The year 1953 saw the end of the Korean War, the inauguration of President Dwight Eisenhower, and the release of the first polio vaccine. That June, 153 12th-graders graduated from John Marshall High School in Dinkytown. It was unlikely the newly-minted graduates could have foreseen how many of them would be close friends nearly 70 years later.
For more than 20 years, a group (now numbering about a dozen) of men and women who first met each other as students have been holding lunches every other month at Jax Café and staying in touch in between. While most of the folks who attend have moved away from the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood, the bonds formed so long ago still bring them back together often.
The school itself, which opened in 1903, merged with University High School in 1968 before closing for good in 1982. The school building at 1329 5th Street SE became an office space until its demolition in 2013. There’s a Target store there now.
On Friday, May 27, eight class members, along with spouses and relatives, sat down at one of the long dining tables at Jax Cafe to eat, drink and catch up with each other. They also sat still for a group photo, and reminisced about their shared history, with a bright red 1953 Cardinals yearbook on the table.
Where did they go after graduation?
Asked about what happened to the group after graduation, Anita Hewetson Scheiman said three-fourths of them went on to college. She got her first job at the University of Minnesota and was married at age 20. She has four children, four grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren, and now lives in Elk River.
When asked about why she thought this group has been able to remain friends so long, she said, “That’s what’s so odd about it – most of us didn’t know each other well in high school.” She feels that most of the group really got together around the time of their retirements and wasn’t sure if other classes are following a similar tradition.
The bi-monthly lunches at Jax have survived the restaurant’s two recent closings: Minneapolis restaurants were closed for several months in 2020 as COVID expanded; and in July 2021, discovered structural damage closed the restaurant for more than four months. Members of the group said they kept up through phone calls and email.
Larry Horsch, who, along with fellow grad Bill Daly and Bill’s wife, Silvia, does most of the list-keeping and coordinating of activities, mused about the history: “The area in Southeast was very homogenous back then; it was a working class neighborhood where the residents had a lot in common. We were very lucky.” He says he treasures these get-togethers because he knows, “We’re not going to be around forever.”
Barbara Skillings Reichow didn’t feel she fit in when she started at Marshall. “I wasn’t from the area, and our family was poor. I thought the kids from Pratt School had money and felt entitled, but I was wrong, and I learned to get along with everyone,” she said “Later, my house became a gathering place for friends, and we’d take pictures of ourselves on my back steps.”
Janice Streed Olsen agreed about retirement being a boost to the group’s formation, as well as coinciding with the class’s 50th reunion. She said, “I didn’t know back in high school how happy I really was, but I knew I wanted to keep that happiness.” Olsen, who has two children and four grandchildren, stayed in Minneapolis until 2019; she now lives in Owatonna, close to her daughter.
The group also joins with other surviving ’53 grads for an annual class reunion. Olsen said high school reunions can be great things, but she advises skipping the ten-year one: “People are still a little cocky then. It’s better to wait to see people after they’ve taken the hard knocks that come with a longer life.”
Below: Marshall High grads from the class of 1953 meet monthly at Jax. Seated, left to right: Anita Hewetson Schieman, Silvia Daly, Bob Daly, Carol Helgeson Blair, Marlene Myhre Bentheimer. Standing: Kay Horsch, Janice Streed Olsen, Larry Horsch, Barbara Skillings Reichow and Jeanne Swanberg Personius. (Photo by Mark Peterson)