This Saturday, the Pittsburg High School class of 1968 will kick off their class reunion at the Crawford County Historical Museum. As the museum continues to celebrate our 50th Anniversary in Crawford County, the class of 68’ celebrates 50 years of memories from their time together as classmates to lifelong friends.
Even though the class graduated together as Dragons, not everyone started out together with the same mascot. Pittsburg had three Junior Highs to choose from before students went on to attend Pittsburg High School at 13th and Broadway. College High, located where Kelce School of Business is today, was the Comets. Students could eat off campus at Griff’s (formally Mooreman’s) or Jacks for lunch and play pinball. There was also an elementary school, Horace Mann Laboratory School. Both schools were used to help prepare Pittsburg State University students who were training to become teachers, and many PSU faculty members also taught at the laboratory schools. The elementary school closed in 1971 and College High consolidated with Roosevelt Junior High.
However, most students who graduated from the class of 1968 came from Lakeside and Roosevelt. Lakeside Junior High Wildcats, was located where Lakeside Elementary school is still in use as an Elementary School on South College. Lakeside Junior High consolidated with Roosevelt Junior High in 1980. Roosevelt Junior High was in what is today's Pittsburg Community Middle School at 13th and Broadway. Roosevelt Junior High students were known as the Rough Riders. Thanks to Kevin Boswell, the donation of his Junior High Rough Rider jacket is now on view at the museum. Both schools were fiercely competitive with each other until they joined together as classmates at Pittsburg High. Dragons showed their school spirit through pep assemblies, bonfire rallies and sporting events. Held annually, no game was more anticipated than the Coal Bucket football game against Columbus High School.
The Class of 68’ loved to ‘drag the gut.’ A tradition that will continue beyond their graduating class. The drag would begin at 1106 Drive-In and go up to A&W Rootbeer (now Sonic) or turn around at the Bowling Alley. Everyone would get out of their car at 1106 to talk to each other or hang out at The White Grill, Barneys, Fresco’s, Argentina’s, and of course, the chicken houses. A gallon of gas cost 34 cents and could be filled up at any of the thirty-three gas stations in Pittsburg. The average cost of a new car in 1968 cost approximately $2,822. Camaros and Pontiac GTOs were the popular cars in the sixties. Students working to pay for their gas and hamburgers made an average of $1.60 an hour.
All the shopping was done on Broadway. Barbara Rhodes and fellow classmates said everything that anyone could possibly need was located downtown. Ernie Williamson sold all our musical needs. Coulters and The Guys Shop were the favorites for the guys. J.C. Penny’s, Jones Store, Montgomery Wards, Ramsay’s, Littles, and Seymour’s. Barbara remembers getting her ears pierced at Benelli’s and says, “we could eat lunch at Crowell’s or Woolworth’s at the bar or in a booth and then attend a movie at either the Fox or the Cozy Theater.” Classmates recall how Dario’s, Kline’s, A&P, and Rex’s Superette, just to name a few of the small neighborhood grocery stores were still around while Safeway, IGA and Foodtown were the larger food stores. Town Talk Bakery supplied most of the bread both in and outside the county. Who can remember the smell of Town Talk bread baking as it lingered in the air where Pitsco stands today?
Classmates remember watching Miss Pitt State 1966 and Miss Kansas 1967, Debra D. Barnes, being crowned Miss America 1968 on television. Roller skating at Pla-mour or Skateway was a favorite pastime. Once you turned 18, everyone went to the Tower where there was always a band playing.
We wish the Purple Dragons a great time as they celebrate their 50th class reunion. Special thanks to Barbara Rhodes and the classmates of 68’ for sharing such wonderful memories.
— Amanda Minton is the director of Crawford County Historical Museum as well a lecturer of history at Pittsburg State University.