School days, war years remembered Classes of '42-'45 gather to reminisce ELLICOTT CITY/ELKRIDGE

June 28, 1993|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Staff Writer

Frank Crowson remembers listening to the news over a radio someone had brought to school: Franklin D. Roosevelt had declared war on Japan and its allies. It was Dec. 8, 1941, and Mr. Crowson was a freshman at Elkridge High School.

"Some of our upperclassmen even left that day to go enlist," Mr. Crowson recalled Friday at a reunion of the Elkridge High School classes of 1942-1945.

The War Years reunion at the Turf Valley Hotel and Country Club brought together dozens of classmates from Elkridge, Silver Spring, Glen Burnie and beyond.

Many recalled attending school together from first through eleventh grades.

At the time, Howard County supported four high schools. Children graduated from elementary school directly into high school; there was no such thing as middle school or junior high.

"We'd stumble out of elementary to high school," said Ed Grimm of Catonsville, who graduated from Elkridge High School in 1943.

Wartime rationing curtailed many activities. Class rings had no stones set in them. Several classes had to make do without hardbound yearbooks because there was a paper shortage. Sports competitions with other schools were canceled, and students played intramural sports at home.

"During World War II, it was a terrible time to go to school," said Leon Beaty, who graduated in 1943. "Gasoline rationing meant we couldn't travel and we had a mimeographed yearbook."

But if World War II cut short some activities, it created new ones. Students held "scrap metal drives," and collected tin cans and newspapers.

"We were very war-conscious," said Dorothy Bauman Phipps, who graduated in 1945. "We used to collect all kinds of cans."

Graduates also recall good memories of their school days.

Because there were only 40 students in his graduating class, Mr. Beaty got to participate in many school activities, including junior plays and operettas.

To escape wartime rationing of meat, butter, sugar and other foods, county residents would pile into the Laurel restaurant Velma Reeley Hudgins and her family owned.

"We were swamped because people didn't have enough to eat," said the 1945 graduate.

The war also forced students to grow up quickly. The class of 1945 created a memorial plaque for six young men who died in the war. The class of 1944 lost four.

It was not uncommon for 16- or 17-year-old boys to play hooky from school to enlist in the Army, Marines, Army Air Corps or Navy.

Mr. Grimm joined the Navy just five months before he was to graduate in 1943. While he underwent commando training in Santa Rosa, Calif., his mother went to the graduation to pick up his diploma for him.

Classmates also recall Elkridge as a much smaller place where everyone knew each other.

"Elkridge was a village," said Dorothy Iglehart Pumphrey, who graduated in 1943. 'Our parents knew our teachers, which certainly helped any behavioral problems," she said, laughing.

Helen Yadlick Kindt, one of the reunion's organizers, said the event gave former classmates, in their mid- to late 60s, a chance to feel young again.

"We reminisced, we laughed and we recaptured some of our youth," she said. "When we go back 50 years, we're 16- and 17-years-old again."

She's already planning the next reunion.

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