In 1957, when a detached house would set homebuyers back a whopping $20,000, on average, and when most technology only came in black-and-white, a group of students exited the doors of Langley High School for good, thus opening a new chapter in their lives.
Many of the Class of ’57 are still around, and will be celebrating their 60th high school reunion at Estate 248 at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 11.
Langley High School opened its doors in 1949, built for a capacity of 500 students, noted Lorraine Allen, who is helping to organize the reunion.
At the time, there was only one high school in the district.
By 1957 the attendance was 1,500 students – 500 junior students on morning shift, 500 junior students on afternoon shift, and 500 senior students on day shift.
The class of 1957 was the last of the three classes to attend LSS from Grades 7 to 12, and the last class to graduate from Langley Jr./Sr. High with every student from the Langley School District in the graduation class. The following year Aldergrove High School opened its doors.
The Class of ’57 had 104 alumni and they held their first reunion 25 years later.
The reunions have always included the classmates who didn’t finish high school, bringing their total to 150.
Additional reunions have been held through the years, including a 40th, 45th, 50th, and 55th.
Although 29 members have passed on and 11 members can no longer be found, there are still 107 alumni on the “active roster,” Allen said.
And while many members lived and worked outside of the Lower Mainland, the majority are now located near their hometown.
“The Class of ’57 was recognized by their teachers as being one of the rare special classes and has maintained its close friendships throughout the years,” she added. “Currently the alumni meet once a month at Poppy Golf Course in the summer.”
Bill Merrell was part of the graduating class and among those who meet at Poppy Golf Course.
Merrell said he still feels like a young man. “There’s an old saying that, no matter what age we are, we all feel 22.”
“In some ways it was a long time ago and other times it was just yesterday,” he added.
Elsie Lundin and Allen have known each other since Grade 1, and she says school was much different then than it is now.
“You had reading, writing, and arithmetic,” Lundin said. “They were teaching us to go to university.”
“Or be a nurse or a teacher if you are a woman,” fellow grad Joan Gore chimed in.
Merrell said the expectations was that a lot of people would enter the workplace right out of high school. “The expectation wasn’t that large groups would go to university.”
Gore lived in Aldergrove and said the “Aldergrove kids” stuck together. “Those of us who came from Aldergrove were kind of at a disadvantage. We got to the school 25 minutes before school began. We had lunch hour where we would socialize, we had to be on the bus again 10 minutes after the last bell… so we were kind of separate from the Langley people.”
Weekends involved hanging out at the local restaurants, Gore said.
“That’s some of the things that we did; if you have a car, you drove from the Lang Lee Chinese food restaurant to the A&W restaurant,” Allen reminisced.
“The Lang Lee was at one end (of town) and the A&W was at the other. If you had a car, you went in the car. If you didn’t have a car, you sat and watched the cars with the people in the cars.”
Most of the Class of ’57 were born in 1939, to parents who had lived through the depression and then went off to war.
The Cold War had them hiding from nuclear attack under their desks.
That said, Allen noted that “we were a blessed generation – no depression and no war in our lifetime.”
Most of the classmates were children of parents or grandparents who had moved to the Langley area in the 1930s. Most of them lived on farms in rural areas. The only urban area was Langley City, which was called Langley Prairie at that time.
In the mid-1950s the music transitioned to rock ‘n’ roll.
“We went from Pat Boone and Glenn Miller to Elvis Presley and Bill Haley and the Comets,” Allen said. “We wore long skirts, stride pants, the boys had slicked back hair and the girls weren’t allowed to wear trousers to school.”
Much of the entertainment of that era related to the local community hall.
“That’s where the action was,” Allen said.
Events took place during the week – bridge and crib and euchre, hospital auxiliary, Women’s Institute, dancing lessons, gymnastics, and on the weekend, dances, Allen added. The halls had benches around them, hooks for jackets above, and stages.
The children put on entertainment first, then watched the adults entertain, then the folding chairs were put against the benches to form beds for the children and the adults danced to a local orchestra, formed from members of the community. I can remember that the Brookswood group was a piano, a violin, an accordion, and a man on the spoons.
As a teenager Allen worked in the local optometrist’s office on Fraser Highway and at that time there was a local auction once a week, in the general area of Gabby’s Cabaret.
Every once in a while some of the animals would escape and the local fire department volunteers (mostly located in the downtown Langley Prairie stores) would suddenly appear to catch the animals and return them to the pens.
Allen said the only two red neon lights were on the Langley Hotel and Buckerfield’s store.
They could clearly be seen from Foster’s Cafe at the junction of Fraser Highway and 64 Avenue and 192 Street, and from the ‘Hospital Hill.’
“We were a very unsophisticated bunch,” Allen said.
The most common mode of transport: old-fashioned foot power, Allen said.
“I lived on 49th and 200th. I took the bus home, and then I walked back into Langley to where the Anglican Church is now, because my friend lived on Old Yale Road, and so I walked to her place afterwards, and then I walked from Anglican Church, through Langley, up 200th and home again and thought nothing of it,” Allen said.
“When I was six, I walked from 49th and 200th to Langley Elementary School which was on Fraser Highway,” Allen said. “And nobody thought anything about the fact I was six and walking a mile.”
Reflecting on those days, Lundin said “They were good times, they were all good times.”
As she looks ahead to June 11, Allen predicts about 60 former school-mates to attend, along with some spouses.
“Considering that most of us are 78 years old, that’s not bad statistics,” Allen said. “Our teachers always told us that the Class of ’57 was special.”
Any members of the Class of ‘57 who would like to attend the reunion can contact Allen at 604-534-6659 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.