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Memory Test: How Many Can I Recall from LHS Class of ’71?

August 15th, 2020 · No Comments · Lutherans

Lutheran High’s 1971 yearbook.

I have been kicking this around for years.

“How many kids from the 1971 senior class at Los Angeles Lutheran High School could I recall by name?”

Wouldn’t that be a fun mental challenge? Maybe?

There were 132 of us in the senior class, by my count, 66 boys and 66 girls, . A small-enough class that I had a shot at naming at least half of them — if I really have a knack for this sort of thing.

People have told me I have a pretty good memory. For long-ago stuff. (Not so much for the 21st century.)

So, finally, I went for it, as many kids as possible! It happened a long time ago! I can do this!

I found a clipboard and a pen and got down to some serious dredging of the depths of my brain, with the aid of my trusty assistant, who was armed with a nearly pristine copy of the brilliant (no, really) LHS 1971 yearbook, “Paw Prints”.

I created some rules.

–A surname is required. Given names? Not enough. Just a surname, when stated clearly, is OK.

–I would give it 24 hours, and then I would give up. From afternoon to afternoon, which created a silly situation where I would blurt out “David Bennett!” during dinner and an hour later “Dorothy Colburn!”

–No help from the yearbook holder. (“Turn that thing away from me!”) No clues. No hints. In one case, I had the first name and a physical descripion of one of the cheerleaders … but it did not count till “Takagaki!” landed in my head.

After those 24 hours, I came up with (drum roll) … 82 classmates (including myself), which works out to a 62.1 percent recollection rate. I think that is OK, five decades later.

It was a strange experience, in some ways. I sat on the couch and stared off into space, creating mental images of these teenagers; if I could see a face I had a much better chance of remembering a name.

Recalling the people around someone I had a strong memory of … was a useful tool. Remembering what the school liked like, and who might spend time in that area … also helped.

It became difficult after 40 or so. I pushed along, mostly one at a time, often going minutes and then gleefully announcing a name. One I hadn’t been nosing around, as part of a group or a former classmate.

How does the brain do that, at 66 years of age? How can it summon these faces when I haven’t seen them in decades?

I know there are theories about earliest memories taking a grip on the mind, and eventually not allowing in anything new. But this was ridiculous.

Thus, let us name those who came tumbling out of my brain, often to my own great surprise.

Here we go, by groups of 10, with comments when pertinent.

Dennis Doescher (quarterback and student body president), Ken Meier (student body president the year before), Jim Heitkotter; Andy Jackson (my pal on the unbeaten 1970 JV ball team; died young), Dave Blount (too small for football, played anyway), Al Watson (great wide receiver), Terry Lane (the other great wide receiver, Rory McDonald (bkb gunner; if only the three-pointer had existed), Walter Stoner (toughest guy on football team); Mark Chaplin.

Bob Kollman (beat me out for tight end job), Mark Miller (our biggest/best O-lineman), Jim Wallace (center), Dan Campbell (played ball and clarinet), Chris Hengst (two-way player: linebacker, guard), Wayne Luke (smartest kid in the school?), Morris Maalis (a pal, also something of a trouble-maker in a Ferris Bueller sorta way; contact explosives?); Bruce Van Patton (handy with a trumpet), Mike Paik (nailed it in calc and trig); David Poston (childhood chum).

Dave Olufson (guitar man on Senior Square), Brad Wyatt (class clown), Sean Gallagher (class thespian), Mike Maleske (quiet man), Sue Wright (a Long Beach homie); Dave Buchholz (the other quiet man), Bob Matson (joke-teller supreme), Dan Delight (yes, he was), Todd Garner (senior class prez, artiste), Larry Reynolds (basketball star).

Dan Felton (pull-tab ring), Rodney Edison (injury ended his football career), Dwight Dudley (a big ol’ kid), Nick Elliot (charming exchange student from Oz, also played defensive tackle); Frank Estes (best hitter on good ball team) Robin Eichenberg (cheerleader), Wendy Hennell (cheerleader), Cindy Gabel (my secret crush); Jan Courvoisier (my cousin), Patty Kreamer (belonged to every club, played on every team).

Suanne Hanstedt (majorette), Chris Kutschinski (4.0 valedictorian), Jan Baillie (played all sports), Elisha Emel; Robbie Sherrells (one-woman sound machine); Joanne Rasmussen; Penny Harnquist; LeeAnn Bunton, Maria Bunton (sisters); Janet Reggio (came from my home church).

Milan Pezich (another LB homie), Marilyn Listvan (physics genius), Mindy Sprague; Cathy Takagaki; LaNae Schultz; Gary Ashcavai the creative force behind the brilliant yearbook; Darryl Hicks (dominated in the paint;) Tom Rodde (fun guy), Pam McWilliams (artsy); Me.

Gay Ittner; Sandy Luebbe, Randy Lau (his picture and mine were accidentally switched in the football team photo), Jerry Clark (ran the hurdles), Judy Meyer (kind), Mark Moody, Virginia Carter, Mark Deardorff (the campus Young Republican), Tonye Lightfoot (excellent singer), Randy Brooks (top tennis player).

Kevin Behrendt, Felix Powell, Gwen Smith, David Bennett, Lisa Bednar, Tony Allen, Valerie Edwards homecoming queen; head cheerleader), Dennis Levin, Jeff Peters (gave off surfer vibes); Dorothy Colburn, Armando Hamilton.

That leaves 50 classmates whom I could not conjure.

Anyone who sees this and wasn’t in the 82 … well, it’s not you, it’s me.

For starters, I hardly spoke to girls, and the gender of the 82 I remembered skews heavily male — 52 guys, 30 girls. That’s 63 percent male, 37 percent female.

I began this folly by mentally reviewing every sports team we fielded, and the top 35 or so skew heavily male — 34 of 35 — as I went down the letterman mental list.

Classmates who did much with singing or other arts … I did not come in touch with them. No choirs, no creative writing. You were where I wasn’t.

On the other hand, when I saw the list of 50 … I groaned over several omissions. “How could I not remember him/her?!” One of them was a football player I practiced against every day and also played in the concert band. Another was a girl who was always in the student council.

Others? Mostly “no chance.” I remembered most of them when I saw the mug shots, but if I had sat and pondered for another 24 hours, I would not have added much to my total of 82.

So, that was kind of fun. You could perhaps try it yourself. Seems like you would need a class with 50 kids minimum, and maybe 150 maximum, to have a fair shot at any or all of them.

I liked most aspects of high school and I am sorry L.A. Lutheran was shuttered, back in the 1980s. Something about a balloon payment on a piece of property in Burbank.

In a way, this post is a tribute to some of the bright and friendly kids who graced that little campus on the edge of Inglewood.

In theory, the Class of ’71 should have a 50-year reunion next year. Or maybe we should let it go, and stick with our memories of a special time and place and the kids who populated it.


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