Our hosts at the picnic Nancy and Jim White
Nancy Walters, Marti Stephans, Peggy Simpson
Eugene Ilg... "Class of 55" Served as chaperone?
Marti (Stephans) and Ed
Nancy Plymire (a little camera shy?)
Norm and Karen Phillips
Pat and Bev
Tom Jones trying to find podium
The following pictures were sent in by Tom Jones
The old Congregational Church in the Circle as it appeared on the cover of Life Magazine
Bill Conley and Don Dewey
Group photo at Banquet
Memorial in Circle, and close up. Wesley's name is third one down
Pat and Marti
Roger Hinton and Charles Doepker
Don Dewey's remarks at the Reunion,
Speech to Tallmadge High School Class of 1956 – June 9, 2006
Good evening Class of 1956, spouses and significant others. Before I say anything else, I want to welcome Barbara Woodford Lane, Wes Woodford’s younger sister, who is a very special guest of our reunion class. It’s a great fun to be with all of you after so many years, and I’m amazed that, even with the passage of time, I can see those young high school faces in all of you.
I also want to echo Tom and thank the reunion committee and everyone else who worked so hard in organizing and presenting this weekend’s activities.
I also have one important announcement. According to this morning’s Akron Beacon Journal, the New York Yankees are in first place in the American League East, a half game ahead of Boston.
As you all know better than I, a lot has changed in Tallmadge since we were in school. I recall as a child being able to wander in the fields and woods near our house, learning about nature first hand. I know of several boys who trapped muskrats and sold the skins and, our family had a flock of chickens which provided us with fresh eggs and an occasional broiler. I guess there is still some open space in town, but I’ll bet the muskrats are long gone and that chickens are a no-no today within the city.
Furthermore, what once was a small country town is now a fashionable suburb. The population has approximately tripled from 5,000 plus to about 17,000 today. Many of the stores and businesses which we patronized in our youth are no longer around, including Bumpus Drugs, Lujan’s Big Boy, Sperrys and Chuck the Barber (it’s a guy thing). Speaking of the latter, In fact, I went back to our yearbook and counted 20 flattop haircuts among the boys of 1956, myself included. Today, most of those “flattops” have evolved to “roundtops.” Were he around to see this change, our old friend Chuck would probably be saddened by all of the “fallout.”
In our high school athletics, there have been profound changes resulting from the 1972 Title IX Amendments to the Civil Rights Act, which mandated equity in boys and girls sports. If you peruse the 1956 “Circle Light,” as I did recently, you won’t find any pictures of female varsity athletes, because there aren’t any! Today, however, the high school fields girls’ teams in tennis, soccer, golf, basketball, volleyball, track, and softball. And, most of these sports have both varsity and JV teams. My kids, of course, didn’t go to high school here, but If any of you have daughters as I do, I’m sure that you agree this is a fantastic improvement over our years in school! Had you young ladies had the same opportunities, Mrs. Stofsick surely would have enjoyed the chance to coach you on one of those teams.
Another improvement, of which we can all be proud, is the quality and success of the various high school teams, both boys and girls. Tom occasionally forwards to me Beacon Journal clippings about Tallmadge teams. It’s great to see that some teams have achieved prominence at the state level and gotten some good press. Let’s face it, the best thing that you can say about our 1955-1956 teams is that they were character building. You have to give credit to our coaches, however, Dick Schwabe and Bob Sonnhalter in football, and Tom Rossiaky in basketball, who stuck with us through thick and thin, mostly thin!
I don’t know too much about the current high school curriculum, but I do know that fifty years ago we had a wonderful group of teachers, including those whom I have already mentioned, who every day demonstrated dedication, hard work, quality and respect. They all deserve our appreciation for their efforts and I would like to pay tribute to each of them. As I mention them, perhaps you can recall your own experiences and memories of what they meant to you individually.
In no particular order, I know that many of us learned much of what we know about Government and World History from Miss Alexis. In spite of our poor behavior, Mr. Balough managed to teach us a great deal about Industrial Arts and Mechanical Drawing. And who could forget a Drivers’ Ed instructor named Carr. Mr. Saus prepared many of you for careers in the real world with a variety of business courses and Miss Cercolani complimented those with her Typing and Shorthand classes. I received a “C” in the typing course, but came away with an incredibly valuable skill.
Though a small school, we had a strong commitment to the arts. Don Owen taught instrumental music and those of you in the band know better than I that he was one of the great band directors in the area, perhaps in the state. Miss Burton was a vivacious presence who created a wonderful Music program, and Bob Alexander was a gentleman who was interested in us as people beyond his Art classroom.
With her quiet discipline, Mrs. Knapp made sure that we absorbed the principles of General Science and Biology. Mrs. Makidon had the difficult task of teaching some of you to conjugate Latin verbs, while Mr. Orlando tried to inspire a few budding journalists, and both worked to “teach us good English” during our formative years in ninth and tenth grades. Miss Rohlf taught us to do much more than just boil water, and Mrs. Davis guided us toward the next stages of our lives. And don’t forget the able leadership of our Superintendent, Thomas O. Morgan, and our one-of-a-kind Principal, Oliver Ocasek.
There were two other teachers who especially stand out in my mind. As you well know, Mr. Brubaker taught English and Speech, and Mr. Lockhart taught Algebra, General Math, Physics and Chemistry (what a course load!). At a small country school, these men were giants. So, again I thank all of our teachers for providing us with an educational experience which stands the test of these past fifty years and has benefited you and me immeasurably.
There were 83 of us in the Class of 1956, one of the larger classes of that era, but a far cry from the 230 or so in today’s senior class. But, the 50’s were a heady time!
Do you remember Sputnik? In early 1956, just the announcement by the Soviet Union of its intent to build and launch a satellite created a furor in this country and opened a period of unparalleled emphasis on science and engineering.
On the lighter side, in June of 1956, the top song hits were “Be Bop A Lula” (Gene Vincent), “I Walk the Line” (Johnny Cash), and “Standing on the Corner” (The Four Lads). The number one hit for the year was “Don’t Be Cruel” (Elvis). Can anyone name all four of the artists? If anyone can name all four, you get a big kiss from Tom.
In politics, a majority of us liked Ike, but your parents voted for Paul Hill, a Democrat, for mayor. Does anyone remember whom Mr. Hill defeated in the mayoral election? That’s right, it was my Dad. Thank goodness he lost!
One sad change is that, with the passage of time, we have lost some 16 of our friends and classmates. I will talk more about them tomorrow evening. As I’m sure you know, some of these classmates were the victims of tragic accidents, some succumbed to illness and one, Wes Woodford, was a casualty of war. I will speak more to that later in the program.
On that note, I think I have been up here long enough, but I would like to share with you a short quotation from Mother Teresa, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1997. I think this is fitting for our fiftieth reunion and as we continue to grow in the years to come.
She said, “Smile at each other, smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other…it doesn’t matter who it is…and that will help you to grow up in greater love for each other.”
Thank you. Please enjoy the rest of the program and the rest of the weekend. And, here’s a man who has made me smile for more than fifty years, Tom Jones.
Remembrance of Wesley Woodford – June 9, 2006
Please take a few seconds, if you will, to try to remember what you were doing In January 1968. Think back, January 1968. I’m sure some of you were married and had children. Perhaps you were putting away holiday decorations or returning an unwanted gift. Do you remember? I recall that Sandy and I were putting the finishing touches on our spring wedding plans. Half a world away in South Vietnam, thousands of Vietcong guerrillas and North Vietnamese regulars were infiltrating the major South Vietnamese provinces and towns, including Saigon and the ancient capital of Hue.
On January 30, 1968, disregarding their own declaration of a seven-day holiday truce, those enemy forces left their hiding places and launched what became known as the Tet Offensive, named for the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. The old city of Hue, in the Thua Thien Province, was completely overrun and thousands of government officials, religious figures and expatriate residents were executed. In savage fighting, the city was eventually recaptured at the end of February. Throughout the country, the Americans and South Vietnamese fought with courage and extreme valor. Most military historians consider that the Tet campaign was a crushing operational defeat for the Communist forces, with total casualties numbering about five times those of the U.S. and its allies. On the other hand, many consider that it was an enormous propaganda and psychological defeat for the U.S., which sapped our will to win and became a turning point in the Vietnam War.
One of our casualties in the battle for Hue was a young Army First Lieutenant who was assigned as a U.S. advisor to an A.R.V.N. combat unit, that is Army of the Republic of Vietnam. He was our friend and classmate, Wesley L. Woodford. For his service and his courage, Wes was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. Let me read to you part of the citation for the Bronze star, (QUOTE) “Participating in numerous combat operations, Lieutenant Woodford was noted for the inspiration he provided the Vietnamese soldiers and was instrumental in assisting them in successfully accomplishing their assigned missions.” (UNQUOTE) And summarizing the citation, (QUOTE) “First Lieutenant Woodford’s professional competence and outstanding achievements were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Army and reflected great credit upon himself and the military service.” (UNQUOTE) Wes was killed on February 22, 1968, about six months before his 30th birthday.
