GHS Class of '44 members share memories at reunion

By Shawn Hardy
Members of the Greencastle High School Class of 1944 held their 74-year reunion June 20 at Mrs. Gibble's Restaurant. From left, seated: Ruthie (McCormick) Martin, Fran (Greenawalt) Elliott and Betty (Angle) Lehman. Standing: Mary Louise Gingrich, Betty (Barnhart) Walsnovich, Ed Zarger and Jack Stahl. SHAWN HARDY/ECHO PILOT.

Members of the Greencastle High School Class of 1944 gathered for what was supposed to be their last reunion on June 20 at Mrs. Gibble's Restaurant.

But early on talk turned to next year's Old Home Week and they do, after all, always meet on Monday at Mrs. Gibble's during the triennial celebration, so a 75-year gathering is in the works.

"Holy smokes, we're still living," said Ed Zarger, one of seven class members at the reunion. Most are 92 years old and Zarger's advice for a long life is "don't die young."

He was joined at the reunion by Ruthie (McCormick) Martin, Fran (Greenawalt) Elliott, Betty (Angle) Lehman, Mary Louise Gingrich, Betty (Barnhart) Walsnovich and Jack Stahl. The seven represent half of the 14 class members still living.

They entered Greencastle High School, then located on South Washington Street, on Sept. 3, 1940, the largest class ever with 124 members, according to Elliott.

War was declared when they were sophomores and those memories remain vivid.

Walsnovich remembers going to school Monday morning and seeing a newspaper folded on a doorstep with just three letters visible "WAR."

"We were scared to death," she said.

There were also practical repercussions. Walsnovich's father didn't want her to get her driver's license because of gas rationing and Gingrich noted sugar was rationed, too.

They also did not get to take the traditional class trip to Washington, D.C.

"We went on a wienie roast at Cold Spring Park," Stahl said.

However, the class made up for it, traveling to Washington as part of their 50-year reunion.

Two months after graduating in June, Stahl and Zarger entered the military. Stahl served with the Navy in the Pacific and Zarger was an Army sharpshooter in Germany and France.

The end of the war brought jubilation. They aren't sure if it was V-E Day or V-J Day, but Walsnovich remembers cars driving slowly up and down the streets of Chambersburg with people jumping onto the fenders. She wondered if her parents out in the country had heard the news and later learned they were at a celebration at Chambersburg's Henninger Field.

"Oh, man," said Elliott, whose husband was home on leave at the time. "I remember going to the square in Waynesboro."

Classroom memories drifted in, too.

"I grew up in the country and had to mix in with the city girls," Zarger commented.

Frances Kesselring, widow of class member Frank Kesselring, admitted he was a prankster and put a snake or mouse in the desk drawer of teacher Margaretta Williams.

"Frank Kesselring, you come get this!" Williams is reported to have said.

Elliott remembers another time when the quiet of study hall was shattered when someone threw a firecracker.

There also was talk of classmates who have died, including most recently Bob Reymer, and their funerals.