By Dave Aeikens • firstname.lastname@example.org
August 10, 2009
It was a time that many have not forgotten.
The year was 1969, and the Vietnam War was raging, the first humans
landed on the moon and Woodstock, an outdoor music festival, made the
rural New York town a legend. The first draft lottery since World War
II was conducted Dec. 1 of that year.
While some years pass without making much of an impression, 1969
sticks with many who lived through it. The year is chronicled as a
pivotal year for the country by Rob Kirkpatrick in "1969: The Year
Everything Changed," released earlier this year.
"It was great year to be around, to graduate," said Mary Steffes of
Sartell, who was Mary Fischer when she graduated from Cathedral High
School in 1969. She now works for the Social Security Administration
in St. Cloud. "The different things that happened worldwide I think
people remember that year."
Graduates from the two high schools that were in St. Cloud that year
are gearing up for their 40-year reunions Friday and Saturday. Those
who attend will probably recall some of the events that shaped their lives.
Kevin Leja, who owns an audio distribution company in Bellingham,
Wash., and is a 1969 graduate of Technical High School, said it took
him a few years and some perspective to realize what a pivotal year
1969 was for him.
"Looking back on that year, it makes me wish that I had been able to
ingest and process and retain more of what was going on in my life,"
said Leja, who was the son of a St. Cloud State University professor.
"It was an exciting time to be young and an exciting time to be
alive. I really wish my memories were more vivid and detailed."
He won't be able to make the reunion and said he wishes he could talk
to some of his old friends and classmates to fill in some of the gaps
in his memories that time has erased.
The moon landing, though, has stuck with him. He remembers swimming
at a lake with a friend and going inside and watching CBS newsman
Walter Cronkite describe the scene. He said that event, more than
anything else that happened that year, opened the horizons of his life.
"The humans stepping on the moon the world of possibility opened
up. I really thought I could do anything," Leja said.
Leja also recalls protests in his school, but they were not about
what one might think. School policies establishing what was deemed
proper hair length raised more protest than the war.
"There was this ... thing about protesting something," Leja said.
It was difficult to walk the halls at Technical High School without
hearing about the Vietnam War. Boys were worried about their draft
number coming up and others worried about friends and loved ones already there.
As a St. Cloud State student, Leja did become involved in Vietnam War protests.
"It was time of great uncertainty when we graduated," said Marcia
Hetherington, who was Marcia Young when she graduated from Tech in 1969.
The war was all too real for Hetherington, who now lives near Denver.
She lost her fiance in the Vietnam War in 1970.
"People going off to service, that was very traumatic," Steffes said.
Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon still resonate.
"I can still remember where I was when I heard they landed on the
moon. It was thrilling. It was unbelievable to me," said Deb Arnold,
a 1969 graduate of Tech.
In 1969, Tech was finishing its run as the only public school in
town. Apollo High School, named after the capsule used in the moon
landing, opened the next year. Tech graduates remember the reason a
second school was needed. More than 800 students in grades 10, 11 and
12 filled the school in 1969.
"I remember in the hallways, you would sort of bump along. It was
difficult to move," Hetherington said.