Class of 1965 returns to Douglas County High School
CASTLE ROCK – In 1961 a gleaming new building greeted freshmen students as they arrived for their first day at Douglas County High School. This past weekend some of those same students returned to the storied school to celebrate their 50-year reunion and to reminisce.
“It looked like a castle,” said Jerry Ehmann, as he talked about arriving for the first time at the newly built Douglas County High School. “This was a brand-spanking new school then. We just couldn’t believe it. We were going to get to be part of a new building. It was really overwhelming.”
He and his classmates were the first class to attend all four years of high school.
“They made a big deal out of the fact that we were going to be the first class to go all the way though the new school from freshmen to senior,” Ehmann added.
“We were very fortunate and very blessed to go to a school of that size and to have that many activities. It was really a good time,” added Class President Jack Couch.
Couch says the school was financed and built to handle a surge of students following World War II.
“They actually built the school for our year, because we were the ‘Baby Boomer year,’” Couch explained.
His graduating class in 1965 had 125 students, far more than the grades before and after and more than the old high school building, now DCSD headquarters, at Sixth Street and Wilcox Street could handle.
Since then, the school has gone through a series of renovations, to keep up with the ever-growing Douglas County population.
“When you come in here as a freshmen you get smacked with all of these buildings,” explained DCHS Senior Class President Dylan Gessner. “It is one big huge campus.”
Current principal, Tony Kappas, and student leaders helped the alumni navigate the changed floor plan, but occasionally the visitors would stop to recall the old school, as well as moments they had spent there. For instance, nearly everyone remembered where they were on November 22, 1963 when an announcement came over the intercom that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.
Mostly, however, they recalled the highlights. While standing in the stands at Douglas County High School, Couch recalled the first time the Huskies took the field in their very own stadium.
“I played in the first football game that we ever played on that field. There was a blade of grass about every three feet, whether you needed it or not,” Couch said with a laugh.
All of the visitors were genuinely impressed by the schools newer athletic complex, but it was the small gym that had the biggest impact.
“This place right here. I spent a lot of hours in this gym,” Couch said.
He played basketball and loved the brand new gym—which was far bigger and more modern than the one at the Wilcox building.
“When we were coming up this was a state of the art gym. We never had a gym that had two floors,” Couch said.
The gym also offered far more space for spectators. At the old high school fans were relegated to a balcony.
“At Wilcox you had to get there an hour before to get a seat, because it was a tiny little gym,” Steve Cummings said.
Even when the school moved, the gym was still packed since families from across the entire County would pack in to cheer on the Huskies.
“The bleachers were all full and the end zones of the basketball court were packed, because there was such a sense of community as a county as a whole,” Cummings said.
As the Class of 1965 stood in the gym, they spontaneously broke out in the school’s old fight song.
While it is different than what students sing today, the alumni were glad to hear that it is still included in the student agenda and that other traditions have continued on.
“I’ve enjoyed [the tour] immensely. It brings back old memories. You get to see old friends,” Cummings said. “We’ve gotten to see what things have changed and at the same time, what things are still traditions.”
Kappas says he and his students are proud of the school’s history. It’s something that other schools can’t offer.
“Every once in a while I have to remind myself how lucky I am to be part of this community,” Kappas explained. “The other schools—Castle View and Legend High Schools –when they opened up, they got all the new stuff and the new boards and electronics, but days like this, I know I am lucky and blessed to be a part of this community and I’m a servant to their community.”
While Kappas was excited to show the Class of 1965, the DCHS history showcase, filled with memorabilia from over the years, he was most excited to see the interactions when the generations—especially between today’s senior class president met the senior class president from 1965.
He believes the connection will encourage today’s student leaders to consider the legacy they want to leave as they finish high school in a year.
"What do you want to be remembered by? What will you be most proud of 10 years from now or 20 years from now? What traditions do you want to embrace and what do you want to change?”
The current class president says he is looking forward to planning the Class of 2016’s reunions and hopes they’ll be just as close as the Class of 1965.
“I’m really hoping I can do this in 20, 30, 40 years, because it is great to see that everyone was friends here, they really knew each other. I want that same thing. It’s really cool,” said Gessner.
On Saturday, one of the alumni presented Kappas with a patch that her mother had worn on her honor sweater back in 1936. He says that DCHS will happily accept other keepsakes.
In the future Kappas hopes to create a library with historic mementos from DCHS and the rest of Douglas County schools.