ARLINGTON – When Ally Peterson graduates Thursday, she will represent the fourth generation of her family to earn her diploma from Arlington High School, dating back to 1942.
They were all born and raised in Arlington, graduated 25 years apart, and their families still live mere blocks from each other.
The family matriarch Ruth Yost, class of 1942, grandmother Carol Duskin, class of 1967, and mom Nikki Peterson, class of 1992, all attended the old high school on French Street that now serves as the district headquarters.
For Ally, who will attend Washington State University in the fall to study Engineering in line with her fondness for math and science, she had some inkling of the similarities between generations. “Growing up I was thinking, that’s crazy.”
It was Duskin who connected the dots during a Mother’s Day luncheon. Her mom Ruth had just celebrated her 75th school reunion at the local Denny’s. Duskin was helping plan her 50th for this summer and her daughter Nikki would be celebrating her 25th. Now it was Ally’s turn to cross the stage for her diploma.
With the AHS graduation ceremony set for June 15 at Xfinity Arena in Everett, the women sat down to take a sentimental look back on how graduation traditions and life after school in Arlington have changed over the years.
Yost was just a junior among her 68 classmates in a town of about 1,400 during World War II when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred. She graduated the following year. She recalled that the Navy operated a base at the then federal government-owned Arlington Airport, where squadrons of fighter pilots took off to practice landing on ships navigating in Puget Sound.
Her last days of high school followed the customary route of a baccalaureate ceremony, commencement, laying of the class stone, and an all-night party by bus to the Stillaguamish River and back.
She married Harry Yost, a Navy machinist who later worked for the school district and local lumber companies. The Yost name is synonymous with Arlington’s history thanks to their decades of community service, culminating in the building of the Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Museum. Her husband died in 2009. The 92-year-old Yost still helps out at the museum when able.
Community service to Arlington is entrenched in their extended family.
Arlington was a close-knit community when Duskin was growing up.
“After WWII, for everybody this was God country, very patriotic, let’s have a house out in the country with a white picket fence,” Duskin said.
She said life was idyllic. Residents didn’t worry about locking doors, kids rode their bikes around town, people walked downtown and to the theater, and families went to the Stillaguamish River to swim and play.
“It was common to walk right through other people’s yards,” Duskin said.
For Duskin’s class of ‘67, America was at war, just as it was in her mother’s younger years. For many graduates, she said, it was Vietnam or college to get out of being drafted.
She and her husband, Dale, owned Arlington Pharmacy for years before selling it to their son, Cory.
Duskin remembered that her graduation was in the high school gym, “and it was hotter than all get out.”
During Duskin’s time in school, they observed a ritual where each graduating class picked a color or two unique to their year. The colored rings would be slipped onto a hoe handle, stacked atop colors of classes that went before them. Her class chose crimson and gold.
“Your class president would pass the hoe onto the junior class president because now it was their job to keep the garden going,” Duskin said.
The hoe occupied a hallway display case with sports trophies.The whereabouts of the hoe are a mystery today.
Duskin said her class of ‘67 is close, and many keep in contact. Their 50th reunion expects returnees from Wisconsin, Florida, New York, Texas and Hawaii. “They’re all coming just for a one-day picnic.”
Nikki Peterson said her graduation was an anxious time.
“I remember my mom saying you might not ever see some of these people again, so just kind of take it all in,” Peterson said. “I remember being scared. Scared of what was the next step.”
Sports was a common thread throughout each of the women’s school years, but for Yost and Duskin the pickings were slim. However, the only sport available for girls was tennis. Each of them lettered and served as cheerleaders too, Duskin said.
By the time Nikki attended high school, Title IX, the law that prohibits discrimination based on gender, was in full swing. Nikki was able to play soccer and basketball.
Ally’s sports were volleyball and basketball. She was a three-year varsity volleyball team captain and First Team All League player who helped lead the team to a Wesco title in 2014 and its first district berth in more than a decade.
When Peterson graduated in 1992, many of the same commencement activities were still in place from her mother’s era, but there were also activities that more closely mirrored what the ones that her daughter Ally is experiencing. For example, the Moving Up Assembly and the senior trip ,which for Peterson was an overnight outing to Wild Waves water park near Tacoma.
Ally mentioned another tradition: “Senior Skip Day.”
“Obviously we didn’t have that,” Duskin said.
Peterson said the pressure of college recruiting today is nothing like it was when she was pondering what she would do in life after high school.
“It just seems like school was a lot more relaxing for me than for Ally,” Peterson said. “I wasn’t taking these college classes and exams; it was just…school.”
She said that students Ally’s age are asked early what they want to be when they grow up, what’s their plan, and where they want to go to college. Where Ally received unsolicited information from colleges across the U.S. that she had never heard of, Pederson got perhaps a pamphlet from a junior college.
And then there’s the college tours. “What’s a college tour? Is that like a band tour?” Peterson deadpanned.
Nikki’s advice for her daughter was to relax and enjoy her senior year.
“Just enjoy all the memories, make memories and don’t stress out,” she said. “Don’t worry if you got an A or an A-, had an issue with a friend, missed a dance, or whatever. Just realize there’s such a bigger picture out there.”
All the stories about senior trips and overnight parties at Wild Waves was more than Yost could take.
“I must have graduated too soon,” she said.