Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Wabasso High Class of 1974 celebrates 40 years since graduation September 16, 2014

FORTY YEARS AGO, my Wabasso High School graduating class voted “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road” as our class song.

But our senior class advisers nixed the choice and “We May Never Pass This Way Again” became our theme song instead.

We never were a class to follow the norm, to keep quiet, to go along with whatever the adults desired. We were outspoken teens—some more than others—challenging authority, growing into adulthood in the turbulent early seventies. Kids who’d just missed sending our male classmates off to fight in Vietnam.

The Wabasso High School Class of 1974 fortieth year reunion.

The Wabasso High School Class of 1974 fortieth year reunion group photo. That’s a teacher seated in the front row, right. I’m in the back row near the middle with the pink, white and black striped shirt. Photo by Randy Helbling.

This past Saturday we gathered at the community center (and then moved to the Roadhouse Bar & Grill) in the southwestern Minnesota prairie town of Wabasso to reminisce about our school days and to celebrate the 40th anniversary of our graduation in May 1974.

Forty years. How do four decades pass that quickly?

WHS reunion pic 7 and 8

Maybe we haven’t grow up so much. Or perhaps it’s just that we still like to have fun.

So much has changed, yet so little. We’ve grown up and reached the point in our lives when we realize life is too short, that the years we shared are worth celebrating.

In responding to questions for a reunion book I helped pull together, nearly every single classmate wrote that the best thing to happen to them since high school was getting married and having children. There was not a single answer like “I’m rich, live in a mansion and run a Fortune 500 company.” Not a single person placed wealth or career above family.

One other question—What has been the most influential book you’re read since high school?—also garnered a single most popular response—the bible. Many classmates wrote of their spiritual growth and the importance of God and faith in their lives.

On the right are the three of us from Vesta who attended the reunion.

On the right are the three of us from Vesta who attended the reunion. Micki, Dallas and I grew up on farms within a mile of each other. That’s a V, for Vesta, that we’re shaping with our hands in the top image.

This was, by far, the best class reunion of all I’ve attended. And I believe I’ve missed only two.

We mingled and laughed and talked about our kids and grandkids (those who have them) and all sorts of things and simply had a really good time. There was no cornering off of friends, no division, none of those issues that seem to plague classes even decades later.

How many classmates can cram into a photobooth, left, and four members of the reunion committee, right.

How many classmates can cram into a photobooth, left, and four members of the reunion committee, right.

As one of my 88 classmates noted, we were always a class that got along. He’s right. At one point Saturday evening, we crammed as many people as possible into a photo booth (New Ulm-based Up All Night Photobooth) contracted for the event. I was an initial naysayer on the photo booth. But I’d recommend it. The photo sessions got us out of our chairs and totally mixing it up.

My husband and I pose for a photo that I told him will be our Christmas card. In the photo to the right is Lindsey, right front, whom I have not seen in 40 years. He promised to return for the next reunion.

My husband and I pose for a photo that I told him will be our Christmas card. In the photo to the right is Lindsey, right front, whom I have not seen in 40 years. He promised to return for the next reunion.

I saw classmates I have not seen in 40 years. And, yes, I had to sneak a sly peek at several name tags to identify people. But for the most part, I recognized my 29 classmates and the single teacher in attendance.

One classmate told me I still looked the same. I took that as a compliment. Obviously, he didn’t notice the gray hair, the creases in my face or the pounds added since I was a hip hugger, mini skirt, hot pants, go-go boot wearing teenager.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


17 Responses to “Wabasso High Class of 1974 celebrates 40 years since graduation”

  1. cecilia Says:

    wow that is fantastic and you are still a wild bunch! c

  2. Rena Says:

    Too FUN-ny! So glad you all could be kids again. We old folks need to let loose once in a while.

  3. Beth Ann Says:

    I love the photo booth idea! I think it made the entire event so much more fun, don’t you? It loosened everyone up and photos are always such a pain to take –this idea took it to a different level! I am so happy you made the trip. I have yet to make it to one of mine but maybe someday!

    • That’s exactly what happened. The photo booth loosened us all up and allowed us to have fun and laugh. It was a great idea and well worth the added cost.

      Yes, you must attend your class reunion once.

      We had a crazy busy weekend with cleaning at Mom’s house, visiting Mom, attending the reunion, celebrating my sister-in-law’s 50th bday and then dinner with the daughter and her husband. We put on 475 miles crisscrossing the state to do all of these things. We were exhausted by the time we arrived home Sunday evening. I couldn’t make it to a book release party (to read my winning poem) in northern Minnesota or to a barn dance fundraiser I also wanted to attend. Too much on one weekend…

  4. I love these photos! Photobooths are so much fun and you’re right that they get people out of their seats.

    I remember that song, Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road. That made me laugh!

    So, people cited marriage and family as the best things that have happened to them since high school. Yes, the best thing in life is the relationships (family, marriage, friends) we form – far more important than anything else.

  5. Louise Flom Says:

    I had my 50th Class Reunion last week-end. Ours was much like yours. We were a class of 52 from a small farming community (Waterville). We actually had our reunion in a “barn” that our classmate has made in to a banquet hall. He had 11 children and when they started graduating and getting married they had the “hall” for the reception. We are all friends. No cliques. Nobody bragged about how much money they had (or didn’t have). We wrote cards to two classmates that are terminally ill and just thanked God for our good health! We visited all afternoon and in to the evening. Nobody had to pay anything because it was a potluck and nobody had to spend any money on a new outfit! It was great!! We had a great time!

    Louise Fom

  6. hotlyspiced Says:

    I wish you’d posted a picture of yourself as a ‘hip hugger, mini skirt, hot pants, go-go boot wearing teenager’ – I’d have liked to have seen that! How wonderful that so many turned out for the reunion. It looks like it was a great night and I love how everyone agrees their biggest success has been marrying and raising a family and that their dearest book is the Bible – that’s very special. We had our 30-year reunion last year and it was a night very similar to yours in terms of endearment, special memories, bonding and realising life is short. My sister Em, just came to Sydney from LA for five days for her 30-year reunion and she said it was so worth the effort and expense just to be there xx

    • Oh, I bet a lot of readers would like to see a teenage photo of me. But I have few photos of myself growing up; simply no money for film in our family.

      I’m glad to hear your 30-year reunion, and your sister’s, were equally as wonderful as mine.

  7. Jackie Says:

    What a fun group of classmates,loved all the photo’s. Looks like you had a great time 🙂 PS I really like the two photo’s of you and Randy…so sweet! I haven’t been to a class reunion since our 10th… we had over 500 in our class, only a handful that I would want to see. I still get together with some of my best girlfriends about once every couple of months, i may try to go to the next….whenever that is?

  8. Dan Traun Says:

    Looks like you have a great time. Love the photo booth candids!

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