- Associated Press - Sunday, July 19, 2015

SYCAMORE, Ill. (AP) - The Sycamore Cafe bustled with its usual breakfast business - but one table in the DeKalb Avenue restaurant resembled a Sycamore High School lunch table - circa the 1940s.

At the head of the table was heavyweight football quarterback and senior class president Rolland “Squeak” Wylde, sitting next to his high school sweetheart Gert Wylde. Jeanne Whitesell - clarinet player, student journalist, drama club member, plus other organizations - and a cappella vocalist, choir member, and Pep Club president Sonja Twombly.

Times have changed in the 70 years since these 87- and 88-year-old senior citizens were high school seniors roaming the halls of the former Sycamore High School on east State Street, which was demolished in 1986.

“My memory ain’t too good,” said Wylde, the former high school athlete who now uses a wheelchair and is battling Parkinson’s. “I don’t even know what I had for breakfast.”

Even as the fresh-faced class of 2015 turn their tassels and embark on the next chapter of their lives, local surviving members of Sycamore High School’s class of 1945 continue to have monthly brunches at Sycamore Cafe to stay connected and reminisce about going to high school at a time when girls didn’t play organized sports, school buses didn’t exist, girls wore dresses and boys wore slacks, and the words “Pearl Harbor” weren’t associated with a crummy Michael Bay film.

“There’s still the spirit there of the few that are local,” Whitesell said.

The monthly brunches started about 20 years ago during the high school’s 50th reunion, and numbers have dwindled now to about eight graduates, some of whom are unable to attend.

Wylde weighed 140 pounds when he was the Spartans’ quarterback, he said. There were no buses to take players to road games, so they piled into a cattle truck, he said.

And football safety gear wasn’t what it is today.

“I had a steel helmet, and the (interior) all broke off, so before every game, I had to stuff it with paper towels for some kind of cushioning,” Wylde said.

Wylde was one of the few Sycamore High boys who did not fight in the World War II, but his brother did and was killed, he said.

With so many senior lads already in the service, it affected the traditional courtship of prom season, according to Twombly.

“I remember that our senior prom, there was so many guys gone that we all invited sophomores or younger brothers,” she said. “We had a good time at that prom.”

“The girls had pretty dresses,” Twombly added, “but I don’t think they’re as extreme as they are now.”

Twombly used to cheer on the Spartans under Friday night lights, sing in the chorus and sing a cappella, which wasn’t too far removed from the popular music-without-instrument-accompaniment we see today.

“Music might be different, but some of it’s the same,” Twombly said.

The senior class yearbook - appropriately themed When GI Joe and Jane Come Marching Home Again - shows the remaining class in their glory days. Twombly was on the yearbook staff.

In a special section of the yearbook, each student signed a “will,” designating a certain object or memory to the remaining students.

Squeak said he “leaves his ‘enormous’ (remember?) accumulations of class notes taken from Mr. Hauswald’s many lectures, to Fred Larson. Of course, you don’t really need them, do you, Fred!”

In Whitesell’s will, she “rushes out of the door - dashes for home - gets all fixed up because Kenny is coming. After all - who knows how long he will be on the farm??”

Kenny and Whitesell eventually married.

“You never knew when he was going to be around for a date,” she said.

The monthly brunches are also attended by spouses and even widows of class of 1945 alumni.

Gert Wylde didn’t graduate until 1948, and met her beau when she was a freshman, and he was the senior class president.

“This one fellow asked if he found a girl would he go (to the prom). I just happened to walk by,” Wylde said. “(Squeak) said ‘Well, if she’ll go with me, I’ll go to the prom.’ That’s how we started.”

They were officially an item and have been ever since her mother gave her permission to go to the prom as a freshman.

Helen Doty lost her husband of 58 years, Calvin “Cal” Doty, last November. Though he was an class of 1945 alum and she went to school in Geneva, she still attends the brunches to socialize with her husband’s classmates.

“In this class, they’re all real friendly,” Doty said. “Almost everyone we’ve met were married a long time. In our day, when people got married, they stayed married.”

Cal Doty played tackle on the football team and worked at the post office before going school. Doty was also quite the jokester in the hallways, constantly picking at the girl whose locker was right next to his by slamming her door shut with his, or leaving stuff in her locker.

That girl who Cal picked at was Whitesell, who was sitting right across the table from his widow at Monday’s brunch. (Whitesell’s maiden name was Denby, so her and Doty’s lockers were next to each other all through high school.)

“I never knew what was going to be in there sometimes,” Whitesell said. “It annoyed me at first, but then I kind of liked it.”

Sandy Gustafson, Whitesell’s caregiver, was one of two caregivers at Monday’s breakfast. She’s only been attending with Whitesell for two years, but said it’s been insightful.

“They’re a fun bunch,” Gustafson said. “It’s been neat listening to the stories and keeping up with them.”


Source: The (DeKalb) Daily Chronicle, https://bit.ly/1C3EFMa


Information from: The Daily Chronicle, https://www.daily-chronicle.com

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