Today, 6th, 7th and 8th grade students roam the halls of Northview Middle School proclaiming proudly that “today, like every day, is a great day to be a Falcon.” With high school students and faculty proudly exuding their own Panther Pride just across the parking lot, it is hard to imagine the building as anyplace other than Northview Middle School. But make no mistake, to 6 classes of Panther alumni, it will ALWAYS be North Central High School.
The original North Central High School opened its barely constructed doors on September 5th, 1956. The student body of 1056 freshmen, sophomores and juniors worked hand in hand with 56 faculty members to form a new community and develop “new” traditions. The experience is one that formed impressive bonds that, like the Northerner and Junior Spectacular, are still holding strong some 60 years later.
Seven years ago, Ed “Moose” Krause, class of 1960, was in declining health and realized he was craving that bond, so he called a few high school friends for lunch. That lunch has now grown into a bi-monthly gathering with an email distribution list of over two dozen. The distribution list, which includes Bill Diehl, Bob Schloss, Bill Teeguarden, Steve Tegarden, Mike Smith, Chuck Poland, Don Foley, Denny Walters, Dave Richards, Bert Wilhoite, Jim Light, Bob Enoch, Mike Chenoweth, Bill Tyner, Bill Baines, Mickey Maurer, Mark Beesley, Jim Birr, Larry Hannah, Don Morrison, Joe Walsmith, Steve Orr, Mark English and honorary members, Prue Krause (Moose’s wife) and Bill Bugher (longtime NC teacher and administrator) is a testament to the tenacity of Panther Pride. The group’s name, like the email distribution list, has evolved over the years; ROMEO (Retired Old Men Eating Out) Club, Moose’s Lunch Bunch, Panther Lunch Bunch, and NCHS Lunch Bunch, but the sentiment of friendship has been consistent.
Moose passed away about 3 years ago and Steve Tegarden was charged with the bi-monthly invitation. He shared that “some hardly ever miss our get-togethers, and others are infrequent visitors but come when they are in town. There is never an agenda – conversation ranges from ‘remember when’ to ‘whatever happened to…’ to ‘what’s ailing you today’, rarely, there’s an attempt to solve some of the world’s problems.”
Back in May, Baines, Bugher, Diehl, Foley, Maurer, Morrison, Poland, Schloss, Smith, Tegarden and Wilhoite decided to make an “epic trip back to 1956.” They traded in their usual cloth napkins for a slightly more utilitarian melamine lunch tray. The group once again walked through the Northview, né North Central, lunch line and shared memories made more potent by being on their old stomping grounds.
Most of the memories were mischievous and infinitely uplifting. Bert Wilhoite may have feigned ignorance, but the rest of the group was emphatic when recalling the mayhem created by his purchase of a pig to turn lose in the halls 3 weeks before the end of school (Criscoed no less). The group shared the importance of making friends with the girls who collected attendance slips. Apparently a good relationship was the best way to score a black market re-admit slip for yourself. Mike Smith was not ashamed to admit he could sign assistant principal Callison H. Smith’s initials better than Mr. Simon himself.
Some remembrances, while less joyous, were still meaningful, such as honoring the memories of classmates who had passed or who were injured while in school. And while they all praised their incredible education and the staff that provided it, some lessons proved more useful than others. Mike Smith may have excelled in penmanship, but noted as he passed by his previous trigonometry room that “62 years later and I feel like Mr. Gish should know I have STILL never used one item of trig from that class.”
The overarching sentiment as they reminisced with each other and passed their memories on to current Northview students was a deep appreciation for their time in Washington Township and a profound respect for the community, teachers and coaches that made their experiences possible.
They were not alone in their experiences. Seven years after opening its doors, the stellar reputation of North Central High School had spread and the student population had exploded with well over 2,400 students cramming into the original building. On September 4th, 1963 the doors to the new North Central High School opened and the building the lunch bunch knew as their alma mater would become Northview Middle School. The building has changed, but what has not is the pride these Panthers, classes 1958 through 1963, have for the traditions and community they created and fostered. They are still very much Panther Proud.