They left as the Churchill County High School class of the centennial when Nevada celebrated its 100th year of statehood in 1964.
Fifty years later, the Class of 1964 returned to Fallon last weekend for their 50-year reunion and added another distinction: The class of the sesquicentennial.
The Class of 1964 held their reunion to coincide with Fallon’s community wide reunion that attracted hundreds of former students, teachers and support personnel to Oats Park for an afternoon of camaraderie and an evening of listening to the Dusty 45s at a free concert-in-the-park.
“There were certainly a lot of people at Oats Park Saturday night for the reunion of the various classes,” said Mayor Ken Tedford Jr. “I heard a lot of positive comments.”
Tedford said he met graduates who traveled miles to be in Fallon for Saturday night’s festivities and also graduates from the early and mid-1940s. The Mayor’s NV150 Commission, which was established by Tedford to include local activities in Nevada’s sesquicentennial, submitted the community wide reunion as an officially designated event to honor Nevada.
“It was neat how the different classes got to see people from the different years,” he said. “I visited with the different folks, and that was nice.”
As for the Class of 1964, the reunion weekend became a time to forge new memories and reconnect with old classmates. From the time 126 young, high school students received their diplomas to their class reunion that attracted more than 70 graduates, both Nevada and Churchill County have grown from small, quaint locales to venues fully entrenched in the 21st century.
Nevada’s centennial involved the entire state, and the various activities leading up to the Oct. 31, 1964 parade involved Nevadans of all ages.
Girls donned their long dresses, and the boys adopted a look from the 1860s.
“Every time I came into town, I was in a long dress,” remembered Kathy Raine Johnson. “And the men had beards. It was fun dressing up.”
Although the graduates had left CCHS in the spring, many, though, still attended local events such as summer parades and rodeos.
“Of course, we went to Carson City for the big parade,” she added.
The years have passed from the last time Johnson visited Fallon.
“There are a lot of changes, but I’m not surprised. I didn’t recognize some of the streets, and there are more businesses. Coming back has been worth it,” she said.
Gary Imelli, who spent a long career in education before retiring 10 years ago, said senior boys were allowed to wear beards to show their support for the centennial. Both Imelli and Dave Ott discussed the Civil War re-enactors and how the Bonanza Ranch at Lake Tahoe played a big part in the celebrations
From visiting Lattin Farms and its produce operation to touring Enel’s Stillwater geothermal and solar plant to tasting the wine at Churchill Vineyards, graduates stepped into another world from which they left.
“This shows how much things have changed and what changes have occurred during this time,” said Maxine Shane, one of the class organizers. “The committee thought instead of looking at the past, we needed to be taking a look at the future. This class always had a forward look, a very progressive look.”
While at Stillwater, the Class of 1964 took a short walking tour of the facility that opened in 2009, Barbara Ann (Casey) Chassen said she is amazed with the progress the county has undergone. While Chassen was impressed with the state-of-the-art technology at Stillwater, she, nevertheless, lamented the absence of “green.”
“I’m shocked with the lack of beautiful lawns and fields,” she said. “But expansion is everywhere … everywhere though, shopping centers have moved out.”
Chassen now lives in northwest Montana near the Canadian border.
“Jerry Lee (Smith) Raine and Mike Laughlin divided their time between Lamoille in Elko County and Fallon; yet, this was the first time they visited the plant.
“I never realized it was so big,” said Laughlin.
When the students from the Class of 1964 graduated, fields of alfalfa rolled over the land in western Churchill County. Now, they see how the Frey family has provided another business based on agriculture by making wine and brandy
Vintner Colby Frey and his wife, Ashley, showed the graduates their vineyard and new stills that will make vodka, gin and whiskey.
Dennis Brown spent 22 years in the U.S. Air Force and almost 30 years working for the state of Alabama. Brown said he remembered attending football games andriding around the boonies. Once he graduated from CCHS, Brown attended the University of Nevada for one semester and then worked construction. Not satisfied with what he was doing, Brown joined the Air Force.
This was the first reunion Brown attended because in previous years, he didn’t have enough time to travel to them. Although his mother still lives here, he finally reconnected with his classmates after an absence of half a century.
Yet, nothing changed when Brown and his classmates visited and reminisced about their high school escapades in and out of the classroom and of their innocent days of youth.
“The stories are still there from 50 years ago.”
Brown paused for a long second and then cracked a small smile.