The students who graduated from R.A. Long High School in 1941 played tennis behind the Hotel Monticello, danced to Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman, and paid a nickel for a cherry Coke at Jerry's Drug Store downtown.
When they played football against Kelso on Thanksgiving Day, the "Knights of the Axe" would guard the bell tower so Hilanders could not sneak in with paint. The Lumberjacks played their own pranks, including a trip to a Portland burlesque show on Senior Sneak Day, and the "dark and spooky Halloween night" when the old wooden footbridge on the lake was somehow wrecked.
The Class of '41, which held its 70th reunion Saturday, remembers graduation as the day they "left childhood" for another reason, however.
They were the last to graduate before war.
Class member Migs Ruth Mason was a freshman at Stephens College in Missouri when her roommate from Hawaii came running down the hall to tell her, "We're at war."
Helen Newkirk Maras had bought a Model A Ford that fall.
"I got a job at the Fibre," she said. "I was out driving around, and I came home and my mother was sitting at the kitchen table, crying. It was her birthday, and I said, ‘Mom, what's the matter?'
"She said, ‘You'll cry too before this war is over.' And I did — a lot."
Maras, whose folks owned the Coal Creek Store, got married and "three weeks later, he was gone."
Tony Maras served in the Air Corps all four years of the war. During training, Helen said, "I followed him around the country, long enough to get pregnant."
Helen, who was among 29 class members and eight spouses at the reunion, prepared an 18-page, red-and-black booklet of photos, articles and mementos, one for each attendee.
Tony arrived with her, and as he faced the crowd of alums trying to figure out who was who, he said, "Excuse me, girls."
Jostling behind him, a man peered closely at Migs Mason.
"Who are YOU?" he snapped.
Mason grabbed his arm and said, "Pete Landry, you be nice to me! I used to snag tennis balls for you."
A woman arriving behind Landry had no trouble recognizing the vivacious Mason.
"Migs, you old fool!" she called. "You don't look like yourself!"
"Who does?" Mason retorted.
They hugged and joked and watched out for each other's canes.
The reunion group included Jim King, who capped a 37-year career at the Seattle Times as senior editor and vice president and now lives in Vancouver. Clyde Kalahan worked for Weyerhaeuser throughout the state, eventually becoming vice president of the wood products division in Federal Way.
High school sweethearts Phil Henderson and Alma Delta Stahlberg got married and Phil became a doctor, starting a medical dynasty of sorts when their son Phil Jr. joined his dad, and recently saw his daughter Megan follow her dad and granddad into medical school.
Early in the afternoon, a group with another pedigree gathered in the enclosed porch of the hotel.
Not only did these seven graduate from RAL in 1941, but they attended kindergarten together at Kessler Elementary School in 1928: Migs Mason, Allene Buckner Anderson, Marge Lundstrom Dafforn, Kathleen (Kay) Madders Kilbourn, (all of Longview, they meet weekly for lunch) and Helen Maras of Enumclaw, Joan Sinclair Helzer of Lake Oswego and Walter Lucas of Scottsdale, AZ.
Maras recalled how the kindergarten crew practiced for the maypole dance, and then, the day of the celebration, "we were trying to hold onto the ribbons, and the wind blew it down. I remember the teachers cried."
"My dad moved out here from the South in 1924" to work in the new lumber mill, said Allene Anderson. "He drove the family up from Louisiana in a touring car, in 1925. There were four of us kids; I was the baby. That must have been the trip from hell."
Many in this group moved to Longview when their fathers came to work at Long Bell or Weyerhaeuser. They remember walking to school on trails cleared through blackberry bushes, the banks of Lake Sacajawea when the lilacs bloomed, the winter that the lake froze over and children walked across it to school.
Mason's family had a car, and one morning when they started it, the wooden floor boards caught fire, she said.
"The fire truck came, and when they saw how worried I was that I wouldn't get to school, they said, ‘We'll take you.' I rode up to Kessler school in a fire engine and all the kids saw me get helped down from the truck. I was Queen for a Day."
Allene Anderson, who traveled from Alaska to attend the reunion, was joined at the luncheon by her son, Joel Anderson, a Castle Rock graduate.
"These people grew up in the Depression, they went to war, and they came home and built the country," the younger Anderson said. "You never know how much longer they are going to be here. I like listening to their stories. It's history."
History breathed in the room, from the video that continually played of the class's 50th reunion, to the memorial with senior pictures and names of all who have passed — about 100 from that class of 161 — to the special toast that capped the day.
"We bought a bottle of cognac 30 years ago," Kay Kilbourn said." It was supposed to be for the last two surviving members. Well, we decided that wouldn't fly. We changed our minds."
The bottle, christened "the liquid Treasury of the Class," became the focus of a last will and testament the alums wrote, spelling out their memories.
Of the marbled halls and stairs, of the scent of treated sawdust floor cleaner, of the dust of chalk, of the aroma of the cafeteria by day that sometimes at night turned to the clatter, the laughter, the music of a marbled dance floor ....
Of the cheers and tears when the Red and Black teams fought for the pride and glory of their alma mater, for their parents, for their sweethearts, for the athletes who had gone before them, for each other ....
As Kilborun poured 29 tiny cups of glittering Martell Cordon Bleu on Saturday, she said, "Most of are us 88. We're living longer. And look how many men are here! I figured we'd be a bunch of widows," but here, 13 vigorous men were in attendance.
Everyone shared the elixir. It was time.
The will that was typed in 1981 includes detailed directions for the dwindling survivors of the class. It ends this way:
Toast not in sadness but in happiness that you are together physically, in mind and in heart as representatives of the friends who left childhood that Fifth Day of June in the Year of 1941 as graduates of Robert A. Long High School. As you rejoice in good memories, fail not to plan to meet again as often as there is at least one other member with whom to gather.
And when there is but one, that person can remember for all of the Class. When there is none we will be done.