Urbana Class of '62 reunites; alum on trail of classmates

Urbana Class of '62 reunites; alum on trail of classmates

We are loyal, We are true, We're the Class of '62

The person who keeps the 1962 Urbana High School alumni loyal to the class motto and class get-togethers is Linda Racer Ogle of Champaign.

"I'm the glue that keeps us together," Ogle admitted. "I get calls all the time from people who want addresses of classmates."

A U.S. map she peppered with location pins shows about one-third of the class of 245 in Champaign County, one-third in other areas of Illinois and one-third scattered throughout the country.

The classmates meet Saturday night for a reunion at the Laborers Union Hall in Urbana.

They will reminisce about wearing saddle shoes to typing class, hanging out in the parking lot of Steak 'n Shake or inside the Tiger's Den and carrying around their 45 rpm records to spin on any available record player.

Ogle will have all of the paraphernalia on display – from her saddle shoes and typing text to a car window tray and dishes from the popular Steakburger restaurant.

"The Steak 'n Shake by Carle was the biggest hangout," Ogle said. "Third (most popular) was the one on Green Street. We never went inside. When the first row of parked cars left, everyone moved up a slot. Cokes cost 10 cents and you sipped them forever."

To be sure, big news in a 1998 class newsletter – also spearheaded by Ogle – was the closing of both of the restaurants and their replacement with three new Steak 'n Shakes.

The class' second most popular hangout was the Tiger's Den on South Race Street, site of today's Iron Post and a parking garage.

"It cost 10 cents to get into the Friday night dance," Ogle said. "Outsiders, from Champaign, had to pay a quarter. A high school student would be spinning records and we'd drop off our favorites to be played."

Sometimes, students from the early 1960s went to Dog n Suds, which also had carhop service. Ogle collects and displays trays and glasses from that drive-in too.

She has used lots of commercial glue to assemble posters to display grade school pictures from the classes that fed students into UHS: Webber, Lincoln, Leal and Wiley. She still is trying to find class pictures from Washington and St. Mary elementary schools.

Ironically, Ogle is in none of those pictures. She labels herself as "an outsider" who came to UHS as a sophomore when her family moved from Indiana.

"Everybody already had their little groups formed," she said. "A neighbor introduced me to Janice Brown, who showed me around and helped me fit in. We're still good friends."

Janice Brown Roy now lives in Philo.

The Class of '62 got its food recipes from Hazel Hasty; sports training and driving lessons from Oscar Adams; music lessons from Robert Jorgensen; and math problems from Marie Bauer. They learned world history and sociology from Taylor Thomas, before he became an assistant principal and assistant superintendent who set the rules.

Several members of the faculty came to early reunions of the Class of '62.

Those parties occurred at logical milestones: 1972, 10 years after graduation; 1982, at the 20-year mark; and 1987, the 25-year anniversary.

But the classmates also got together in 1994 to celebrate their 50th birthdays. They wore orange and black T-shirts printed with "50 and still a tiger" to commemorate the school colors and mascot. They also assembled in 2000 just because it was the millennium.

Now, there is a monthly luncheon for women from the class. It started when Vicki Moore Hankins came back from Oregon for a visit. The lunch usually happens on the third Wednesday of the month, but if an out-of-town female classmate visits during another week, the lunch date is changed to include her.

Some of their best-known class members are Tom Powell, a former director of Cunningham Children's Home; Fred Cash, a former Chief Illiniwek; Carl Webber and Bill Goldstein, attorneys; Nancy Risser, Miss Rosemary, school royalty named for the yearbook, and a hospital administrator who lives in Massachusetts; and the late Connie Conerty Difanis, homecoming queen, who owned a day care business.

Several classmates died under mysterious and/or tragic circumstances.

The first class death was that of Frances Elizabeth Cornelius only one year after high school graduation. Ranked tops academically, she went to Wellesley College in Massachusetts, but apparently hung herself in the woods near campus.

Alexander "Alec" Shimkin was a reporter for Newsweek magazine during the war in Vietnam. His death has been listed as 1972, but his body was never found.

Jean Ellen St. Clair Metz was traveling with her lawyer husband to celebrate his victory in a big case when their airplane crashed into Lake Michigan in 1977.

Ogle also sticks like glue to her determination to find all her classmates from 1962.

"At one time, I had it down to only three missing, but now it's more like 12," she said.

"We left no stone unturned to find them. I called friends, family and spent hours at the library. Other classmates have helped me by saying, 'You know, she used to live near her aunt,' but I didn't know that because I was not a long-term Urbana resident. So then I'd start calling neighbors of that aunt."

Ogle found the class's two international exchange students because she had a copy of The Echo, the school newspaper, that mentioned both wanted to become doctors. She searched medical directories online.

Homayoun "John" Faghini-Shirazi from Iran is a psychiatrist in Massachusetts. Curkan "Al" Altuna from Turkey is a dentist in Canada.

"I've got a file on every person in the class," she said. "The only trouble is that because I keep track of everyone's whereabouts, everyone thinks I know all the gossip, and I don't."

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