NEW BREMEN — There were special emotions flowing when members of the New Bremen High School Class of 1946 met on Saturday Oct. 1, for their 70th class reunion. The reunion took place at Elmwood Assisted Living, 711 S. Walnut St. in New Bremen, Ohio. Six out of seven of the remaining class members were able to attend; there were 21 in the original graduating class.
Those in attendance included Evelyn Westerbeck Kittle, of Celina, Everet Topp, of New Bremen, Robert Donnerberg from Celina, Edith Blanke Wissman, of New Bremen, Stan Kuenning, class president, who still resides in New Bremen, and Ken Eckhart of St. Marys. Classmember Walter Lee Kuhlhorst was unable to attend the reunion.
The reunion started with entertainment provided by class member Edith Wissman who played piano. Afterward introductions were made for the sake of others in attendance and the group sat in a circle and reminisced about school days. Though many years had passed and all classmates in attendance were 87 or 88 years old, the conversation was enthusiastic and upbeat; one could see the joy and excitement in the eyes of each one telling a story as well as the smiles and expressions on the faces of the other classmates when precious memories were recounted.
A sense of harmony resonated in the voices of the tellers, something that time has had little if any effect on.
“We have always been a very close-knit bunch,” said Stan Kuenning who has held the position of class president for over 70 years. Kuenning noted that even though times were tough, the class saved up over $200 during the years in school and on the last day of their senior year they “played hooky” and used some of the money to celebrate. “
With the Principal’s OK we all went to the afternoon movie and later enjoyed some ice cream,” said Kuenning. “We used the remaining money over the years for class reunions which were always well attended …. In my opinion, we grew up in the best years this country ever knew, we had a wonderful class and a lot of great times, we all got along with each other in school and in the years to come.”
Evelyn Kittle said although there were plenty of challenges in those days they took it in stride,
“We all grew up during the Great Depression and while things were pretty hard in some ways, we still managed to make the best of things and have a good time,” said Kittle. “We all worked in the afternoons after school let out but for the most part those were some of the best of times!”
After school, Kittle who now resides in Celina was married and blessed with five children. Along with being a homemaker she took pleasure in gardening, cooking, and staying busy enjoying the good life.
Everet Topp, of New Bremen, who spent most of his adult life working in the insurance business recalled some of the fun times they had and shared a ploy some of the boys used to get passing scores from their teacher in typing class.
“We took him (the teacher) to a burlesque show in Dayton, Ohio,” said Topp. “He must have enjoyed it because we all ended up getting good grades although none of us were very fast or good at typing!”
Remembering the senior prom as the highlight of the year Topp said, “Our prom was something we all looked forward to, a lot of people pitched in to make it a great time.”
Edith Wissman chimed in saying “Our prom theme was ‘Hitch Your Wagon to a Star’….. It was right after the war and our parents donated all their ration stamps so we could purchase meat and sugar for the meal.”
Wissman, who smiled when Topp told the story about the typing class, was a cheerleader for the football team.
“We had a lot of ornery boys in our class and you never knew who was going to show up from week to week to play ball,” said Wissman. “Sometimes out team was a little short handed as rules were strict in those days and there were no exceptions when anyone got suspended. If you got in trouble, you didn’t play and that was that!”
Wissman also shared a story about how some of the boys in their class attempted to get their rivals in Minster “in trouble with the law” by painting the steps of the schoolhouse in New Knoxville with black and orange paint. They expected the blame to fall on the Minster crowd but made the mistake of hiding the empty buckets in some bushes near the scene which were later discovered.
“The buckets had the name and address of the local broom factory in New Bremen on the labels and it didn’t take the authorities long to figure out that one of our classmates worked there and put two and two together!” said Wissman.
After school, Wissman, who has played piano since the age of five went on to teach music and physical education in New Knoxville and then later in New Bremen where she still resides.
Classmate Robert Donnerberg from Celina was accompanied by his wife, Velma, and said one of his favorite memories was working with the boys in shop class.
“We always had fun although we didn’t always get the measurements just right!” said Donnerberg, who joined the US Air Force after school and then worked 41 years at Reynolds & Reynolds.
Ken Eckhart also a classmate who now lives in St. Marys talked about shop class as well noting how long it took him to square up a board
“I worked on one project for weeks to get it right,” joked Eckhart. “I cut that board several times and it was still too short!”
Eckart worked at Goodyear Inc. in St. Marys.
Though not in attendance, the group remembered Walter Lee Kuhlhorst in conversation noting he lives in Van Wert. After graduation Walter taught school and was later head of administration at the Lebanon Correctional Institute.
When asked about the secret of long life, all agreed that attitude is everything, and that staying busy and looking on the bright side is key.
After enjoying some good conversation and putting up with a lot of questions from the peanut gallery, all attending graduates gathered around a festively decorated table, and after Wissman led the group in prayer they enjoyed more conversation and a hearty meal. Reflecting on times past and the good time at hand the group is considering an annual get-together instead of every five years.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.