A gathering of Windham High School graduates from long ago and today – celebrated most of the last 105 years.
One of Windham’s oldest institutions is the annual Windham High School Alumni Banquet, held recently at Windham Middle School. Over 200 WHS graduates, many with spouses, gathered for a meal, memories and more on what was the 105th year since its creation in 1911.
The storied gathering featured alumni from the class of 1939 to 1995, and even 2016. Giant PowerPoint slides flashed overhead during the event, showing high school yearbook pictures and personal information of all the classes in attendance.
The predominant activity is talk. Typically, classes are assigned a table where classmates enjoy the meal together. But before and after dinner and the events, which include various raffles, recognition of the classes and special acknowledgement of veterans, graduation years fade as all ages meld into reminiscing, idle chit-chat and the always recurring theme of the aches and pains of advancing age.
Dinner, consisting of stuffed chicken and sauce, green bean almandine, baked potato and ice cream and cupcakes donated by the attendees, was prepared by the middle school culinary staff and served up members of the Union Parish Church Youth Group.
“They volunteer every year,” said alumni association president Sam Simonson, “and just their presence alone adds so much to the occasion. We appreciate their public service.”
|Jane (Lowell) Sudds, Windham High School Class '39, poses with her niece Pam Lowell, class '77 at Windham Alumni Banquet|
The head table is reserved for the 50th year class – this year the class of ’66, most of whom sported maroon and white t-shirts with 66 prominently displayed across the front.
“It’s our graduation year and our age,” joked one class member. The shirts were designed by Robert Lundy (class of ’66) who was not present due to illness. “We’re wearing the shirts with love and appreciation.”
The most senior alumna was Jane (Lowell) Sudds, now of Falmouth, representing the class of ’39. When asked to share something about the class of ’39, Sudds thought for a moment and replied, “Nobody’s left.”
“We survived the Great Depression because we lived on a farm,” Suggs said. “My father worked for the W.P.A. (Works Progress Administration). She remembered prom and graduation as “simple but nice.” And her favorite class: Home economics.
The 1939 Windham High School yearbook noted that Jane Georgianna Lowell was “…one of the school’s star basketball players (and) helped add a little dignity to our mischievous class. She has maintained a perfect record of never being tardy or late for all four years.”
|Windham Union Parish Church Youth Group - volunteer servers.|
Sudds also shared recollections of her early school years in Windham. She attended Ireland School, a one-room schoolhouse once located on the corner of Nash and Falmouth Roads. She spoke fondly of her teacher, Clara Nash (a historically significant figure in the history of Windham education). “The school had an outhouse,” she remembered, “and you had to dress warmly because the wood stove was located at the front of the room.” Following high school, Sudds became a nurse at the Maine Eye and Ear Infirmary, the predecessor to Maine Medical Center.
The alumni association was born with Windham’s first high school (now the town hall). After construction was completed in 1910, the first graduating class established an organization that would honor and reward all succeeding graduates.
As originally conceived, the association sponsored a banquet for graduating seniors and awarded a scholarship for Most Improved Student (from freshman to senior year), which is still awarded today.
Today’s graduating seniors, however, do not attend the banquet. The scholarship, along with another entrusted to the association by the now defunct Windham Grange, is awarded to deserving seniors during the high school’s regular graduation activities. During this year’s banquet, Simonson learned that one of the youth group servers was a 2016 Windham High School senior. He told her that, based on tradition, she should have joined the attendees. Simonson said she responded, “No, that’s all right. I’m enjoying helping out.”
Windham historian Kay Soldier said, “Early banquets were held in a variety of places, including local restaurants, until the gym was added to the high school in the 1920s…During the war years (early 1940s), the banquet was skipped because so many graduates were overseas.”
|50th year class, '66|
Soldier said the first alumni award in 1911 was for $2.00. It has risen to $500 in 2016. The Grange scholarship is given to a student planning to pursue work in agriculture or a related field.
Soldier commented, “Windham’s annual high school alumni banquet is unique; few towns can boast of such an event, which brings so many people together, all with a common bond. This is how a community thrives.”
Windham Alumni banquet is held annually in May on the first Saturday after Mother’s Day.
Simonson said, “There’s always room for more,” and encourages more classes to become involved. Association secretary Susan Simonson said a reminder notice will be sent a few weeks ahead of the event and anyone interested in attending can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.