50 years later, Class of ‘62 still Punxsy proud

PUNXSUTAWNEY — The Punxsutawney Area High School Class of 1962 will celebrate its 50th anniversary this weekend — a reunion that will include a tour of the high school building.

Members of the Class of 1962 reunion committee shared their memories Wednesday as they looked forward to this nostalgic weekend.

For those students, it all began in the Jefferson Street School building, where the class of 1962 attended classes up until the 1959/1960 school year when grades 10-12 moved into the new Punxsutawney High School located up on the hill on North Findley Street.

"Our class attended high school in the Jefferson Street School, which included the very top floor that was referred to as "peanut heaven," said Sandy Swanson-Walko, class of 1962.

Carol Fetterman Bonnett, class of 1962, said they were the first class to graduate from Punxsutawney Area High School (PAHS). Up until that time, the school was known simply as Punxsutawney High School, she said.

"The reason for the name change was because of the various area small high schools that were closed and consolidated into the Punxsutawney District," she said.

The smaller districts, such as Rossiter and Big Run, were closed and consolidated into the new high school building, which became known as the Punxsutawney Area High School, Fetterman-Bonnett said.

Swanson-Walko said when they moved to the new building from the old one, they moved from "peanut heaven" to heaven.

"It was just so much nicer with improved facilities," Swanson-Walko said.

Fetterman-Bonnett said the new building was nice because they no longer had to go outdoors to change classes.

"We had lockers to put our coats and school supplies, while on Jefferson Street we not only wore our heavy jackets throughout the school day, but our boots too," Fetterman-Bonnett said.

Carolyn Billings-Johnston said it was a relief to go to the new school building because you no longer had to remember which building to go to for your class.

"The entire complex on Jefferson Street consisted of four separate buildings, most of which could only be accessed by walking outdoors to change classes.

"I got my nickname of ‘Pinky’ because I was red in the face with embarrassment from the time that I was so confused that I had walked into the wrong classroom," said Billings-Johnston.

"When we moved up to the new school, it was nice to be more in touch with family members and friends since everyone was altogether," said Catherine Ishman-Ondo, adding that the Home Ec. class was held in what was the Weber building and is now PCS.

Fetterman-Bonnett said when they were in the Jefferson building and you had to go to the restroom, you had to walk all the way to the basement from the top floor.

"The restrooms in the Jefferson building qualified as antiques," she said.

Jan Hardie-Vaccaro said the old wooden stairs in the Jefferson building creaked and were slightly bowed in because of all of the foot traffic over the years since the building was constructed around 1900.

"The cafeteria was located in the building, where an auto repair shop eventually opened up; eventually, it was moved into the building that is today used as a fitness center by the Punxsutawney Area Community Center," she said.

"That building originally had a lumber company located there before it became the cafeteria," said Hardie-Vaccaro.

Fetterman-Bonnett said every student was required to take speech class, which was taught by the basketball coach Chuck Daly, who left after the 1961-62 season to coach at Duke University and eventually went on to the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and later won a title as the coach of the Detroit Pistons.

She said another famous classmate from 1962 was George Caylor from Punxsutawney who is a nationally-known columnist.

In a column he wrote several years ago that had appeared in the The Spirit, he had returned to Punxsy for the class of 1962 reunion, Fetterman-Bonnett said.

Caylor wrote in a column about the experience which appeared in The Spirit, "America's class of 1962 was unique in two ways: First, 1962 was the last year that Bible reading and prayer were permitted in public schools," Caylor wrote, adding that his class also scored the highest SAT scores in the school’s history.

"When I graduated from PAHS, I could not have imagined how quickly forty years would come and go," he wrote. "But I looked into the faces of my classmates and studied the character lines, and I realized forty years had really passed."

"We ended the evening dancing to the songs we danced to at the 'Y' dances," he wrote. "The old music can bring back the old memories and feelings like nothing else can."

Caylor also said that there is one aspect of class reunions he didn't look forward to so much.

"I don't think I like my getting older, and I don't like the thought of hearing additional names of deceased classmates every five years," Caylor wrote, adding that a reunion is a good way to keep in touch with his childhood and his own mortality.

The Class of 1962 was planning on a tour of the current PAHS on Friday, and then their main festivities on Saturday to celebrate its 50th Anniversary.