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A last hurrah for the hardy few

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Seven decades after setting forth to make their marks on the world, what was left of a black tornado reconvened in a whirlwind.

More than a dozen seniors nearing 90 years old gathered with their spouses Saturday evening at the Springs at Veranda Park in East Medford, remembering the Medford of their youth, spending their school years during the second World War and graduating high school in a time long before iPhones and the internet, and more than a decade before zip codes.

In the summer of 1948, there were more than 200 graduates of Medford Senior High, according to Ron Nutting. On Saturday, there were 16 (corrected) in good enough health to reunite.

“We’re down to the hardy few,” Nutting said.

Ive McKinney of Redding, California, remembered a time during World War II when Camp White’s 90,000 people outnumbered Medford’s population by more than six-to-one. He remembered German POWs laboring in Southern Oregon’s pear orchards during the summer.

As a kid, McKinney said he’d pull the stem from pears and toss them at POWs over the fence.

“We’d throw ‘em like a grenade and lob ‘em at them,” McKinney said.

McKinney, who was on Medford’s basketball team, also remembered being coached by Bill Bowerman, who went on to co-found Nike.

“He was a tough taskmaster,” McKinney said.

The drive and organization wasn’t enough for the basketball team to win, McKinney recalls. They ended the season with 11 losses.

“We did beat Talent and Phoenix, though,” McKinney said.

Nutting and Dalton Straus, who ran track together, remember being among four runners who set the state record in the 2-mile relay.

They were also coached by Bowerman, a Medford high school graduate himself, who coached in Medford through the 1948 school year. The next year Bowerman took a coaching position at the University of Oregon, before moving on to the shoe business.

Nutting, who now lives in Portland, remembers Bowerman as “very intense” and “just a very good coach.”

Between the 16 (corrected) classmates was a concerted effort to end seven decades of gatherings on a cheerful note. The invitation called it a “last hurrah.”

McKinney, retired after a career in teaching, and now in his late 80s, said his memory isn’t what it used to be.

“I can’t remember my cell phone number, but I can remember kids in first grade,” McKinney said.

John Gustafson couldn’t remember the name of the classmate who went on to head Pacific Power, but did remember the Ford V8 he helped him build. The name Al Gleason returned with the help of other classmates.

Others built careers as lawyers, physicians and police officers.

Art Keith, who retired as a Medford police officer in 1985, is among the classmates still kicking.

The eldest classmate was Ed Clark at 90 years old. Clark, son of local architect Frank Clark, had dropped out during the war before graduating with his younger brother in ‘48.

Since the last reunion five years ago, seven classmates (corrected) had passed away, according to Nutting.

“We realize this is probably the last time we’ll all see each other together,” Nutting said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

Medford's class of '48 recounts high school haunts at final reunion. Mail Tribune/Nick MorganThumbnail
Marilyn Mulhall-Nutting, left, of Portland, and Joan Osborne, of Roseburg, embrace during their 70-year Medford High School class reunion at Veranda Park in on Saturday. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch