Rockford Area Historical Society News and Updates

by Terry Konkle – President

Let’s start with a “Nugget of Rockford History” four part question. Each part consists of two things and readers are asked to decide which of the two occurred first in Rockford history. So, number your paper from one to four and put down the letter (either A or B) of the earliest thing. Contact me by e-mail at or by phone 616-866-0530 with your answers.

  1. ____ A. Corner Bar Building, B. Hessler Building
  2. ____ A. Sigsbee Street, B. Fremont Street
  3. ____ A. Rockford Register, B. Star Theater
  4. ____ A. Ten Mile Bridge, B. Parkside School

This Saturday, June 27, 2015, the “Golden R” will meet at Rockford High School for their annual reunion. The members of the Rockford High School class of 1965 will be featured as they have now been out of school for fifty years. The reunions have been a positive part of Rockford history since 1987 when the first gathering was held at the former high school on North Main Street. The idea for the reunion came from well known Rockford graduate and coach Lyle Bennett, and the Rockford Area Historical Society helped sponsor the initial meeting. This year the group will celebrate their twenty ninth gathering.

My curiosity caused me to wonder about what happened in 1965 involving the seniors of fifty years ago. Using the 1965 yearbook, “Rams Tale” for help, I found out that the seniors put on a play entitled “The Night of January 16TH”. It was directed by Mrs. Carlene Stamp, who today is a loyal volunteer at the Rockford Area Museum. The Rockford Band performed a post-game show at a University of Michigan football game. Teachers Clint Lindhout and Dave Thompson were the class advisors while Steve Ohnsman-President, Dan Jenkins-Vice president, Maxine Dunn-Secretary and Phil Smith-Treasurer were the elected officers of the class.

The valedictorian was Laura Wells. Salutatorians were Carole Clark and Barb Smith. The top ten scholars that year were all girls with Faye Dow, Linda Buth, Sue Lawson, Sharyl Waldron, Maxine Dunn, Gail Paepke and Sue Platt joining with Laura Wells, Carole Clark and Barb Smith to form the group. Erkki Wirta, Tore Lind, Tade Risius and Ursel Maas were exchange students. Neil Huizenga was the high school principal and there were twenty eight high school teachers, two secretaries, three custodians and five cooks. Lana Howell was homecoming queen with Jim Warner the homecoming king. Members of the court were: Sue York, Sue Kreuter, Carole Clark, Kathy Inwood, Barb Smith, Linda Buth, Fred Fry, Bart Ingraham, Dan Jenkins, Terry Finch, Steve Ohnsman and Larry Ross. The homecoming theme was “Golden Autumn”. Mr. and Mrs. Stamp and Mr. and Mrs. Konkle chaperoned the homecoming dance.

Many seniors participated in organizations including many clubs, cheerleading, sports teams and Girls Athletic Association. Don Verduin – football-wrestling-track, Terry Konkle – basketball, Walt Lawrence – cross country, Dave Lorch-tennis and Harvey DeGood-baseball were the varsity coaches. Personally, I will always fondly remember the 1964-65 varsity basketball squad because it was the first varsity team I ever coached. They were led by senior captain Jim Warner (also a co-captain with Bart Ingraham in football) and surprised a lot of people.

As readers probably know, to look back fifty years is fine, but during that time many things have happened. Many people shown in the yearbook, including several mentioned in this column, are deceased, but they are still remembered by those who survive them.

My wife and I will attend the reunion because teachers and class advisors who go back fifty years are invited, so part of next week’s column will detail this year’s event. I am looking forward to it. Do not forget to contact me with comments, questions, concerns or corrections! Have a great week!