RAL class 1945
Jim Ford reminisces with former classmates and friends during a high school reunion party for the R.A. Long high school class of 1945 on Monday at The Monticello Hotel. Tyler Tjomsland / For The Daily News

Margy (Bidlake) Eagan recalled being a freshman at R.A. Long when Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941, plunging the United States into World War II. The war went on their entire high school years, ending shortly after she and 185 others graduated May 31, 1945.

"We didn't have an annual (yearbook) until our senior year," said Eagan, 83, of Fairbanks, Alaska. "There were several things we couldn't do that classes could do before and after the war."

Eagan reminisced and swapped stories with 30 of her RAL classmates and 20 guests at the 65th R.A. Long High School reunion Monday at the Monticello Hotel.

"I figured I'd better come because it might be our last one," she said.

Ron Ballard of Edmonds, Wash., recalled another important date that happened during high school - the day Franklin Roosevelt died.

"I was the co-editor of the Lumberjack Log, and on April 12, 1945, I went to The Daily News where it was printed to put it to bed," he recalled. "Over the wire service came the news that Roosevelt had passed, and I tore up the front page and put in his obituary and photo instead. We beat every afternoon paper with the news — even The Daily News — because ours was distributed the next morning."

Jack McCarthy of Kirkland, Wash., said he received a good education from RAL, despite it being wartime.

"We had an outstanding faculty to train us for college or trade school," said McCarthy, who will turn 82 next month, the youngest in the class. "I went to the University of Washington and some of my freshman courses I aced."

Clint Hart of Longview said one teacher in particular, Carl Stahlberg, influenced his career choice.

"I spent four years in wood shop with him," said Hart, who worked for 26 years in the Kelso School District, retiring as an elementary school principal. "He was a legend. He spent his summers looking for other woods for us to work with. He's the reason I majored in industrial arts."

Hart was headed for Naval Reserve training just days after his graduation. "Several of us enlisted during our senior year, and then some of us after."

He was in the service 13 months and 17 days. "I had enough time in to get the G.I. bill," the 83-year-old said. "I wouldn't have otherwise been able to go to college."

Reunion organizer Dorothy Gevers-Wojtowych said she and several others try to keep track of the whereabouts of their classmates; 114 of the 186 class members have passed away.

"And now we're losing some to Alzheimer's" she said as the reunion was winding down. Most of the survivors live in the Pacific Northwest. There is a regular group that meets the second Monday of each month at noon at the Monticello Hotel.

"At the monthly meeting, depending on the weather, we have maybe seven or eight, but sometimes we have 20 to 25," she said. "We all know getting up and going anywhere isn't as easy as it used to be."

Gevers-Wojtowych said she was pleased with Monday's turnout, especially having Eagan come from Alaska. The two grew up living across each other on 22nd Avenue and recalled the memory of their first job they had the summer between their freshman and sophomore year.

"We contracted with Mr. Myklebust to pick all his raspberries. We had to pay him $100," Eagan said. "We made it right away, but my dad said don't pay him too quick, or he might raise the price," if he knew how well the young girls were doing.

"We got up at 5 a.m. and picked those raspberries and delivered them all around town on our bicycles," Gevers-Wojtowych said. "I think we maybe made $100 each," fairly good money during the war.

Gevers-Wojtowych said as more classmates pass away, the remaining have grown closer.

"In high school, we had our little cliques, but over the years, I've gotten to know so many I didn't know well back then," she said. "Everybody is very thankful any time we can get together."

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