Photo by Martin van den Hemel
As the graduating class at Steveston High School prepared for the “real world,” the times were, as musical icon Bob Dylan noted, “a-changin’.”
The year 1968 was particularly tumultuous, with great social unrest and political upheaval. In the U.S., opposition to the Vietnam War was escalating amid calls to end racism, and to honour slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
At home, Richmond students forged ahead, their daily routines ranging from participating in or watching floor hockey games at lunch to supporting the Packers in basketball and football—particularly against the rival Richmond Colts.
Gathering at the local McDonald’s and AW was also a practice that has spanned the generations. Other popular hangouts were the Bamboo Grove restaurant, Gassy Jacks Discoteque, the Delta Drive Inn, and the Stardust Roller Rink.
“We also all remembered getting our driver’s licenses,” says Janet McMaster, a member of the grad committee who is helping to plan a 50-year reunion on Sept. 22.
Music also played a big part in their lives, she says. Fans of The Beatles anxiously awaited the release of the Fab Four’s so-called “White Album,” while the seemingly-timeless Rolling Stones and Vancouver-based groups like the Poppy Family, Kentish Steele and The Shantelles, Jason Hoover and The Epics, and The Night Train Revue were also popular with the young adults.
“It seems fitting for the graduates to be celebrating our 50th with a dinner and dance with live music played by Flashback Solid Gold Memories,” says McMaster.
Billed as “The Last Big Hurrah!,” the reunion at the Pacific Gateway Hotel will give the former Steveston students and their families the chance to reminisce. At present, nearly one third of the 282 graduates have confirmed their attendance.
This will mark the third time the graduates of 1968 have gotten together, following reunions in 2008 and 2013. Plans for the 50th began last July, with the committee members meeting every six weeks to plan and organize the event.
Packer Pride was prevalent in 1968. And attending Steveston High School was a big deal in the lives of the students, remembers McMaster.
“We were very excited to become high schoolers,” she says, whether coming from Hugh Boyd or McRoberts, the two junior highs that fed Steveston at the time.
In the 1960s, Steveston featured only grades 10 through 12. But the Class of 1968 had to spend an extra year at their junior high schools, as the district added Grade 10 to the junior highs in 1966.
“After we stayed that extra year at our respective junior high schools it was finally our time,” McMaster says. “Needless to say we were all very thrilled and excited and many lifelong friendships were formed.”
But, McMaster adds, “we didn’t have any idea what high school would be like. It was quite an adjustment having to deal with lockers, remembering your combination, timetables, bells ringing, breaks between classes and wondering where to go next.”
Despite the challenges they all faced in the late 1960s, one committee member suggested it was more carefree than today. The prevailing thought is that students today face increasing pressure and competition such as enrolling in university, securing a job and being able to afford to live in their community.
But, added another committee member, there are more job opportunities for females in 2018.
“When we graduated in 1968 females became either a teacher, nurse or office worker. Now, females can become whatever they want—from astronaut to pilot to firefighter. And there are more trade occupations available to people, embraced as lifelong career choices both for men and women.”
In addition to dinner and live music, the 50th reunion of the Steveston Class of 1968 will feature a 50/50 draw, door prizes and a slide show of memories. Register at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a cheque for $85 to Dennis Hamade, 11960 Osprey Dr. Richmond, BC V7E 3S6. Net proceeds will go toward a scholarship at Steveston-London Secondary School.