One day before the 50th reunion, Dodge City High School's class of 1961 had plenty to do.


     One day before its 50th reunion, Dodge City High School's class of 1961 had plenty to do.
     Reunion organizers and their spouses bustled through Hoover Pavilion Thursday morning, moving tables and browsing through decorations. The decor would reflect a sock hop theme, a tribute to the Coca Cola-sponsored "Coke Hop" dances that people remembered from junior and senior high.
     "This used to be where the 'Coke Hops' were held," said Richard Burke, former president of Dodge City Community College and a member of the class of '61. "We'd come down here in junior high and have a great time dancing. We thought we were hot stuff to dance."
     The reunion will begin today with a get-together at Richard Cecil's home, followed by a lunch and sock hop Saturday at Hoover Pavilion. The weekend festivities will end with a memorial service Sunday morning at Boot Hill Museum.
     Richard's wife, Georgia (Scoggins) Burke, said she was eager to see her old friends again.
     "For me, just the general atmosphere of being back with classmates," she said. "And talking about memories, probably, and recreating new memories."
     Richard added, "Just reconnecting with good people that we had a lot of fun with and a lot of respect for."

Keeping in touch
     One hundred and eighty-one people graduated with the class of '61, and 30 have since died. Fifteen or 20 people still live in Dodge, and they rarely miss a reunion.
     Class members also get together once a month for a dinner — a kind of informal reunion.
     The class used to have a reunion every five years, then expanded it to once a decade. Now, class members are back to the five-year plan.
     "Since the last reunion, we've lost some classmates," Georgia Burke said. "And so, it's become 'Well, we need to do this more often before we lose more people.' As the idea of mortality sets in, we want to meet more often."
     A planning committee began organizing the 50th reunion three years ago, choosing a theme, reserving Hoover Pavilion and reaching out to former classmates. By Thursday, 90 alumni and their spouses — about 130 people in all — had signed up for the reunion.
     Committee chairman Richard Cecil said the group consulted other alumni in planning the reunion.
     "The first thing is to get good help, and that's what I got," he said. "And then everybody gives their ideas, and then we take their ideas and we run with the ball. If we like it, we go with it."
     Another alumnus, Joe Alvarez, took a break from setting up chairs to talk to a reporter. He said he did not serve on the planning committee but was helping out wherever possible.
     "It's been work, of course, but it's been enjoyable," he said.

High school memories
     In keeping with the sock hop theme, 1960s-era decorations — large fuzzy dice, old vinyl records and miniature poodle skirts — shared the stage with vintage photos of downtown Dodge. From time to time, people paused to look at decorations or flip through snapshots of their classmates.
     Throughout the morning, people lugged in boxes of supplies, moved tables into position or set up chairs.
     But despite the activity, people found time to trade memories of the class of '61.
     Richard Burke, who played in the Dodge High band, said the governor named the group as a Kansas centennial band in 1961. Later that year, the band performed in the Rose Bowl parade.
     Judy (Thorpe) McDaniel and Georgia Burke swapped stories about "Sophomore Day," when the boys dressed as girls and the girls wore boys' clothing. The sophomores carried the seniors' books and pushed them in wheelbarrows.
     "It was not a mean hazing, but it was a hazing," Georgia said, laughing at the memory. "They'd never go for it today. It was very fun, though."

     Reach Eric Swanson at (620) 408-9917 or email him at eric.swanson@dodgeglobe.com.