Wesley Woodford graduated from the University of Akron in 1962 with a B.S. degree in Labor Relations. A member of the R.O.T.C., he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Army Reserve, but was deferred from active duty to attend law school. During that period he was employed by Babcock & Wilcox in Barberton, where he was highly respected and well liked by all who knew him. With tuition assistance from B&W, Wes enrolled in the University of Akron College of Law and graduated in 1966 with his J.D. degree. He was ranked in the upper one third of his law school class, participated in several school activities and was inducted into Phi Alpha Delta law fraternity. Shortly after graduation, he became a member of the Akron Bar and was admitted to practice law. He was also appointed an attorney and personnel manager at B&W. In April of 1967, he was called to active duty.
As you may remember, at Tallmadge High, Wes was a natural athlete who competed in football and basketball, and kind of dabbled in baseball and track. He was not particularly big nor strong, but he played hard and, if his physique had matched his desire, he would have been a superstar. With a smooth, natural swing, Wes was also an avid golfer and developed his game until he eventually hit in the low 80’s.
Wes’s interests in high school went beyond athletics, as he was a good student, a member of the Science Club and also served as Assistant Editor of our yearbook. In fact, he was selected as the “King of the Circle Light” by the singer/actress, Peggy King. In addition to that honor, you also voted him the “Best Dressed” and the “Wittiest” of our classmates, and indeed he was.
Most important to me, however, was that Wes was my best friend. He was that rare individual with whom you could have a conversation, not see him for six months, and then start again as if you had been with him the day before. Though I had gone away to college, we sought each other out on school vacations and often double dated or just hung out together. Believe me, while at law school, he cut a dashing figure tooling around in his English sports car, a green Austin Healy roadster.
Longtime residents of Beechler Road, his parents were good and kind people who treated me like another son and referred to themselves as my Mom and Dad Woodford. I learned that Wes was missing when I called from New York to ask him to be in my wedding. Wes is survived by his sisters Norma Woodford Martin and our guest tonight, Barbara Woodford Lane, as well as several nieces and nephews. I know that Norma and Barbara, and their children, have been sustained and comforted for all these years by their deep faith.
So, today we honor a classmate and friend…and, as we share these remembrances, we also share some grief. But, ultimately I think all grief is private and we each deal with it in our own way. Though Wes had a serious side, he was a positive, happy-go-lucky and witty person and I think he would want us to remember him that way. In that vein, I would like to share a poem with you. Some of you may be familiar with it, but this is an abbreviated version. I first heard it at a funeral for a casualty of another war, the son of dear friends, who was killed shortly before his 29th birthday in the collapse of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. But, I think of it… also… as Wes speaking to us.
In just a few, brief words, “Grieve not... nor speak of me with tears…but laugh and talk of me as though I were beside you. I loved you so…’twas heaven here with you.”
So, in closing, I hope that one day we, Wes and I, and you, will meet again for a reunion in that place, to share our laughter and our stories and our friendship. Thank you all.
Speech to Tallmadge High School Alumni Association – June 10, 2006
Good evening, my name is Don Dewey. It’s a privilege to be with you and an honor to represent the 50th Reunion Class of 1956 at this 127th annual meeting of the Tallmadge High School Alumni Association.
Before talking about our class, however, I ask for your indulgence for a personal note. I am the eighth of ten children. Five graduated from Akron North HS before we moved to Tallmadge in 1946. That year I enrolled in the 3rd grade at the old elementary school on North Avenue. In 1965, my parents retired and sold our home on East Avenue to the Reisig family who, as most of know, did a wonderful job of restoring the old Victorian farmhouse at the top of the hill. In between those years, like so many others, the younger five of us grew up, graduated from Tallmadge High School and went off into the world.
Four years ago, my sister, Jacqueline Dewey Pounds, celebrated the 50th reunion of the Class of 1952 with some of you. Three years ago, my sister Josephine Dewey Stewart celebrated her 50th reunion, and I believe that my brother, Fred, is planning to be here next year for his 50th. My youngest sibling, Roger, just celebrated his 40th reunion last year, so it will be a few years before he is back. Even though we are scattered from New Hampshire to Colorado, our family has not forgotten its Tallmadge roots.
As I prepared for this talk and struggled a little with what to say, one question kept coming back to me, “What does it mean to be from Tallmadge?” If we had the time, it would be interesting to hear how each of you would answer that question. I suspect that your answer might be influenced by your family upbringing and perhaps your economic status. Surely your age and whether you still live in Tallmadge would make a difference.
