Once a year for the past four years, Belfield has hosted the Belfield All-School Reunion in which students from any graduating class are welcome to attend.
Diane Buckman from the class of 1967 organizes the reunion, which began over coffee at Trapper's Kettle with fellow graduates Larry and Candice Dietz, Irvin and Glenda Buckman.
“They said, 'Well let’s get together and have some hamburgers and have our reunion now.' So we called the hall to see if there was an opening, and there was, so we got on the calendar. That’s how it happened. That was the little seed,” Buckman said.
They don't put the reunion together on their own, though. They have lots of help from the community.
It's a big event.
"The first year, it was an explosion. I mean, there must have been 300 people there. The floor was almost moving it was so full of people and so much excitement! … It was vibrating,” she laughed.
This year, they planned for about 150 people.
The reunions begin with a city-wide supper on Wednesday night.
Friday, people who wish to do so help decorate and set up the hall. They display old photographs on the walls. Graduates bring old cheerleading outfits, prom dresses, yearbooks and albums. Some people donate their items to the reunion crew to be displayed each year. Buckman brings something too — her brother's trumpet. They set up a military table and a remembrance table with obituaries of deceased graduates.
"The first reunion, Dave Paasch (now deceased) was in the class of 65, and his wife Renee Paasch donated his albums, the 45's and the 33's. Every year we have a drawing and we give away three or four of them. We have about 10 left, so she gave us quite a pile of them," Buckman said.
Saturday morning, they watch a slideshow presentation, take tours of the school, have a reception, then a meal followed by a social.
"At supper time, some went over to Burly’s, some went up to Trapper’s Kettle, some had home parties, so it spawns," Buckman said.
She said many of the attendees are retirees.
"We had people from the class of 1934, which was my 6th grade teacher, who is 102 and lives at Evergreen, " she said.
Buckman said it gives them a boost to be able to talk to their classmates again, some of whom no longer live in the area.
"It’s all about the people," said Mary Ann (Krivoruchka) Wanner, 1958 graduate. "Being able to connect with people that you haven’t seen for years. It’s fun to see how grey we are all getting! It’s fun to exchange pictures of your grandchildren, and for me it’s great-grandchildren. That we are really that old! When you’re with your high school friends, you’re young again - very young - because you have high school memories. Your mind is kind of jiggled to remember things that you forgot about. When you realize all the years that have gone by since high school days … you have a lot to talk about."
They talk about their lives now - the good and the bad.
"We had the ups, and we had the downs," Wanner said. "It was interesting to hear the people that really wanted to be there — one was from Boise, Idaho, and the other was from Minneapolis — that their health didn’t allow them to travel. We are in our 80's now, so you can understand how this happens. You really connect emotionally with the people that are having a very hard time in life right now, just living. There was a lot of conversation about that."
One person attending, she said, was very ill the previous year, but is back in good health and was able to have fun with them. Wanner said her group started lunch at 1 p.m. and didn't leave until 4 p.m., spending the time catching up.
The graduates also talked about memories of high school.
"People just sit around and talk. We just reminisce from high school days, things that were funny that happened, who was dating who, what our hairstyles were like and what our clothes were like, and who liked who but never went out with them," Wanner said.
Vicky (Polanchek) Orton from the class of 1957 said she and her friends recalled the times she had gotten in trouble in high school.
“I know they’re reminiscing about when they’d get in trouble in school, like maybe they’d take their first puff of a cigarette and got caught by the superintendent and maybe got expelled for a couple of days,” she laughed.
"Was that perhaps you?" Buckman asked her with a laugh.
Orton confessed. “Yes. I got caught. My girlfriends talked me into taking a puff of a cigarette, and I got caught.” She laughed.
She recalled other times she was "expelled" from school.
“I had a friend Maggie. We just could not get along.," Orton said. "One day we were at the trapeze bars and I hit her. She had a nose bleed. She hit me, and my glasses broke. We both got expelled from school ... I did break a gentleman’s nose that was a bully in school … one day I was so upset at him for bullying everybody, so I smacked him in the face, and I broke his nose. I got expelled from school."
Those stories and connections are what Orton likes about the reunions. She said she likes that they are responsible for bringing the people together and keeping memories of Belfield - both school and community - alive.
The next Belfield All-School Reunion will be Saturday, July 25, 2020.