Class of ’69 returns 50 years later

Alumni reminisce on their time at WHHS


Abby Jay

Alumni Randie Flaig and Brenda Pinkelton, ‘69, discuss a passage in AP Language & Composition – Human Rights with Nadiah Johnson, ‘21. The three of them also traded stories from their high school careers at WHHS.

By Matthew Proietti, Walnut Hills High School

When the 1968-69 school year began at WHHS, students were not allowed to wear jeans. When graduation came around, not only had students been able to don their denim proudly for a semester, but the entire dress code had been rewritten. Girls were now allowed to wear pants to school, instead of just dresses or skirts. All students were given much more freedom to express themselves through their clothing.

By the time calendars were flipped to Jan. 1, 1970, Neil Armstrong had walked on the moon, the Beatles had released Abbey Road, and nearly 500,000 people had flocked to Bethel, N.Y. for three days of peace and music at Woodstock. All this in one year – 1969.

What has not changed, and what impressed me the first time I entered WHHS for seventh grade, was how beautiful the building was. ”

— Margaret Maugenest, ‘69

The 1960s were a decade of change, and the class of 1969 here at WHHS got to experience it all. Just a few weeks ago, they celebrated their 50 year class reunion. Some alumni chose to sit in for an AP language class as a part of their return to their alma mater. A few of these former students provided The Chatterbox with their thoughts on the changes WHHS has seen, their experience in high school and the decade that shaped their years here.

“What has not changed, and what impressed me the first time I entered WHHS for seventh grade, was how beautiful the building was,” Margaret Maugenest, ‘69, said.

The alumni were given a tour of the school, seeing both the old and new. The exterior of WHHS’s famous rotunda looks much the same as it did 1969, along with much of the school’s older structures. But the alumni noted that beyond that, almost nothing looks familiar.

“[I] didn’t recognize the [inside], could not have found my way around. It’s a campus now,” Randie Flaig, ‘69, said. The school has seen some major renovations since 1969, most notably the addition of south field and the arts and science wing. WHHS is now much larger than it was 50 years ago. One alum made sure to mention that the addition of air conditioning was huge. The students of 1969 had to suffer the heat. “All the architectural additions I saw … built on that classical quality and beauty that had first impressed me,” Maugenest said. She believes that the architecture of WHHS helped elevate her education, which is a sentiment shared by the other alums as well.

They were then back in desks, sitting in on an English class, listening and taking notes. They saw both Dawn Wolfe and Kelsey June-Fragale’s classes. The teaching styles and subjects were very different from what they remembered in high school. They thought the classes were fast-paced and respectful toward students, while still being thought-provoking and engaging. “It seems that there is more of an investment in each student’s unique interests and successes than there was in ‘69,” Flaig said.

When describing their SENIOR year, they seemed to have nothing but fond memories. “I would not trade my time and experience at Walnut Hills,” one alum said.

“On the last day of school I roller skated from home to school – 4 miles. I was so exhilarated,” Maugenest said. She also remembers a specific junior high social studies lecture in which the teacher talked about the complexity of the world’s problems and how everyone has a different stake in these problems. She said this was “eye-opening,” and she has carried that idea all the way through life.

Flaig belonged to the thespian club, and his favorite SENIOR memory was being one of the leading men in The Diary of Anne Frank. He added that most of his free time was spent hanging out with friends, which the other alumni said was their favorite after school activity as well. They all agreed that the college admissions process of SENIOR year was not as big of a deal back then as it is now. They thought they got to live a little bit more than students today.

“Most folks I talk to remember exactly where they were when JFK was shot – we were Effies then,” Flaig said. The tragic assassination of president Kennedy was just one of the major events of the 60s that occurred during the class of 1969s time at WHHS. Everyone remembered the moon landing the summer after their graduation. Inside WHHS, the big event during their SENIOR year was, of course, the addition of jeans to the catalogue of school acceptable clothing (they unanimously agreed on what style was the best – bell bottoms). But more than just the concrete events of the 60s influenced this class.

High school does not define you. Know your own Truth. Speak your Truth. Live your Truth.”

— Randie Flag, '69

“The world changed in many ways because of the energies and visions of the 60s,” Maugenest said. Movements like feminism and environmentalism gained a huge following throughout the country, and WHHS was no different. The “radical” counterculture ideas of the 60s (like wearing jeans) were apparent in school. The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin were played loud and proud by the class of 1969. Rock music was only just beginning to shed its mainstream image of being the youth-ruining music of the devil, but they listened anyway. That attitude of going against the grain is what motivated many to take part in those activist movements. Maugenest noted that more than a few of her classmates went on to pursue activism after they graduated. Personally, she is involved with clean Earth and safe food organizations in her community. “Being part of the 60’s, you feel like you have to pay some dues for being part of the planet,” Maugenest said.

For their closing thoughts, the alumni gave their advice to the current SENIORS at WHHS.

“Follow your heart’s desires and dreams. Enjoy the beauty of the world, of people, of art in all its forms. Trust yourself. Listen to your guts. Don’t try to control your life too much – allow for some magic to enter. The universe is mysterious and works in mysterious ways,” Maugenest said.

“High school does not define you. Know your own Truth. Speak your Truth. Live your Truth,” Flaig said.

This story was originally published on The Chatterbox on October 2, 2019.