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Celebrating half a century

Graduates of 1972 Lorne Jenken High School gather for their 50th reunion
Lorne Jenken Reunion group pic
Close to half of Lorne Jenken High School's 1972 graduating class was able to attend a May 7, 50th anniversary celebration. Here the Class of 1972 poses for a group picture during the evening banquet at the Barrhead Royal Canadian Legion.

BARRHEAD – It was a special night for the Lorne Jenken High School's Class of 1972. 

A little over a month ago on May 7, just under half of that school year's graduating class gathered at the Barrhead Royal Canadian Legion to rekindle friendships and reminisce about times long past. 

"We had quite a large graduating class, 142 in total," said Brenda Harris-Baron. 

Harris-Baron was not only one of the graduates of Lorne Jenken High (now Barrhead Composite High School, a.k.a. BCHS) but was on the organizing committee. 

The reunion began earlier in the day with a tour of the school. 

"A lot of the areas of the schools had changed," she said, noting that 50 years ago, there was more of a distinction between the schools, with Lorne Jenken being the high school while J.R. Harris was the junior high school. Now J.R. Harris is a wing of BCHS.  

"But some were exactly the same, and much of the chatter occurred while finding our lockers," she added. 

In the evening, the celebration moved to the Legion, which had been decked out in green and gold. 

"Our grad colours and the theme was, 'A Time For Us," she said, adding at all the tables were a collection of snacks and treats which were popular in 1972. 

Although she said the reunion committee did an admirable job of notifying all the Class of ‘72 grads, unfortunately, they were unable to reach a dozen of their classmates and 17, sadly, had passed away. 

"Which is pretty amazing when you think about it," Harris-Baron said, adding that although many of the 1972 grad class settled in the Barrhead area, many had moved on to regions across the country, including several who had moved to B.C.  

"Two who travelled back for the reunion settled in the Toronto area, and interestingly enough, both were Air Canada pilots." 

Helping aid the committee in locating their classmates were several smaller gatherings held over the years, the latest being in 2014, 

"They were never huge, but they did draw different individuals each year, so we had a good base of e-mail addresses and phone numbers to draw on, and we were able to find others through networking on social media," she said. 

Harris-Baron also noted that the class was fortunate to have two of their teachers, Patricia Barton Gibb and Ken Kowalski, attend as well. 

Kowalski, a social studies teacher, is best known for coaching Barrhead's Reach For the Top to a national championship in 1973. 

Reach For The Top was an academic quiz competition for Canadian high schools, airing on CBC television for 20-plus years.  

Of course, Kowalski is also known for his time in provincial politics, serving as a Progressive Conservative MLA for the Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock constituency from 1979 to 2012, holding several cabinet portfolios. He also served as speaker of the Legislature for 15 years. 

"Our principal, Richard Martin, was also in attendance," she said. 

Serving as the master of ceremonies for the night was Jay Litke, who coincidently served as the MC during the 1972 grad ceremony. 

He provided many humorous and touching comments, Harris-Baron said. 

A few memories from 1972 

At 142, it was one of the largest graduating classes from Barrhead. There were 63 boys and 79 girls, with the most popular boys’ names being Larry, with six as part of the grad class, while Linda proved to be the most popular girls’ name with four. 

Harris-Baron also noted that in 1972 there was a teachers’ strike. As a result, she said, teachers rushed to get all the course materials before January's provincial exams. 

"Students in Mr. Kowalski's Social Studies 30 class will remember that they attended school on a November Sunday afternoon to make sure all the material was covered in time," Harris-Baron said. 

Barry Kerton

About the Author: Barry Kerton

Barry Kerton is the managing editor of the Barrhead Leader, joining the paper in 2014. He covers news, municipal politics and sports.
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