50 year Gladstone SHS reunion: 'It's like we never went away'

STILL MATES: Members of the Gladstone State High School class of 1967 at their 50 years reunion.
STILL MATES: Members of the Gladstone State High School class of 1967 at their 50 years reunion. Julia Bartrim

"YOU might see a lot of old people over there, but we don't," said Denise Hutchinson, gesturing to a group of about 30 people gathered at the Curtis ferry terminal.

Denise, a former teacher, was school captain of the Class of 1967 at Gladstone State High School.

She had made her way to the ferry terminal to celebrate a 50 year reunion with her fellow classmates and their partners.

Ken Rogers, one of the event organisers, and Denise's co-captain, said former classmates had come from near and far to attend the reunion.

"We had one guy from America who got caught up in the hurricane in Louisiana. Unfortunately he would love to be here but he just couldn't make it," he said.

Denise said it was "fabulous" to see everyone again.

"I love it," she said. It's been really exciting. We're all the same on the inside, we might have aged on the outside but when you actually look into people's faces you can tell it's them."

"Someone just said to me about voices, they said - I knew it was you straight away because of your voice. Peoples voices don't change."

"I just keep saying to myself, 50 years is a long time and to be all together after 50 years, we are so lucky."

At the time of their graduation, Gladstone State High was the only high school in town.

"We were at the birth of Gladstone as an industrial city and we had a lot of international students," Denise said.

The international students were the children of company executives who had come over to manage the new industries cropping up in Gladstone.

"We had a number of American students, that broadened our horizons, we played against base ballers on ships ...we did American things," Denise said.

"We used to even salute the American flag, it must have been 50% of the school was American."

Ken said approximately 80% of his former classmates were attending the reunion.

"I think this is fairly unique," he said.

"There's 40 people coming to the dinner tonight (Friday) at the yacht club (including partners).

He said the Class of 67 was unusual; so many of them went on to become educators.

"We had an exceptional year, (out of a class of 33,) 15 went into teaching," he said.

Ken, a former school principal and one-time assistant director general with the Queensland Department of Education, credits the teachers at GSHS and the principal with inspiring himself and fellow classmates to work as teachers themselves.

"We had a really great principal, and...we were really pushed to do the best we could and we were really well supported by teachers," he said.

The principal, Bill Callinan, "appeared before the industrial relations commission in Brisbane to argue on behalf of equal pay for female teachers. That's the sort of guy he was," Ken said.

"He was known as 'dollar bill' because he used to raise money. When he left Gladstone he was called fifty dollar bill, because he was so good at it!"

The reunion crowd, talking and laughing, boarded the ferry for their cruise.

"It's like we've never been away," Ken said.

Topics:  gladstone state high school high school reunion

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