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Published: Wednesday, 5/23/2007

Great War, Depression vivid to class of '45

BY LAREN WEBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Harold Wolff, far left, offers a beverage to Dorothy Whitacre at the 62nd reunion of Waite's class of 1945. Harold Wolff, far left, offers a beverage to Dorothy Whitacre at the 62nd reunion of Waite's class of 1945.
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Several of the men in Waite High's 1945 graduating class were drafted to fight in World War II even before finishing school.

Their classmates, most of whom are 80 years old now, were in high school at a time when gas, food, and even clothing were rationed.

They also lived through the Great Depression - a time of high unemployment rates and poverty.

But despite all that, during their 62nd class reunion at the Bayside Boardwalk in Oregon yesterday, just a few minutes from their alma mater, Howard Lang said the class of 1945 considers themselves to be part of a lucky generation.

Andy Wongrowski, left, chats with 1945 class president Harry Mills. Attendees gathered at the Bayside Boardwalk in Oregon. Andy Wongrowski, left, chats with 1945 class president Harry Mills. Attendees gathered at the Bayside Boardwalk in Oregon.
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"We all pretty much agreed that we're very fortunate," said Mr. Lang, who lives outside of Genoa in Ottawa County.

The 79-year-old said he and his classmates grew up in a time when life was less complicated than it is now.

A time when people weren't pressured to live up to society's standards, and people's attitudes toward life were different, he said.

"We had our ups and downs. But [considering] the overall picture, we still say that we're fortunate," Mr. Lang said.

Rose Dinardo Giese, left, who graduated in 1945, Janet Mills, center, whose husband attended Waite, and Shirley Norton, Ms. Giese s daughter, share a laugh while looking at a white-board display adorned with alumni signatures on its back.
Rose Dinardo Giese, left, who graduated in 1945, Janet Mills, center, whose husband attended Waite, and Shirley Norton, Ms. Giese s daughter, share a laugh while looking at a white-board display adorned with alumni signatures on its back.
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Although they didn't encounter the same pressures as today's high school students, they did face the very real possibility of being drafted for war.

Mr. Lang was called to duty when he was 18 years old, but landed an office job with the Army during his first year of service.

After traveling to a few different posts around the country, he began infantry training in Alabama and then moved on to Fort Bragg, N.C.

The war ended before he made the trip overseas - something he's somewhat grateful for.

"I didn't want to volunteer [to go overseas], but I would have taken what they doled out to me," Mr. Lang said, adding that he attributes his long, healthy life to being drafted at a young age.

Patrick Clinger pins a corsage on the lapel of Nancy Scott, whose husband died two years ago. Ms. Scott enjoys the company of her late husband s classmates. Patrick Clinger pins a corsage on the lapel of Nancy Scott, whose husband died two years ago. Ms. Scott enjoys the company of her late husband s classmates.
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He said he was pretty "brainless" at that age, and the military provided him with some much-needed discipline.

For the women of Waite High School during that time, the war meant something different.

Daisy Kristie, who lives in Curtice, remembers many fellow classmates being drafted into the military and just as many volunteering.

She said sitting in class next to an empty chair was a difficult adjustment.

"You felt a loss, like something's not right," she said.

Nancy Scott of Perrysburg also knows that feeling.

Ms. Scott's husband, Robert, was part of the 1945 graduating class, but died two years ago.

Despite his death, she continues to attend reunions because she has gotten to know quite a few of her late husband's classmates over the years.

"Just being with friends of his is nice," she said.

The Waite High School class of 1945 graduated with 289 people, and 104 of them have since died.

Eight classmates have died since their last reunion two years ago, but none is forgotten.

Four white-boards lined with pictures of Waite High School graduates who have passed away sat propped up on chairs near the entrance of the banquet hall yesterday.

"It's a part of life," said Franni Moritz, chairman of the committee that organized the reunion. "You accept it."

Among the 55 or so people who came to yesterday's reunion, only two walked with a cane, which is "pretty good considering how old we are," Ms. Moritz said.

"It's not easy getting to 80 years old," she said. "Luckily, we've fared pretty well."

Contact Laren Weber at:

lweber@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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