By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
Back-to-school week is special for June Gregory, but not because she goes to class.
At 88, she’s been a retired teacher for nearly three decades. Today, she and other members of Snohomish High School’s class of 1942 will relive their own school days.
She hopes to see about 18 classmates — with spouses, 24 people or so — out of a class that originally numbered 109. “This year there may be fewer,” said Gregory, who lives in the Cathcart area.
The class will meet for its sack-lunch gathering at noon today in Snohomish’s Hill Park, on the east shore of Blackman Lake.
“This is our eighth year,” said Gregory, who was June Seymour in high school. A widow, she lost her husband, Frank, in 2002.
For their 60th reunion, the class held a dinner and sat together at a Snohomish High football game. Soon after that, Gregory began organizing annual picnics as an inexpensive alternative to gala reunions. “It’s so easy, they just come. People think it’s wonderful,” she said.
Children of the Great Depression, Gregory and her classmates were high school seniors when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. At least eight classmates died in World War II, Gregory said.
“Snohomish wasn’t so big then. We were really close,” she said.
Gregory started at Emerson Elementary School. In fourth grade her class moved to Central School. For seventh and eighth grades, they were upstairs at Snohomish High School. “We got to go to their assemblies and basketball games. We felt we knew all those kids,” she said.
With the war on, she left Snohomish after graduation. She earned her teaching degree at Central Washington College of Education, now Central Washington University, in Ellensburg.
She was gone from Snohomish for 40 years before moving back in 1982. Married and raising a family, she taught in Mount Vernon, Shoreline and for most of her career in Bellevue.
As children start school this week, she noted that teachers get first-day jitters, too. “My first year, I was shaking in my shoes. You get used to it,” Gregory said. Much of her career was spent teaching kindergarten — “which I loved,” she said.
Class size is a perennial issue, and Gregory said that’s nothing new. “I had one class of 39,” she said.
As a teacher, reading was her favorite subject. She knows that academics are stressed in today’s kindergarten classrooms more than in years past. “We always felt that social adjustment was really important, how the child related to others,” she said.
She is no fan of today’s emphasis on standardized testing, believing that teachers have little choice but to teach to the test. “If they didn’t have to do that, they’d have a lot more time to spend in other areas,” Gregory said.
Also, teachers now struggle to teach what was once learned at home — “manners, specifically, and behavior,” she said. “We were talking the other day about the Greatest Generation. Really, my folks would be amazed at the changes socially in just about every aspect of our lives.”
With three daughters, three granddaughters, and two great-grandchildren, Gregory has advice for today’s parents.
“Get involved in the school. That way, you know what’s going on,” she said. As a teacher, she had success getting older students to help younger ones. “I found that the kids having trouble themselves, they were the best helpers,” she said.
Today is about memories. Men in their 80s — Gregory called them “the boys” — still talk about football games played 70 years ago.
“Men enjoy these reunions so much,” she said. “They don’t keep in touch with each other like the girls do.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; email@example.com.
Snohomish Class of 1942 reunion
Members of Snohomish High School’s class of 1942 will hold their 70th reunion with a sack-lunch gathering at noon today at Hill Park, 1610 Park Ave., Snohomish. Members of other 1940s classes welcome. Information: 360-668-3260.