When Sprague High School was six years old, over 400 students entered the Class of ‘82. This was the first year the school district experimented with moving 9th graders into high school. The school is named after Charles A. Sprague, who served as Oregon’s governor from 1939 to 1943. It opened for students off Southeast Kuebler Boulevard in 1972.
These students graduated into a world where the average price of gasoline was $0.91 a gallon, the average cost of a home was $82,000, and the rent was $320 a month. It was a very different time when members of the Class of 1982 returned to Salem for a 40-year reunion on Aug. 12-14.
About 19 alums could stay until the end of the weekend for a “behind the scenes” construction tour of their alma mater. The tour almost didn’t happen. After the group’s request for a visit was turned down in 2012 because of construction, they were terribly disappointed that, again, the school would be under construction.
After a few calls, the school district connected reunion organizers with David Hughes, the Salem-Keizer School District’s director of custodial property. He took time on his weekend to provide a tour and update on the bond. The $46.9 million construction project is part of the 2018 Bond Program. Improvements include 17 new classrooms; two science labs; expanded commons, kitchen, and administrative areas; and removal of portable classrooms. Particular career technical and special education centers were established to serve the anticipated needs of 2,200 students.
Many of the group hadn’t been back to the school since they walked away in their cap and gown. As the group walked by Oly stadium, Lynley Bouchard, who traveled to Salem from Bend, exclaimed that the trees had grown so much you couldn’t see the field anymore. A few alums mentioned how much they loved the Olympic torch run with a toga-clad athlete before each game. Hughes met the group at the new front entrance with added security. Rob Miles’ (Salem) late father, Tom Miles, was a science teacher at Sprague from 1972 until his retirement in 1989. Miles hadn’t been back for four decades. He remembered how he ran up and down in the halls while his father worked when he was little.
Every sentence started with, “Remember when…?” Mike Keeler (La Pine) felt mixed emotions when looking at all the changes.
Music is a specialty of the school, and Sprague will have new and remodeled music rooms. Former choir members on the tour broke out into the Hallelujah Chorus to check out the acoustics.
The industrial blower hummed as the group passed rows and rows of lockers. Miles announced he remembered his locker combination, 13-83-11, to the amazement of his classmates.
The new science lab will feature state-of-the-art equipment. Michele (Gorsch) Vanderyacht (Salem) asked if anyone remembered when Gary set the science lab on fire by mixing the wrong chemicals.
Hughes brought the group into the updated Commons. The food court sold many unhealthy snacks at the time. Leslie (Smith) Pierce (Kentucky) said she always made her own ice cream sandwiches out of cookies.
Finally, the tour ended at the gym, where the group remembered watching basketball games and having school assemblies. Everyone disliked that the school changed its colors from “gold, brown, and orange” to orange, white, and black.
A few girls recreated the “cheerleader pose” next to the new logo painted on the floor. Miles asked who remembered stamping their feet to Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” causing the bleachers to quake.
The track and field record holders were still posted outside, with classmate Kim (Roth) Geelan (Salem) still unbeaten after 40 years.Both 1982 graduates from Sprague, Beth and Matt Brandt, traveled from Virginia for the reunion. At the end of the weekend, she posted on Facebook: “So, Matt and I are just wrapping up our pilgrimage to Oregon for our 40th class reunion. We love how, when and where we grew up. We loved our friends and our schools. This weekend I saw people I’ve known since I was born, lots of ‘kids’ from elementary school, Jr. High, and our beloved Sprague High School. Our class was extraordinary, and we are so grateful to be a part of the class of 1982.”
Correction: This article originally misspelled Michele Vanderyacht’s first name. Salem Reporter apologizes for the error.
Mary Louise VanNatta is a Salem public relations professional writing regularly for Salem Reporter. Reach her at [email protected] and follow her on Facebook.
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