Over the past 65 years, the 1956 Wahama classmates have stayed in touch with letters, cards, and telephone contact. Dr. Thomas Vance, Ph.D., organized the (1981) 25th reunion, and with his computer skills, typed spreadsheets with class members’ contact information. He later persuaded a class member to come alongside, and together they printed a small newsletter to update contact information and share travel activities and family news. Over the past 65 years, 29 members have passed. This year ten members gathered to celebrate their 65th-year reunion.
Coach Ralph Sayre was always a guest and honored the group with his memories of Wahama with reflections on sports. Since he was also the history teacher, the females requested he give the group a history lesson for our 65th reunion. Mr. Sayre prepared the perfect history lesson using the 2020 presidential election, proving that history repeats itself. Unfortunately for the class, Mr. Sayre passed into Heaven; his student Betty Rawlings had notes and could share a little of his planned lesson. It started this way:
One Hundred Twenty years ago, America had an election campaign where one candidate, William McKinley, campaigned from his front porch and gave rehearsed speeches. He used the motto, “Four more years of a full dinner pail.” In contrast, candidate William Bryan traveled throughout the country, drawing vast crowds of the overburdened working class. His motto was “Stop the rule of the rich.” The wealthy industrialists, Rockefeller, Carnegie, and J.P. Morgan, announced that if Bryan won, they need not show up for work the next day because they were forced to close the factories, a big lie. They secretly passed large bundles of cash to McKinley’s campaign treasurer, a former Cleveland, Ohio, high school classmate of Rockefeller. In those days, the ballot boxes were separated into Republican boxes and Democrat boxes. It was not a secret vote. The employees believed a lie and voted for McKinley. The only thing worse than telling a lie is believing a lie.
Ralph Sayre is remembered for always giving those thought-provoking endings to his lessons. One of his valued history students, Betty Rawlings, published Short Stories About My Best Friend in 2021 using many of his classroom quotes in her book.
Classmate Brigadier General Ronald McGlothin, (ret) spoke next. He was a co-pilot with Delta Air Lines returning to the U.S. on an international flight. He shared his involvement on that Sept. 11, 2001, history-making day. Ron’s crew received an emergency message to land in Newfoundland. Delta did not tell why. The crew’s first thoughts were that they might have a “hijacker” on board. Not until they landed and had cell phone service did they know that criminals had attacked America.
The little Canadian town of 10,000 people on an island in the North Atlantic Ocean shut down their day to care for over 6,000 strangers from 38 planes and almost 100 countries. All 38 jets sat loaded with passengers and luggage for hours. Because of their weight and the heat, some planes started sinking into the pavement. School buses delivered passengers to school gyms, community centers, churches, and private homes for hours and only stopping to fill the gasoline tanks throughout the night and the next day. The pharmacists’ worked over 28 straight hours to fill prescriptions, baby formulas, and baby supplies as were requested. However, nicotine gum became a substitute for many after the town sold out of cigarettes. For five days, it was an outpouring of kindness from Gander’s people who refused to accept money. Passengers later donated thousands to the little town. Ron and wife Carolyn drove over nine hundred miles from Louisiana to Mason, W.Va.
In Alaska and unable to attend, classmate Sandra Roush Pomeroy sent news of her last few years of travel. Sandra and her husband Fred carried out another “bucket list” of his mountain climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. They are retired teachers and world travelers filled with exciting stories and experiences. Fred completed climbing all the U.S. states’ highest points in 2004. Mt. McKinley, the highest point in America, was mounted in 2001. Kilimanjaro is in northeast Tanzania, south of the Kenyan border, and is the highest volcano mountain in Africa at 19,350 feet. He and his three daughters trained by walking and climbing with 45 to 55-pound backpacks. The adventure starts in the warm rain forest and ends on the mountain top at ice-cold temperatures accounting for the different clothing one needs to take.
Fred hired an Australian company, and they helped hire three local guides from Tanzania. A great deal of gear is needed, and 19 porters were hired to carry sleeping tents, tables and chairs, lights, medical supplies, food for eight days for 26 people, and a cooking tent for the seven-day and six-night adventure. This climb gave Fred a record of having climbed the third and fourth highest peaks in the world. He also completed a six-week, coast-to-coast bike ride. Fred also won medals for cycling and power walking in the Senior Olympics. His three daughters enjoyed standing above the clouds while standing on top of Kilimanjaro.
Following Paul’s missionary travels, Fred and Sandra also traveled to Greece, the Isle of Patmos, and Ephesus, Turkey. Her last letter contained a family picture of all the children, spouses, and grandchildren in Hawaii. She noted that all children and spouses were teachers at the high school and college levels.
The Wahama class of 1956 stepped out into adult life from a small school education equipped to be leaders. Mr. Sayre spoke about thinking of your education as a commodity. You would never allow a business to cheat and take advantage of you. So, think of your education as a commodity and do not cheat yourself: study and do your homework!