You might mention the unique geography of the city. I’ve traveled to many parts of this country and nothing compares to Tallmadge Circle with its beautiful four-acre interior park and eight spokes radiating outward. It’s a grand town center. I note that the design of the new high school reflects this famed circle.
Your answer might focus on the character of the city, which has no doubt evolved since our class’s era. My guess, however, is the city’s character is still defined by a small town closeness and community spirit in spite of its having almost tripled in population. Having said that, I’ll guess that the community spirit no longer allows you to raise chickens within the city as my family once did.
So, “What does it mean to be from Tallmadge?” the answer for me is found in the Tallmadge schools and the 83 members of the Class of 1956. Ably led by our one-of-a-kind Principal, Mr. Oliver Ocasek, we were taught by a group of individuals who every day demonstrated dedication, hard work, quality and respect. I do not wish to slight anyone, but two teachers stand out in my mind, Lee Brubaker, who taught English and Speech, and Richard Lockhart, who taught Algebra, General Math, Physics and Chemistry. What a course load! At a small country school, these men were giants.
Of course, our other teachers and coaches were just as dedicated. Who could ever forget a Drivers’ Ed teacher named Carr. And, Doris Cercolani’s Typing Class, where I received (and deserved) a “C,” but learned an incredibly useful skill. Don Owen taught instrumental music and was one of the great band directors in the area, perhaps in the state. And, the man for whom the high school stadium is named, Tom Rossiaky, who remained a good friend until his passing last year. I could go on and on. Having attended a large competitive university, I can tell you that I was as well prepared for the rigors of collage as the graduates of any top suburban high school or exclusive prep school.
As I mentioned, we were 83 in the Class of 1956. The 50’s were a heady time! We grew up to the early stirrings of the rock and roll nation, and those initial vibrations soon became a crescendo.
It was in our eighth grade year, I think, that an insidious device was invented somewhere in the bowels of New York City, which probably changed our lives as much as anything else you can imagine. “What was that?” you say. Well…being with you tonight…PRICELESS. For everything else, there’s a credit card.
How many of you remember the Dick Tracy comic strip? Well, who would have predicted that the two-way wrist radio would become a reality? We could spend hours talking about the many other changes in our lives, but let’s defer that to another dinner.
Sadly, with the passage of time we have lost some friends. Please take a moment to reflect while I read their names: Ralph Jones, Janice Kyser Denton, Shelva Blades Haymaker, Joseph Maselli, Blaine McMann, Joseph Zetts, Ronald Colbert, Karl Luttich, Lanny Dayton, Earnest Beresh, James Frank, Claudine DeWitt Hoisington, Janet Swartz Farkas, Jeanette Pursley Fritter and Dallas Petty. If we had the time, I could probably tell you a story about each of them. They were serious, thoughtful, funny and bright individuals who each contributed in his or her own unique way to the character of our class.
There is one other individual whom we lost and whom I mention last because our class made it a point to honor him this weekend, and I believe that his name was recently added to the memorial in Tallmadge Circle. He is First Lieutenant Wesley Woodford, who was killed in Viet Nam on February 22, 1968, during the so-called Tet Offensive. He was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. Wes was a graduate of Akron University and the Akron University College of Law. Let me simply say that he was a special person.
In closing, I would like to read the dedication in our yearbook written fifty years ago by a very wise man, our Superintendent, Mr. Thomas O. Morgan. It is far more eloquent than anything I could say. Taking some poetic license with the first sentence, it reads as follows;
The year is 2006…fifty years hence. You have opened your Circle Light of 1956 as you have many times and are glancing through its pages. It reminds you that your high school days were happy days…probably the most enjoyable of your life. You look at the faces of your high school classmates and friends. Many of those classmates are still close friends, others you have not seen for several years.
You are reminded of the many worthwhile activities…athletics, dramatics, “Y” Teens, Future Teachers, National Honor Society…in which you were given the opportunity to participate.
You see the faces of your teachers and you are considerably more appreciative of the help and guidance they gave you than you were while in school.
You conclude that the pages of the 1956 yearbook speak well for the class and the annual staff of 1956, for within it they have left you with many fond memories of your high school career…memories that will ever be cherished.
Yes, you will say, my class was a good class, one of which Tallmadge High School can be justly proud.”
So, I think that’s what it means to be from Tallmadge. Thank you. Now, on behalf of the Class of 1956, I would like to present this check for $200.00 to the THS Alumni Association for inclusion in the scholarship fund. Thanks again