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About 60 of the school’s 158-member class of 1963 attended their 50-year reunion.
Sunday, October 13, 2013
Much has changed since 1963, when Northside High School had its first graduating class.
Computers, not typewriters, now fill classrooms.
The building has grown thanks to a 2007 renovation.
And members of the class have gotten a bit older, with children and grandchildren of their own.
But the school’s identity, created in large part by its first class and that group’s sense of community, has remained.
“We were a usual class. Nobody disliked anyone. We were like a family,” alumna Diana Coffindaffer Esteve said at her class’s 50-year reunion this weekend.
Esteve, who traveled from Laramie, Wyo., to rejoin her classmates in a celebration of their time at the school, said she hasn’t been back to the Roanoke area since 1969.
“It just doesn’t even look like home,” she said while sitting inside the school’s lobby. “It doesn’t feel like home.”
But Esteve said being with her classmates again did feel like home.
“It’s like being with family,” she said.
That family was composed of 158 students who graduated in 1963. About 60 of them attended this weekend’s reunion, which started with a pig roast and celebration at Friday’s homecoming game, followed by a tour of the school and a dinner Saturday.
Northside’s first students came to the high school their sophomore year from Andrew Lewis, William Byrd, and Monroe junior high schools. They even attended classes for a short time at Southview Elementary School while construction of Northside was being finished .
Together the group of students from all over the area came up with the school’s mascot, colors, yearbook and school newspaper.
Esteve, who attended Andrew Lewis, said that in the beginning she didn’t want to come to Northside.
“They weren’t going to teach French,” she explained.
Esteve ended up taking Latin instead.
Her teacher was Rowena Holliday Boehling, who taught at the school in 1960 and 1961 before later teaching at Glenvar High School. Boehling, who attend Saturday’s tour of Northside, said it’s where she started her teaching career.
“It was a wonderful beginning,” she said, walking through the halls.
Boehling, who lives in Salem now, couldn’t believe how much has changed.
“It is completely mind-boggling,” she said.
She stared as she walked down the halls. Others snapped photographs and peered into classrooms.
“Oh my. I can’t believe this,” she said as she walked inside the school’s auditorium.
Many of those who came Saturday marveled at how different things were and remembered the times they shared as the first group of students to move through the school.
Tommy Firebaugh, a member of the class of 1963, along with several others organized the reunion. Firebaugh, who still lives in Roanoke County, said it was important for the first class to come back.
He said when the school started everyone had to learn to live together.
“We were total strangers,” he said. “It’s not like we went through grade school together.”
Firebaugh said it felt great to have everyone back and celebrate together. He said Friday night was special, having been recognized at the homecoming game and cheered on by a new generation of Northside students.
“I would rate this in my top 10 accomplishments in my life,” he said of the reunion, counting it among other important moments such as getting married and starting a family.
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