the buses drove back to Perham. Luckily, her brother lived in St. Paul, and she stayed the night at his house.

Though 62 years have passed, many of these memories remain fond and strong in each of the graduates' minds.

The Class of 1960's colors are lavender and violet, and their flower is the lavender carnation. Their motto is "Climb High, Climb Far — Our Aim the Sky, Our Goal a Star."

The reunion was possible thanks to the party planning team of Mark Ceynowa, Anne Cummings, Mark Lehman, Bev (Honer) Wirth, and Karen (Ohman) Ohlde.

Elizabeth (she/her), 23, graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2020. Elizabeth has always had a passion for telling stories about people and specializes in community features, which she uses for her Perham-centered content.
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