It had been 40 years since the 1969 graduating class of Agassiz Elementary Secondary School had seen each other.
In 1979, just over 30 former classmates from the high school gathered at the Elks Hall to revisit old memories and get reacquainted with each other. But although the class tried to get other reunions off the ground, it never worked.
For the 50th reunion, however, Nanda Polman, Anne Te Brinke, Marlene Sand and Michelle Wheeler were determined to make it happen.
“That’s why it was such a great evening,” Te Brinke said, sitting at Sand’s dining room table after the reunion. “Because it’s been so long since a lot of us have even seen each other.”
According to Te Brinke, Polman was the instigator of the reunion plans. She had called up Te Brinke one day to chat, reconnecting with old friends, and in their conversation brought up the idea of another reunion.
Te Brinke brought the idea up with Sand, and in February, the three women began planning — pulling Wheeler, who had organized the 10th anniversary reunion, in for the ride.
In just a few months, the students from the Class of 1969 — as well as some who had gone to elementary school at AESS but graduated elsewhere — were at the new Elks club over the Fall Fair weekend to celebrate 50 years since leaving high school.
“Everybody had a really neat story of what they’ve been doing, and how their lives have changed,” Sand said.
For some people, changes had been small. A number still lived in Agassiz, or nearby, and there were even two couples there who had been high school sweethearts.
Others came from far away — with one coming from Quebec to attend the reunion.
“There were people that came from the Okanagan and Prince George,” Sand said. “So that was a really nice feeling to know that people were still so interested in getting together.”
Of course, time had made other changes. Some classmates had passed away, and the passing years had left their mark on others.
Jim Coulter, the valedictorian for the class back in 1969, was the emcee for the evening and gave his valedictory speech for the crowd once again.
“He had his grad picture, and when he started his valedictory, he said ‘Remember, this is not me,’” Wheeler said, then mimed holding a grad picture in front of her face. “‘This is the person that wrote this.’”
Change had also crept through the town in the years since they were in high school.
“I think we just are the luckiest generation ever to have gone through Agassiz,” Sand said. “It had always been kind of isolated because the bridge isolated us from everything … People didn’t just race off to Chilliwack in those days.”
“We had the freedom of riding our bikes anywhere in town, doing anything,” she continued. “Going down to the river, you know, wherever we wanted to go. It was wonderful.”
That idyllic childhood, which Te Brinke, Wheeler and Sand all remembered, was one of the things which they said helped maintain that feeling of closeness among the graduating class — even 50 years later.
“I think, growing up in Agassiz, you get to be a little bit closer anyway,” Sand said. “In those days especially, you knew where everybody lived.
“And so after 50 years, all getting together, we just still knew each other.”