Columbia blue, black and white. The Lancers. The Hauberk. The Harbinger.
If you’re a fan of the trappings of SM East culture, you can thank the group that came up with them: The class of 1959, the first graduates of SM East. On Saturday, dozens of members of the 1959 graduating class — with some coming from as far as San Diego and Atlanta — gathered at Indian Hills Country Club for their 55th Reunion.
Judy Hart came to town for the event from Richmond, Va., where she teaches college classes. After a long and successful career spent mostly with the parks service, she said she enjoys coming back to the area to reconnect with “a group of people I love.”
“We got to start lots of new things and got really close to one another,” she said. “I remember wonderful, wonderful teachers. I went off to Cornell…and had a fabulous career. And when I think why, it all started at Shawnee Mission. The values that we learned. The respect. I learned how to think and how to talk. And I’m so grateful for everything I got here. It’s kind of a gift to have been raised here. It really is.”
The SM East class of 1959 was also the first group to graduate from the new Indian Hills Junior High School. They spent their first two years of high school at SM North — then just “Shawnee Mission High School” — before opening up the new building at 7500 Mission Road.
Times were different, back then, of course, and much has changed. Rex Baker, who today runs a commercial real estate firm in Atlanta, remembers hunting in the fields where SM East was eventually built when he was a boy attending Prairie Elementary.
“I’d wake up at 6 a.m. and it would be cold, so I’d know the rabbits would be slow,” he said. “I’d go out there, hunt with a bow and arrow, then come back home and warm up and get something to eat before walking to school.”
Ann Holmes, who returned to northeast Johnson County after living in Oklahoma for nearly 30 years, organized this year’s reunion. She said the class remains extremely close because of all the new experiences they had together, including forming the foundation of SM East’s culture.
“We picked the colors, the mascot, the yearbook name, the newspaper name – we had more of a vested ownership in that process, I think,” she said.