Kenny Guinn was a popular guy back at Exeter High School in the 1950s, known as an athlete and a scholar but not as a politician, former classmates said Saturday.
Nearly 700 of those classmates were in Carson City this weekend, holding their '50s-decade class reunion at the Governor's Mansion and the Ormsby House.
Exeter, Calif., is a town of about 5,000 nestled up against the base of the Sierra Nevada midway between Fresno and Bakersfield, Duke Dungan, class of '53, said, so all the high school kids knew Guinn.
Gary Huckaby, who was in Guinn's class of '55, agreed that Nevada's current governor was known as strong academically and gifted athletically.
"I've been a campaign consultant for 25 years and I didn't expect he would become a governor, either, but he did have all the qualities of leadership to be able to influence people and solve problems," Huckaby said.
If the recognition didn't come in advance of the fact, it followed after. Huckaby said Guinn was invited back to Exeter in April 1999, soon after he took office, so the town could pay tribute to the favored son.
Not that Guinn's the only notable Nevadan to come out of the "Gateway to Sequoia National Park." Dema Lane, the Exeter girl he courted in high school and college, had been his partner through years in business and academia and is now Nevada's First Lady.
Guinn pointed out another Exeter-Nevada connection.
"I have a photo of the whole student body of Lincoln Elementary School where I went in Exeter," Guinn said. "There's over 200 students in that picture, including me and Bob List. Two of Nevada's governors, the latest two Republican governors, used to be students in the same school."
Dwight Ruminer, who now lives 12 miles from Exeter at Woodlake, remembered Guinn as an aggressive athlete on the football gridiron, the track and the basketball court.
"We weren't imagining him as being a governor, but we knew he had a lot of potential. He was one of the most aggressive basketball player's I've every seen. He wore knee pads when he played and he was all over the court, keeping the pressure on," Ruminer said.
Ruminer said he did not know List, but believes that List Road in Exeter is named after that former governor.
Edna Sweeney Ruminer said everyone in town knew Guinn and she recalled that he drove around in a black and white Ford convertible.
"Once we heard that he was going to run for governor, we all knew he'd be elected," she said.
She said Exeter High alumni have held several reunions for the '50s decade in the past several years, all much closer to their home town.
"But Friday night at the Ormsby House was the best we've every done, the peak," she said.
The alumni were entertained by the Tahoe Swing Band, which was persuaded to play two extra hours because everyone was having so much fun, she said.
Guinn said he had attended many of the reunions and this year was the Class of '55's turn.
"Some of the fellows asked if I could help out and I said, 'Sure, we can have it in my back yard,'" Guinn said.
"So we've filled up the Ormsby House and all the other hotel rooms in town. Some of these folks have been here all week."
That back yard, with its large, white-columned gazebo and the landscaped expansion whose installation Dema Guinn supervised, still seemed roomy as scores of white linen table clothes flapped gently in the breeze Saturday evening.
As the large Frontier Travel motor coaches pulled up, the Exeter High alumni stepped down onto a red carpet on their way to the Saturday evening dinner.