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Burroughs High School Class of 1962 celebrates 60 years


By Yvonne Beyer-The Burroughs High School Class of ’62 celebrated their 60th-year reunion on October 15, 2022, at the Clarion Hotel…  It has remained a very close-knit group over the years by gathering every five years since graduation.  About 75 to 80 people attended the dinner.  The gathering was open to other class years, as well as past teachers.

About 189 students graduated.  Many went on to college.  Several went into military service.  Some stayed in Ridgecrest to start a business or go to work for the base.  Several got married and decided that this was a great place to raise a family, especially after leaving the area to see how things were in the bigger cities, so they are still here.  And some left the area, returning only for brief visits.  About 50 of the original group have died to date. 

We had some of the best teachers that could be hired in the state, boasting one of the highest pay rates in 1958 ($4,500/yr) within California, second only to Beverly Hills, according to Coach John Henderson’s wife Judy.  And the teachers were good.  They kept students achieving to the best of their abilities and encouraged them to strive to reach their full and individual potential.  They had to be top-notch teachers to keep the parents happy.  In 7th and 8th grade, according to Debbie (Whitnack) our class had some of the best dancers taught by LaVie McLean in the old Quonset hut during physical education. Dr. Brubaker taught us our basic science classes including teaching Morse Code and ham radio.  There was Mrs. Bea Goode Moore who taught choir, and music appreciation.  Then in high school, we had so many good teachers and administrators:  Becker, Bogal, Ahern, Alexander, Crowder, Croy, Cierley, Conner, Draper, Gilkenson, Haig, Henderson, Kennedy, Kirby, Kristensen, Lundstrum, Rambis, Richarsdson, Olsen, Shostag, Riffe, Riley Rizer, Sanson, Vollmer, Thixton, Trent, Vines, Weightman, Woolfenden, Young, and several others.  Many were remembered fondly and talked about during the reunion.  They grew with us and moved up into more important positions. Administrators at the time were Mr. McCuen, Superintendent, Dr. Murray, Principal, and Mr. Wescott, Vice-Principal.

 Opportunities existed for technical work experience on base and commercial experience off the base.  Darold Pieper remembered the sociologist that was hired at China Lake because the Navy wanted to figure out how it worked.  The community was so unique.  He spoke of the freedom and opportunity that students had for work experience and summer employment on base.  His junior year he worked in nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry, using magnets left over and retrieved from magnets left over from the magnetrons used in the World War II radar sets.  His senior year he moved into aero-perma chemistry and took the first interferometer picture using a laser and became published. That led into working for code 12.  After UCLA, USC Law School asked him to come there because he had published so much.  He said we lived in a “Goldy Locks” period and that Camelot is not coming back, to which a hopeful voice from the audience said “Oh, that’s not true.” 

Great friendships were formed that have lasted and have been treasured over the years.  Like Larry Nowak said, he didn’t graduate from here, but it was who he grew up with that stuck with him that makes him continue to attend these reunions. Things like the boy scouts, the first girls who chased him down to kiss him, the first romances, etc.  Don McLean said he knew stories about most of the people in the room.  He spoke of a list of over 300 “Stupid things I’ve done in my life”.  He had once asked a question of his son’s principal “How many of your students went to college?” The answer was “About 25%”.  Don mentioned that about 97% of our class had at least some college, or they joined the service or worked for their parents. He spoke of Larry Nowak Dad’s trampoline experience in 6th grade—remembering the principal who tried “the death dive” after which trampolines were no longer allowed on campus (until much later when they were used for entertainment at basketball game halftime shows).  Kayleen (Rector) Martin flew F-18s and worked for the federal government, traveling all over the world, meeting dignitaries, and still visiting life-long friends who are still here in Ridgecrest.

There were many things that made growing up in “our desert” so unique and are remembered with great fondness.  The basic family rules were simple:  Be home by dark.  It was a safe place for children.  They could roam the desert collecting horned toads, lizards and snakes, chasing rabbits from the bushes, exploring old mines, rock climbing, desert diamond and rock hunting, working on cars, and going horseback riding or swimming at the base pool or the Brewer’s pool in Ridgecrest. Shows on base were 10 cents, popcorn 10 cents. We Rock Hounds and Pebble Puppies, photo clubs, swim teams, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Explorer Scouts, and sports of all kinds. No one ever complained about being bored.  

Jimmy Jones spoke of growing up in Ridgecrest being so totally different than the experiences of the students on base.  Many students in Ridgecrest attended St. Ann’s for grades 1 through 6, after which they went to James Monroe for 7th and 8th.  The real shock came when they had had to take a bus to go on Base to go to Burroughs, which had real grass on the football field and an enclosed Olympic size pool to swim in.  Some students, like Irene (Whaley) Brady, who were bussed in from Inyokern were petrified and somewhat intimidated in the beginning, but by the end of 4 years the community of students had grown together comfortably and made life-long friendships. Most of the Ridgecrest students’ families were business people.  Tom Reese’s father was the President of B of A, Klassen’s had the Body Shop, Rizzardini’s had the Victory Market, Tharpe’s had Mom’s Furniture, the Collie’s had a pharmacy , Al Adams had the Cadillac and GMC dealership. Many of the Ridgecrest students got their work experience at those family businesses. Many had paper routes for the school years or worked as type setters for Hubbard Printing after school.  Sports participation was made difficult due to no bus rides home after practice.   Part time jobs provided money for the shows at the Ridge Theater and the Crest Drive-in and go to the Suzie Q on the corner of Ridgecrest and China Lake Blvds.