Candy Riemer Huber remembers a time when no rivalry existed between Parker and Craig high schools.
In fact, she can tell you how she was heartbroken because many of her friends went to Parker, while she attended Craig.
“In (spring) 1967, everyone was a Bluebird,” she said, referring to the mascot of the former Janesville High School.
“The following school year, they divided us up,” Huber said. “Half my friends went to Parker.”
In 1968, Janesville became a two-high school city when Parker High School opened its doors and Janesville High School became Craig.
Students who had gone through much of high school together were separated and attended classes on opposite sides of the river. In spring, they became the first to graduate from Parker and Craig.
On Friday and Saturday, Sept. 14-15, members of both classes will celebrate their 50th reunion and their unique place in Janesville history.
“For some reason, we stayed close friends,” said Gary Lynch, a member of the class.
“I guess if you’ve gone almost through high school together, you want to remain friends.”
He keeps a door in his garage signed with the names of classmates over the years and will bring it to the reunion.
Through the decades, class members have worked hard to stay connected. Every five years, they plan a reunion, which includes graduates of both high schools.
“The connections we have with our classmates are really important,” said Barb Shumway Sarnow. “That’s why we really went out of our way to find people.”
One classmate is coming from Switzerland. Some are coming for the first time. But not everyone attending graduated with the group. Some went to grade school with the class and want to reconnect.
About 70 members are deceased, and the reunion committee has a scrapbook dedicated to them. The committee’s Facebook page also posts their obituaries.
Members of the class leave no doubt about how much they enjoy each other’s company.
“I like being with the people I used to hang around with,” Huber said. “Some are such a surprise. We didn’t have a clue how they would turn out.”
Classmates remember their graduating year with mixed emotions.
On one hand, Janesville was a fun town for a teenager in 1968.
“There were so many dances I had to choose which one to attend,” said Marty Agard Scott, a class member.
The YWCA and YMCA hosted regular social events. So did a downtown church. In addition, teens loved to gather and socialize at Lions Beach.
On the other hand, the war forced many to grow up early.
Fighting in Vietnam brought devastating grief to many young people who lost brothers and boyfriends.
The Class of 1968 also witnessed a country torn by the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.
In the past, Scott has looked across the table during her high school reunions and felt instantly transported back to the past.
“It’s like being back in the school cafeteria again,” she said joyfully.
Scott is proud of her classmates.
“They have made a difference wherever they could,” she said. “Janesville did something right because a lot of good people came from this town.”
Anna Marie Lux is a Sunday columnist for The Gazette. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.