History Corner: Jaguars Reunite After 50 Years

By Abby Gagermeier, Feature Editor

In 1945 the calculator didn’t exist, World War II was winding down, a gallon of gas cost 15 cents, and Falls Church High School had just been officially established as the newest public school in Northern Virginia. Flash forward 75 years, and alumni from 1945 to 1968 are reuniting on a sunny Saturday in October for the “50+” reunion. Despite how that may be perceived, it wasn’t like walking into a retirement home. Rather, I was greeted with a room full of bright, smiling Jaguar alumni, flip-phones and reading glasses out, enthusiasm and nostalgia in the air.

Five decades ago, life in Falls Church was slow and quiet. Barry Hall, (class of 1953) recalls a time when he’d go out hunting before school. Or after class, he and the basketball team would travel across town for their local games. “The bus driver was 17 years old,” he claims. Such a radical statement would make anyone’s jaw drop nowadays, but Jack Chamberlaine (class of 1956) provided evidence, showing me a yearbook photo of the teenage bus drivers. In the same moment, he points out his art teacher, Frances Crum, who taught him to drive in the parking lot.

If all of this sounds ludicrous, don’t fret. Traffic was far better than the bumper-to-bumper madness that today’s rush hour brings. Ron Orndoff (class of 1958), mentions that he even knew “old man Tyson,” before Tyson’s Corner became an urbanized stripmall and parking garage city. Still a whole decade before that, Theda Fitzpatrick (class of 1946) was named her class valedictorian.

She’s hesitant to admit it, but fellow classmate Clarence Kipps (class of 1946) brags for her, while poking fun at his own academics: “She was top of the class and I was second from the bottom.”

Unlike today, an entire senior class back then was at most 30 students. It didn’t help that polio, Asian flu, and other factors (such as World War II) often kept students out of class in the earlier decades.

Nearing the end of the reunion, Patti Jones (class of 1960) describes a post-war Falls Church. The teaching staff consisted of retired military veterans who’d come home from the war to teach. “The worst we ever did was throw spitballs,” she joked. But those stories (and many of her classmates’ silly confessions) are for a later issue.

The entire reunion was eye-opening. A whole table was dedicated to men and women in their 90s, who’d come back to relive their high school days nearly 75 years later. It goes to show that no matter how much time, how many years, or how many decades pass, high school sticks with us. They’re some of our most formative years, and, despite how stressful it may seem, our time at Falls Church will always remain a part of us. We’ll always be Jaguars.

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