Little Johnny Thompson goes through side doors of Ketchikan High School because he is running late. Classic Johnny. In two months he’ll be graduating. Part of the 130-student class of 1967 (roughly the same size as this years). Though the ceremony will take place in a similar spot, the facilities have changed greatly.
While Ketchikan’s love for basketball hasn’t changed, everything else in Kayhi has. There was no humanities building where the iLife class is. The current science and math wing was just a parking lot.
“There were no such things as specific wings,” said Thompson. “Our commons was in the MSR, or the multi service room. It was so great, we had a stage there and everything! We had Spanish teachers that taught math, a larger auditorium but not as nice. Only one gym, a huge woodshop and a drafting room. We didn’t need all the stuff the kids had now. I loved what the school was back then and I love the remodeled school just as much. High school was a great time. No regrets.”
Timber, not tourism, ruled
Thanks to the Ketchikan Pulp Mill, the main economic driver at the time, the school population was remarkably similar. However, the classes, weren’t. There weren’t any auto or technology classes. There were classes for cooking and sewing that were located on the first level near the front entrance. Thompson’s favorite class were the elective Russian history taught by Jon Wipfli.
“I loved that guy,” said Thompson. “He gave me my only B! I have been always into history and geography. He made it so interesting.”
John’s daughter, Jennifer Karlik who graduated in the class of 1992, took World History also taught by Wipfli but has different memories of the class.
“I hated that guy,” said Karlik. “He gave me my only B! I couldn’t write as fast as he spoke! I couldn’t keep up. My favorite class was drama though. I just loved acting and being on that stage”.
There were only three sports during Thompson’s time, boys basketball, dance, and cheerleading, wrestling, and co-ed track. Basketball always had high expectations compared to the rest, similar to what it is now. That team eventually went on to win 5 straight southeast championships and 4 straight state titles.
“The gym was packed for every game and with the team and what they accomplished, the expectations were high,” said Thompson. “My freshman year, we lost a heartbreaker to West Anchorage. After a hard working offseason, the next year they won a state title. We were so proud”
Thompson’s wife, Debi, loved taking Home Economics and Latin her freshman year in 1965. Thompson’s dances were not like the ones today
“There was a dance for each individual group, Freshman frolic, Junior prom, Sophomore hop, and Senior ball. Senior ball is like your prom but you could take anyone to that.”
Fast forward 20 years. This time it’s mullet man Rick Collins zooming with his varsity jacket (class of 1987, 110 students). The school is similar to what Thompson went to but there are a couple of differences. He jogs past the new humanities wing with the log walls and the accordion-like borders. He glimpses people roller skating around the columns near the front entrance outside.
Collins remembers what it was like when he went there and the ‘new building’,
“The Humanities building wasn’t a good structure back in my day,” he said. “The walls were made of log. It was an open classroom. The classrooms were divided by foldable accordion walls and the lower level was the same thing but with curtains. Also where the superintendent’s office is right now, there used to be a doorway leading outside and that’s where the students smoked outside. Try and wrap your brain around that one.”
Kayhi dances weren’t in the gym’s, they were in the armory next door every other friday night. The sports had all the sports that are around now except baseball and soccer. As for classes, There were no Advanced Placement classes, but there was aviation.
“We had a ton of vocational classes, two maritime teachers and two auto shop teachers. We had a home electric class, but most importantly was the aviation class,” said Collins. “A lot of local pilots got their start in that Kayhi class. There are still a lot of them flying.”
The Ketchikan Project
Clean cut, colorful clothing, Chet Thompson went to school during the construction age (1991-1995) that cost $45 million. During the remodel, Thompson and his 150 classmates couldn’t go to certain sections of the school and as a high school student, was always curious about the progress.
“At the time you’re just a high schooler thinking, ‘Ah man what’s going on over here’. Certain hallways were blocked off that our classrooms had to relocate. When the auditorium was finished, we all walked in and it was just beautiful seeing it for the first time,” said Thompson. “I also remember when I first walked into high school, kids smoked across the street and people were ok with it. By the time I was a senior, smoking wasn’t allowed for the teachers or the kids.”
Other than the construction, the school ran normally and very similarly to Rick Collins and the 80’s students. Thompson’s favorite class was Japanese class. He took it for 2 years,
“Its given me a lot of information that’ve I’ve rarely used in my life. It was great.”
Then we move to 2018. This is the year that Joey Karlik is going to graduate. He walks through the school that everyone knows and loves. He remembers his favorite classes of iLife movie making and technology in the humanities building with actual walls and seperate classrooms. He reminisces about his favorite classes that are new to him like journalism and french. He walks down the huge gym and reccollects about all the basketball games he watches always in the packed stands.
He goes to the commons where he’s seen it all, some promposals, some award banquets, and even an almost foodfight. He walks down the math wing and science wing and remembers all the time he heard Mrs. Whyte or his own mother yell either at himself or across the hall to, “DO YOUR MATH!”. All of these things weren’t the same as his grandfather’s his uncle, or even his wrestling coach’s era in high school. With that in mind, he knew and couldn’t be happier of his school and where he came from.