Just over 70 years ago the Turlock High School Class of 1944 celebrated a milestone moment — graduating high school — on June 6, the same day that the allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy marking the beginning of the end of World War II.
THS graduates stood for a moment of silence during their graduation ceremony on D-Day to honor those fighting in the War, many of whom had already left high school to fight for the cause. Other graduates at that time, such as local Dick Weaver, had entered into an agreement with the government earlier that school year to enter the armed forces upon graduation.
“I graduated on June sixth and two days later I was in the Navy,” said Weaver. “We were ripe for the draft when we graduated, but many took off to war their junior year. That was a big thing to do.”
Seventy years later and many of the Class of 1944 graduates are still sitting side by side, but now it’s at monthly reunions at local restaurants rather than their graduation ceremony. A tight knit group of individuals, many of the members of the Class of 1944 have been friends since elementary and have made a point to preserve their relationships long after high school. The timing of their high school graduation served to unite the women in particular who leaned on one another for support after their brothers, boyfriends and family members had left to fight.
“There were lot of girls and not too many boys at the graduation,” said Katherine Dickey. “I think the reason all of the girls have been so close over the years is because we hung in there together when all of the fellas went to war.”
“We were really just like family for one another,” added Louise Marchant. “It’s very much a strong bond.”
The ladies of 1944, who also meet for breakfast once a week, have met for years and expanded to include the men at their monthly meetings upon their retirement from work. While these Class of 1944 monthly meetings provide the group a sense of camaraderie and a way to stay in touch, the members also enjoy reminiscing about experiences unique to their class.
“We were the first class to have a class ring, a reunion, and a dance,” recalls Weaver. “We had to convince the Board of Trustees to let us have a dance because we didn’t think we could provide for the regular junior and senior banquet because of the rations. That was a big deal.”
Despite the tumultuous time in which they lived and the loss of members over the years, the Class of 1944 continues to maintain their monthly meetings and pride in what they class “the best class.”
“It is fun because we get to catch up on what everyone is doing, how their kids are doing, vacations and things of that sort,” said Carmen Johnson. “We also boss each other around, it’s a good time.”