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Flathead Class of 1951 gathers for 70th reunion

by LYNNETTE HINTZE
Daily Inter Lake | July 9, 2021 12:00 AM

In the days leading up to commencement in 1951, many of Flathead County High School's 219 graduating seniors likely were cruising to the local drive-ins to gather one last time as classmates.

Some may have preferred the Tip Top drive-in, but there were other choices for Kalispell teens in the early 1950s; Gene's and Smitty's Triple X were popular hot spots, too.

It didn't cost much to drag Main Street in those days; the cost of gas in 1951 was 19 cents a gallon.

Some of the guys may have been purchasing their graduation attire at Robbin & Robbin Men's Wear in downtown Kalispell. The gals had their choice of Hillstead's Women's Wear or Anderson Style Shop, among other stores. It was the era of the Temple Tea Room in Kalispell. Woolworth's and Montgomery Ward were Main Street mainstays.

In the music world, it was the reign of the crooners, when car radios played "Unforgettable" by Nat King Cole, "Dear Hearts and Gentle People" by Bing Crosby and "September Song" by Frank Sinatra. Patti Page topped the music chart with her hit song, "The Tennessee Waltz."

SOME OF the many memories will be topics for discussion and reminiscing as a small group of surviving alumni from the FCHS Class of '51 — all now in their late 80s — gather for dinner Saturday night at the Buffalo Hill Golf Course dining room for what likely will be one of their last reunions. Jim Korn, one of the organizers and a member of the Class of 1951, said about 26 class members, many accompanied by spouses or caregivers, will attend the evening event whose theme is simply "Remember When."

It's difficult to assess how many class members are still living, Korn said. About 80 invitations were sent.

It will be a night of fond memories, he added. A video program put together for the 65th reunion will play songs of their era and show photographs of previous reunions.

WHILE THE year 1951 may have seemed like a simpler time, there was plenty happening on the world stage.

The North Korean offensive pushed beyond the 38th parallel and truce negotiations failed. On May 4, 1951, just three weeks before the Flathead seniors' graduation, Gen. Douglas MacArthur testified before a closed Senate hearing looking into the Korean War and justification for U.S. policy in the far east. He testified he believed he didn't deserve to be relieved of his command.

In June 1951, the first year of the Korean War ended with little chance of a peace settlement at that point. By the time the war ended in 1953, American casualties would total 128,650.

For those at home, there were plenty of diversions from the war, though. On TV, "I Love Lucy" and "What's My Line" entertained the masses, along with the "Texaco Star Theater" with Milton Berle. It was the year color television was introduced.

Chances are, when the Class of '51 gathers this year, the memories will be closer to home than what was happening in the world when they graduated. A special date night perhaps, or fond recollections of band and choir trips. Maybe memories of mixers in the gym after sports games will linger in the conversation, and no doubt more than a few will ask: "Whatever happened to so-and-so?"

News editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 406-758-4421 or lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.

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The Flathead County High School Ski Team is featured in 1951 yearbook. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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The cover of the Flathead County High School 1951 yearbook. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)