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Annual reunion brings out alumni of all ages

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By Will Grandbois
Sopris Sun Staff

In 1960, Carbondale Union High School and Basalt High School came together under one roof and became Roaring Fork High School. The arrangement only lasted for two years while Basalt’s facilities were improved, but it left a lasting impression in Carbondale. The high school, now two buildings along, still has the conjoined name, mascot (Rams rather than Bulldogs) and colors (Blue and gold instead of blue and white).

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“It was hard for the Basalt kids, but they did it,” said Diane Vickstrom, who was student body president in Carbondale at the time of the merger.

“I’m not sure how you have movers and shakers in a high school of 100 kids, but there were five of us,” she noted.

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That’s just one of many anecdotes exchanged at the Carbondale Union and Roaring Fork High School all class reunion, an annual tradition in the third week in September.

The three day event took place at Thirteen Moons Ranch south of Carbondale, with a catered dinner on Friday night, potluck Saturday and cooperative breakfasts throughout the weekend. There’s also an auction featuring whatever folks can afford to contribute, which helps raise money for the next year’s event.

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It’s an unorthodox arrangement that started as a more standard reunion for the class of ’63. With just 20 graduates to pull from, they opened it up to other grades and it grew from there.

“We had so many people and they said, ‘what are we doing next year?’,” recalled co-organizer Ann Samuelson. “It’s just fun to get together. Everybody visits everybody.”

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“We were always the responsible class,” added Donna Burkett.

Given some of the ’63 antics this reporter heard described but won’t repeat here, the “irresponsible” class of ’62 must have been a force to be reckoned with.

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Anyway, by the time I arrived on Saturday evening, it seemed like things were kind of winding down, although Let Them Roar was preparing to provide some background music under a magnificent view of Sopris. I hoped that my status as a Roaring Fork grad myself might lend some legitimacy to my visit and questions, but representing the class of ’08 I was more than a bit of an outlier. Indeed, the next youngest official attendee was Tom Provost, class of ’82, who was himself a bit out of his element but enjoying it nevertheless.

“It’s kind of interesting to see how life treats people and what they’ve accomplished,” he said.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the event has attracted graduates all the way back to ’27. On this occasion, seniority went to Gene Thurston, class of ’49, who remembers pitching in with his dad taking care of the school (now the easternmost section of the Bridges Center).

“Nobody had very much money in those days, so everybody helped each other,” he said.

In between were plenty of familiar faces (in fact, I’m beginning to wonder if anyone in this town doesn’t know “Smiley” Wise).

Most of them graduated in a time when you were more likely to go to the coal mine than to college, and all of them had stories. Folks like Samuelson who stuck around have seen the slow changes in the community and had a chance to embrace them, but, she notes, “those who have been gone and come back, they’re kind of shocked.”

There were fewer of those this year, with the furthest traveler we spoke with hailing from Nevada. Indeed, while some of the reunion’s charm is the potential to see different folks each time, the organizers wouldn’t mind some new energy.

“We need to get the next generation,” Burkett said.

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