Skip to content

Sarah Simpson Column: Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name

Seventy years. SEVENTY YEARS!
Members of the Cowichan High School graduating class of 1952. (Courtesy of Pete Kenyon)

Seventy years. SEVENTY YEARS!

Seventy years ago Elizabeth II became the Queen of England of the United Kingdom after the death of her father King George VI.

Seventy years ago the first Chevrolet Corvette prototype was completed.

Seventy years ago the U.S. exploded the first thermonuclear bomb and 70 years ago the first Mr. Potato Head toy was sold.

I got all that from the internet so it must be true.

Also 70 years ago, the class of 1952 graduated from Cowichan High School and recently 14 of those graduates reunited.

Can you imagine?

Bill Keserich, Pete Kenyon, Gerry Lundahl, Bill Saunders, Barbara Veitch, Ian Dirom, Mollie Jespersen, Kerry Frazer, George Plawski, Dianne Douglas, Harold Cronk, George Johnson, Daryl Gray and teacher Faye Heard met for a meal on June 6 to talk about the old days and to share some laughs.

The school had only opened in 1950. The first grad class was in 1951, so this group, the class of ‘52, was just the second group to graduate from the school.

Through my conversation with Doris Kenyon, I learned that back in the day, the relatively large school hosted grades 7-12. Doris, who graduated in 1953 but married Pete Kenyon from the class of ‘52, said students were always getting lost in the huge building. She figures there were 500 kids attending.

“We were all very close in school,” she said of the upper grades. “And we’ve stayed in touch.”

While the school has changed tremendously over the years, Doris said, it’s still the glue that connects them all.

“A lot of them still do live in Duncan and we do keep in touch with them,” Doris said. “Everybody has really remained quite close. A lot of them have passed away but there’s still a lot around, some in Duncan, some in Victoria and some just didn’t make it to the reunion.”

As for the reunion, “It was lovely,” Doris said. “We just talked and visited, said hi. We had one fellow come from Vancouver, two or three from Victoria, one couple from Nanaimo.”

I learned through Doris that graduate John Sandys-Wunch turned out to be a Rhodes Scholar. I have lived in this community for roughly 15 years but I see names that many will recognize to this day in the community: Kenyon, Keserich, Evans, Saunders, and more.

I learned some things from flipping through the school’s 1952 year book, ‘the Dogwood’.

They chose a theme for the year and it was flowers so each grad was given a flower nickname.

Pete Kenyon’s was “Evening Star” though Doris has no idea why.

Then there was ol’ Cornflower Keserich. Did you know Cowichan Valley Soccer Association headman Bill “Cornflower” Keserich is actually technically William Keserich Jr., which makes today’s Bill Keserich Jr. a.k.a. Billy Keserich, William Keserich III? What’s more, Bill Keserich, (the soccer guy, stick with me) was the valedictorian for the 1952 graduating class.

The 17-year-old’s parting words were featured on page 3 of the yearbook and while I’d love to share the entire piece with you, I only have room for a bit:

“We are about to pass a significant milestone on the limitless road of education. We have secured a training which will be priceless, in the years to come. Citizens of tomorrow will come from the group here this evening — doctors, lawyers, nurses, and perhaps a great athlete or two. Yet we have received more education than that provided in books — an education in character. This, and this alone, will determine our success in the future. We have learned that the secret to success is to work together, to play together, and to ‘get along’ together. We have learned to set a goal for ourselves, and to try to achieve that goal. These intangible characteristics coupled with the knowledge of reward for effort, real effort, will hold the key to our future endeavours and accomplishments.”

It must be such a trip to meet with people that have known you longer than you’ve been your fully developed self, and to see their fully developed selves as well. I mean, 70 years is a long time. What an honour to be able to connect with each other again.

“As time goes by, our memories of each other may weaken and fade, names may be forgotten and distances may separate us,” said Keserich in his farewell. “However neither time nor distance will ever dim the memories of this occasion or our loyalty to our school.”