50th anniversaries and celebrations seem to be popping up everywhere, at least in Arizona. My family left Idaho for warm Arizona in 1964. My father, the constant farmer, could no longer tolerate cold Idaho winters. Taking care of all those dairy cows had become too hard as his health declined. He and my mother had honeymooned in February of 1952 in Arizona and my mother knew it would be the right place for us. We moved into this house in November of 1964.
It was a rental home on Laird Street in Tempe, Arizona. Back then the yard was in much better shape and it had something new for us, a sliding glass door. My brother walked through that glass door soon after we began unloading the cattle truck filled with our belongings that my uncle Keith had driven from the farm to our new home. This home was also near my mother's Army buddy, Ruth Staddon's home where she had welcomed us as we waited for our beds to arrive. She had also planned a birthday party for me as I was turning 12.
This home was also near schools, both elementary and middle school, and we would no longer be bus riders but walkers. This is where I walked, Gilliland Middle School, which was then know as a junior high. I went from what was essentially a country school with a classroom for each grade to this school which was larger than my old home town's high school. I was in one of several 6th grade classrooms and there were also 7th and 8th grade homerooms and math, science, chorus, home ec, and art rooms. It was a bit overwhelming at first.
But Gilliland became a happy place for me. My new teacher, Irene Benedict, showed me extra attention and life was new but good.
This notice popped up on Facebook and I realized that I would be in Arizona that Thursday so made the effort to go. My sister, Becky, went with me, not because she also went to this school, but because this was also a feeder school for Tempe High School which she did attend. We only lived in the home on Laird for about a year and then my mother purchased a home on Bluebell Lane in north Tempe on the other side of the Salt River bed. With that move, I once again became a bus rider.
Until I saw this notice, I don't think that I realized that my 1964 arrival was to a brand new school. I knew the trees were little, but it just didn't register that the school was new. It was a boom time for Tempe. New sub divisions were popping up all over which called for new schools. This is also the year of the 50th anniversary celebration of McClintock High School which I attended my freshman and sophomore years. That new home in the north was bused no matter what, so it was easy to change us from school to school. It shifted back to Tempe High my junior year and I was still homesick for my old friends so that was the school from which I graduated in 1971 and also spent two years.
It was so fun to walk these halls again and remember my days as a Gilliland Roadrunner. I could remember where my classes were and what used to be where. All those great teachers' faces came back to me.
There were new buildings like this gymnasium. Back in my day, all PE classes and sports were outside. It was Arizona after all. There was also a newer wing off the back for 6th grade. Back when I arrived several of the 6th grade rooms were in portables. Mayor John C. Moeur, who was mayor at the time, just passed away at 91. More about that here. You can read his great interview about growing up in Tempe and this time period here. Arizona really began to grow after World War II when all the service men, English pilot trainees, and even German POWs who had been stationed or in camps here, returned for the good weather and chance at a good life. I guess that included my Women's Army Air Corp mom who had attended college using the GI Bill and also bought our home with a GI Loan.
I participated in student government as well as served as a cheerleader while attending this school. It was fun to see this picture in the trophy case. They played and won the championship basketball game in the Phoenix Coliseum at which I cheer leaded. They were just the warm up act to an NBA game to be played even though Arizona didn't have a team at that time. I was chatting away and walked right into Wilt Chamberlain on my way off court. It was my first true celebrity experience. Number 10 was my crush at the time and he returned as a teacher and coach to Gilliland where he spent many years before retiring. That is why the court is named for him.
I loved this great poster in the hall and recognized many of the faces.
Susan Bradley, the Valentine dance sweetheart, was my best friend and also my close neighbor in the new north Tempe neighborhood.
Of course, the retired teacher was in attendance. It really was good to see him again and we needed this picture just because he was student body president and I his secretary.
Most of my teachers are no longer with us but Jim lead me to Mr. Babcock in the library. He was my math teacher as well as the sponsor of student council. He, too, retired from Gilliland. He doesn't look 84. I loved that library (which had been expanded.) I was a library assistant but it was also the place I went to each day before leaving school to pick out a new book. When I think of Teacher Appreciation Week, I remember many of my teachers at Gilliland, Mrs. Benedict, Mrs. Hamilton, Mrs. Wright, Mrs. Coghill, Miss Janis, Mrs. Smith, and even the principal, Frank Houston, who also went to my church. Those were great years for me and I was there longer than either high school. It was good to go home for an evening.