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Alumni Spotlight: Larry Nelson SHS Class of 1961



Larry Nelson SHS Class of 1961 Senior Class President


I am sharing Larry's opening remarks from the 45th reunion of the SHS class of 1961. I hope it sparks memories of times past. Welcome everyone to the 45th reunion of the Scottsbluff High School class of 1961. For someone who has been away from virtually any contact with Scottsbluff for close to 35 years, it's amazing to stand here and look out over all of my old friends, acquaintances, fellow students, and your spouses. 45 years...,it's incredible to think of all I've experienced in those years, but it's more incredible to think of the accumulated experiences we, as a group have had. And tonight is about those experiences, and sharing them with old friends. Oh my! Experience, growth, living, maturity, change, old...US!!! I'm standing here on this podium, looking out at all of you, and remembering how all of you looked last time I was here. No disrespect intended, but how did all of you (we) get so old?! 1961 wasn't really that long ago.

Wasn't it just a little while ago, like so many of you, I pointed my beloved 1952 lowered hardtop, six-cylinder, power-glide Chevrolet with its three coats of hand-rubbed Joe Dally's custom metallic green paint and moon hubcaps south towards college? And who is that old guy who looks back at me each time I look into the mirror? Yes...change , it's a funny thing. It either happens around us so slowly that we don't notice it, or it's so startlingly sudden we say, it just can't be, or deny that we're a part of it. But tonight as we celebrate this reunion, none of us can deny change as we remember, reminisce and share experiences. Speaking of remembering, remember downtown Scottsbluff in 1961? There weren't shopping centers. Every downtown building had a business and each was doing well. There were only two banks, a hospital, the Lincoln Hotel, Woolworth's, Ben Franklin's, three men's shops, five dress shops, and two movie theaters. There were three car dealerships and remember the Dutch Maid Bakery and those wonderful smells? There was the Spudnik Donut Shop, the Creamery, the Eagle Cafe, and Houkeeys Drugstore with its famous soda fountain. And everyone of them was closed on Sunday. There was the Dash-In and their famous Wagon Wheels and rum and Coke. And there weren't any bypasses, Main Street was the highway through town. That was also where most of us spent many nights and every weekend dragging main. Remember those nights when the gas tank was almost empty and we collected our pocket change to buy 75 cents worth of gas that lasted all night and into the next week? Remember when



the attendant was pumping the 75 cents worth of gas they also washed the windshield, checked the oil, checked the tire pressure, and sometimes, if there was a gas war, even gave you a small premium or green stamps? It was also a time when a tank full of gas cost three dollars, a new Volkswagen Beetle was $1700, a new Chevrolet sedan was $2100, a new house in Scottsbluff was $26,000 and the average annual salary was $5,315/year. Cawley's Tater Flakes was a thriving business and you knew all you had to do was ask, and I would be good for several bags of potato chips for a party or whatever. The Barbecue Pit was one of our favorite restaurants, and the area had four meat packing plants. The Park Motel was a thriving business and also the very first motel built in the state of Nebraska. And oh yes, who could forget Ish Schmidt and the "Inner City Lumber Show". Remember singing, "It's seven fifteen in the morning, as we gather around our radio, so that everyone can have some fun, and listen to the Inner City Show." Oh, how many mornings did we all wake up to that, or listen to it while we were getting ready for school? Let's see, what else was happening in 1961? The Beach Boys were formed in 1961, Chevrolet introduced the Impala Super Sport and the 409 engine. Westside Story won the Academy Award for best picture. The Twist and The Bristol Stomp were the popular dances, FM stereo was introduced in 1961, and that year, President Kennedy founded the Peace Corps. The Scottsbluff High School Marching band went to Washington D.C. to march in President Kennedy's inaugural parade that same year. That was then, let's come back to the present now. Let's see, yes, there are changes. Most of us are a little heavier, have less hair, maybe not in our noses and ears, but less on the top of our heads, more belly, pronounced smile lines, and other sundry wrinkles, sagging or perhaps even some body parts that don't work at all anymore. Some may have fewer body parts altogether. Some of us have different spouses, my lovely wife Shirley, Thank you Lord! Most of us are taking more meds, some a lot more meds. Then there's the age spots, aches and pains, mechanical parts, an assortment of stainless steel screws, plates, pipes, and staples. But there is also senior citizen's discounts and of course, grandkids! Changes! So tonight, let's embrace change, renew friendships, share experiences, remember the good times, and at the end of the evening smile and know again that life is good and everyday is a blessing. God Bless and enjoy the evening everyone!

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