Memory of new high school still fresh for first graduates

By on October 19, 2011

By: GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent gpklinger@yahoo.com, Staff Writer



A shot from the balcony of the Ephrata High School lobby, believed to be from the early '60s. (Photo courtesy of Ephrata Area School District)A shot from the balcony of the Ephrata High School lobby, believed to be from the early '60s. (Photo courtesy of Ephrata Area School District)

"It was really strange."

That is how one of the first students to graduate from what was, in 1962, the "new" high school, felt. Fifty years later, that new school is still very much in service to students of the Ephrata Area School District. It has been renovated, expanded and updated. It has evolved from a state of the art school with slate chalkboards, a modern cafeteria and library card catalogs to a modern state of the art school with smart boards, computer classes and powered by a wireless internet.

That first day of classes in 1961, students entering the newly completed Oak Boulevard location were greeted with the fresh aroma of newness.

As senior Lee Weit entered school that year, he did so with the knowledge his class would forever have the distinction of being the first graduating class to receive their diplomas at the new building. He can still remember well that transition from the old high school, which is today still in use as the Highland Elementary School, to this brand new high school.

"It was really strange," said Weit. "We didn’t have a cafeteria at the old school so we used to get an hour and a half to go home for lunch each day. When we got to the new school we had this new cafeteria and got only a half hour or so for lunch."

Weit said that he and his classmates really enjoyed attending classes in the new school because it was so different.

"I walked in and looked around and everything just smelled brand new," added Weit, who continues to serve his class as their treasurer. "It was just so different than the awful old high school building on Highland Avenue. I can still remember trying to find my way to my classes and homeroom."

Ron Boltz was likewise a member of that first graduating class. One of his fondest memories of the transition from the old high school to the new was the huge new gymnasium.

At the Highland Avenue location, the gym was much smaller. In addition, following an addition to the original building in the mid 1930′s which added a nearly 1,000-seat auditorium to the school, the gym floor doubled as the school’s stage. Therefore, for the duration of that building’s use as a high school, spectators for basketball games would sit in the auditorium as there were no bleachers in the old gym.

Boltz still fondly remembers the feeling the first time he saw the huge new gym and bleachers. During his high school years, Boltz was both a basketball player as well as a baseball player. And, for the past 50 years he has served his classmates as their president.

Members of the class of 1962 will be among the many people who will visit the school this Friday from 3 until 6 p.m. for a special anniversary open house. Members of the public as well as alumni are invited to return to the Oak Boulevard location for self-guided tours through the building. Bolts and Weit look forward to seeing many of their old friends and classmates that day.

One of the many planning to return is the very first person to receive their diploma in the new building. In those days, the honor students would receive their diplomas first. Alphabetically, the first honor student was Ron Bingaman. Now living near Philadelphia, Bingaman and his wife, the former Carolyn Shirk, will return to the school to see how their old alma mater has evolved through its first 50 years in service.

Bingaman speaks highly of the caliber of education he received from Ephrata High School. From graduation, he went on to earn his associate’s degree from Penn State Berks Campus, prior to taking a job with Sun Oil Company. During his time with Sun, he was able to complete his undergraduate work. Through it all, he said he always felt well prepared for his work thanks to his Ephrata education.

"I felt well prepared, especially in math," commented Bingaman. "I held a B- in English but that was a very practical B- that served me quite well in industry over the years."

A 50th class reunion is planned for the class of 1962 on Nov. 12 at the ballroom of Lily’s on Main. A number of former teachers have been invited. According to Weit, who is collecting reservations for the event, so far 40 classmates and about 80 people overall have already made reservations. Originally the class was approximately 137 members strong.

For additional information on the class reunion or to reserve a table, contact Lee Weit at 738-1141 or via e-mail at flee@dejazzd.com.

For additional information on the Ephrata Area School District or the open house, visit the district website at easdpa.org. More MEMORIES, page A17

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