Babysitting paid 25 cents an hour, and the 25 cents could get you into a movie. Nice girls didn’t wear pants. Ice cream was a nickel a scoop. The summer’s must-have item was a Catalina swimsuit, and the winter’s a Jantzen sweater. And saddle shoes, but that really goes without saying.
Shirley Williams graduated from Rogers High School in January 1953. Yes, that’s right, January.
“If your birthday was between September and January, you could begin school at the midterm,” Williams wrote in an e-mail. “So in January, as a first-grader beginning school, you were a 1B and in September you became a 1A. The classes were very small in number. We started first grade in 1941 and graduated in January of 1953. I think there were 12 in my grade school class, and there were 46 in our graduating class of which 29 were girls.”
Today between eight and 12 of those 29 girls meet for lunch once a month.
“We do look at each other like sisters,” said Carole Collins. “We have known each other for so long, and we are there for each other, if someone needs something.”
In their Rogers days, they weren’t all North Side kids. A handful went to Libby on the lower South Hill, but went out of their way to go to Rogers.
“Sometimes parents lied about where we lived,” said Donna Elliott, laughing at how strongly they felt about that. “We just knew we didn’t want to go to Lewis and Clark – that was were all the rich doctors’ kids went.”
Spokane was a different place when this group of women was in high school, and they freely share memories over lunch at Indian Canyon Golf Course.
“We would walk to Natatorium Park,” said Donna Aberasturi, who is part of this group and also works on the five-year reunions for Rogers. “We’d stop at Doyle’s Ice Cream on the way there. And there was a great spot for dances down behind the Fox Theater.” Lively discussion about the name of that place breaks out across the table – but the name escapes everyone, yet they all remember the dances.
“The girls would start dancing together, and then the boys would cut in,” said Aberasturi.
At other dances, boys and girls lined up on each side of the room.
“And you just hoped someone would ask you to dance,” Williams said.
It seems like the group shared an active social life in the last years of high school.
They have fond memories of Bob’s Chili Parlor downtown and many other favorite restaurants.
“The Cathay Inn was the first place we had Chinese food,” Elliott said. “There weren’t a lot of different foods like that at the time.”
The women haven’t been in constant contact over the years. Williams became a teacher and lived on the West Side of the state until she moved back to Spokane 10 years ago.
Williams would get together with Helen Bell whenever she was in Spokane.
“We’d go to lunch at Shenanigans,” said Williams.
The pair decided to find some of the other girls from their small class of ’53 and about 10 years ago began meeting for lunch once a month.
“Mary Lou Burrill passed away last week or she would have been here, too,” Bell said. “We are usually about 10 of us every month.”
JoAnn Peters, who graduated in 1952, comes over from Coeur d’Alene – or the group makes the drive to Coeur d’Alene to have lunch with her.
“It really is fun for us to get together and talk about life and also about back then,” Peters said. “One thing I remember is crawling out the window in the music room to go and play tennis.” That makes everyone laugh.
And so the conversation goes, back and forth, between old friends some of whom have known each other since first grade.
Aberasturi, Williams and Patricia Johnson were together from first through 12th grade.
“We really have known each other all of our lives,” said Williams, pausing. “That is pretty remarkable.”