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AHS Class of 1937 holds 70-year reunion

Standing from left, Arlington High School Class of 1937 alumni Don Prather, Estelle Jensen, George Rauch, Fran Osterman, Cecil Smoke and Ray Rensink.  Seated from left, AHS Class of 37 grad Velma Babe Bjorn and Rauchs wife Karin. -
Standing from left, Arlington High School Class of 1937 alumni Don Prather, Estelle Jensen, George Rauch, Fran Osterman, Cecil Smoke and Ray Rensink. Seated from left, AHS Class of 37 grad Velma Babe Bjorn and Rauchs wife Karin.
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ARLINGTON Once a year, the Arlington High School graduating class of 1937 gets together to catch up on old times and new, and this years meal at the Eagle Crest Restaurant marked their 70-year reunion.
Out of a graduating class of 104, less than a dozen were able to attend the most recent reunion, but those who can always make a point to come back.
We come back for the free food, laughed Ray Rensink, who now lives in Seattle.
We come back because were still alive, said Cecil Smoke, who stayed in Arlington.
We were always a congenial class, said fellow Arlington resident Estelle Jensen.
The reunions started out on a schedule of one every five to 10 years, and then one every other year, not long after their 50th reunion.
For the past five years, theyve been meeting every year, with spouses and significant others in tow, often relaying word from those whose failing health has prevented them from attending, or bringing news from those who have passed on.
As they passed around letters and obituaries, and traded tales of grown children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, the surviving members of the AHS Class of 37 reflected on their lives.
George Rauch of Camano Island has had the longest marriage of the class to date, since hes been married to Karin for more than 66 years. Seattles Don Prather is the alum closest to being a newlywed, since he and his wife Grace have been together for only 45 years.
Ray Rensink hasnt remarried since he wife died in 1982, but hes been dating Joy Gustafson, his guest at the meal, since they met at a reunion for the 41st Division of the Army in 1988. Gustafsons husband had served with Rensink, and died around the same time as Rensinks wife.
At 89, Fran Osterman of Everett is one of the oldest AHS grads at the table, while classmate Estelle Jensen is the youngest, at only 86. Estelles husband Bill is 91 years old, making him the oldest person at the table.
I flunked the first grade, Osterman confessed with a smile.
We were the first class to graduate from the old high school on French Street, Estelle Jensen said. All these high school kids have cars now, but I dont think any of us had a car back then.
You might have been able to borrow your dads, but that was it, Don Prather said. We were Depression Era kids.
The Depression was still going on when we graduated, George Rauch said. You just couldnt find a job to speak of.
The Class of 37 found livelihoods and active lives eventually, though.
Velma Babe Bjorn of Lakewood worked as a survey interviewer and sold Avon for a number of years, while Don Prather and his wife Grace ran a grocery store and restored housing in the University District of Seattle.
Like Prather, Ray Rensink served in the Army for a few years, before becoming a farmer and manual laborer, while Fran Ostermans husband John, a Navy veteran, was employed as an accountant and lived with her in locales as far away as Saudi Arabia.
Estelle Jensen worked for Boeing and as a shipyard welder, while her husband Bill was involved in construction and machine repair.
While Cecil Smoke earned a living as a dairy farmer, his wife Dorothy was a bank teller.
After his stint in the Air Force, fellow dairy farmer George Rauch used his G.I. Bill to become an engineer in the Marysville School District, while his wife Karin was a licensed nurse.
We had darned good teachers at that old school, Don Prather said.
We had a handful of teachers, compared to what they have now, George Rauch said.
I dont think they can get acquainted as much as we did, Prather said.
Theres so much more traffic and people here now, Bjorn said.
Its getting hard to remember names, Prather said.
We still remember to come, as long as were able, Prather said.
Were glad to be survivors, Estelle Jensen said.

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