Planeview High grads will rekindle memories
There were only 14 graduating classes, and the school was torn down in 1957, yet alumni still gather to remember wartime and the years that followed.
BY ARTURO GARCIA
The Wichita Eagle
The memories still come easy to Mary Lancaster. Of moving from Enid, Okla., in the summer of 1945 to Planeview, the new, government-run neighborhood in Wichita. The two-block-long high school. And nights visiting with neighbors on the front porch.
"You could walk out there and not be afraid at night," said Lancaster, a member of the Planeview High School class of 1953.
For the past six years, Lancaster has been the historian for Planeview's alumni association, the person in charge of gathering the memories. Photographs. Copies of The Aeronaut, the school newspaper. News clippings and obituaries of old classmates.
The memories will come back Saturday, as they do every other year, when alumni from Planeview's 14 classes return to Wichita for their reunion dinner at the Mecca Room of the Midian Shrine Center, 130 N. Topeka.
Former Goblins (sic) from across the country will be coming for not only the dinner, but a parade that morning.
The parade will start at Colvin Recreation Center, 2820 S. Roosevelt, winding to Jardine-Edison Junior Academy.
Jardine stands on what used to be Planeview's football field. Conversely, the high school stood on what's now an empty field just east of Jardine.
The reunion will start with a dinner and social, followed by a dance, with a disc jockey spinning Johnny Ray and other music kids listened to in those days. But the real fun could be off the dance floor.
"They do more visiting than they do dancing," said Mary Sigwing, class of 1954. "Background music is probably all we need."
Things to do
Families began moving into these new homes on Jan. 16, 1943. . . . Planeview was completely occupied by Jan. 16, 1944.
- Excerpt from "The Miracle City," a term paper by E. Earl Payne Jr.
The dwellings were built quickty but apparently weren't soundproof.
"You could hear the person in the next apartment," said Sigwing, the alumni association's treasurer. "There wasn't a lot of privacy, I would say. My mom, though, was always painting our wallpaper, constantly changing something.
Times were tight, and the government rules were even tighter. At least one resident per house had to work for the war effort.
"You could not park on the grass," Lancaster said. "You had to keep your yards up. It was only built to last during the war."
But there were enough things to do to keep their minds off the reason they were there.
After school, Lancaster said, kids would go to the Walgreens a block away from school to drink malts and hang out. They could play softball, baseball or run track; they could go to any of the 13 playgrounds in the area. Or go to a movie on Friday nights or Saturday mornings.
"It was a little city in itself," Sigwing said. "it had all the facilities a big city had."
School ties still bind
Fifty-Six Graduate In First Class
-- The Aeronaut, May 31, 1944
Planeview's last class graduated 13 years after that headline was published, but Goblins (sic) from every class will be welcome at the reunion. So will those who transferred to other schools after Planeview was torn down in 1957.
Lancaster said the alumni committee sent out more than 1,000 invitations to this year's event, That's about 400 more than it sent six years ago, when she took over as historian.
She took the list of index cards and retyped them, cross-referencing the girls who got married, checking to see who moved. She has put the list on computer.
There's also a list for the deceased; Lancaster said she reads the obituaries every morning, looking for classmates who have passed on and sending sympathy notes to their families.
It's hard work, time-consuming and tedious. Even after the reunion she won't be done because she'll have to update the list again.
But the moment of making contact with someone who's still alive, she said, makes it worthwhile.
"When I find someone, I'm just ecstatic," Lancaster said. "People have e-mailed me, saying,'Can't make it this year, keep me on the waiting list.' "
Mary Lancaster's work as historian for the Planeview Alumni Committee will pay off Saturday, at the Planeview all-class reunion.