Overlake 60th reunion evokes grand memories

From the outside it mirrored a typical brick building, but for Missy Craven and the Overlake High School graduating class of 1948, each brick represented a memory.

From the outside it mirrored a typical brick building, but for Missy Craven and the Overlake High School graduating class of 1948, each brick represented a memory.

That is why, in the early ‘90’s, when the city began to tear down the old brick building, Craven, Jim Stone and his son snuck onto the old school grounds and filled a wheel barrel full of the priceless bricks just as the bulldozer was sweeping through the debris.

“We went up and grabbed some of the bricks because they were a piece of our past,” Craven recalled. The bricks now sit in various spots throughout their homes.

The 79 students that made up the class of 1948 were the last official graduating class from Overlake High School, first built in 1930 where the Bellevue City Park sits today.

Now, 60 years later, 28 classmates of the 1948 graduating class arrived in Bellevue to relive their high school days. The Bellefield Condo Complex club house was decorated with streamers and pom poms in their old school colors. Framed, black and white photographs depicted young, smiling faces standing in their graduation gowns, with nothing but the future ahead of them. The music playing in the background was that of World War II, honoring several of the veterans who returned to Bellevue prior to graduating in 1948.

Classmates drove in from as far away as La Conner, Friday Harbor, and Yakima to attend the reunion, hosted by Annie and Bob Stevenson.

“We will never forget our past and we really don’t want our history to be forgotten so this occasion is a fun thing for us,” said Annie Stevenson.

The reunions hold a special place for Annie and her husband. The two first met in the 8th grade and went to school together all through high school. After graduation they went their separate ways, married different spouses, and were later widowed. At their 47th reunion, they met again and two months later they were married.

“We decided at our age we didn’t want to waste any time,” joked Annie Stevenson. “We were just kids at 62 at the time. I guess that’s one of those Oprah Stories.”

The two will celebrate their 16th wedding anniversary on September 25.

Reminiscing about old Bellevue, many at the reunion vividly recalled the transformation of Bellevue, from a small village town to a bustling city.

“We watched Bellevue go from being a village town, to when the floating bridge opened in 1944, and the world came right over, said Craven and Shirley Stone. The war slowed progress down for a while, but as soon as the war was over, then the masses started to come.

In 1946, a Frederick & Nelson department store opened in the square and two still remember the buzz that surrounded that place.

“The square had small businesses scattered all around and Fredrick & Nelson was in the middle and we loved it to death,” said Shirley Stone, adding the Crab Apple and small theater, where Annie Stevenson worked as an usher, were the hang outs back then. “We went there all the time.”

In 1947, the Bellevue Arts and Crafts Fair started, an important piece of Bellevue’s history. Classmate, Whit Hansen, remembers his mothers’ involvement as a founding member of the Bellevue Arts and Crafts Fair. The annual fair continues each year in Bellevue and attracts more than 300,000 visitors.

Five of the students, Adabelle Whitney, Annie Michael, Chuck Lewarne, Bill Pelees and Bob Stevenson, first met in the first grade and remain friends all these years later. They all attended the reunion.

Adebelle Whitney joined the others, remembering when her parents ran the Bellevue American newspaper and as kids they would help fold the paper.

“We haven’t all stayed in this area but we have stayed in touch,” said Annie Stevenson, adding that a lot of the classmates left for careers but a lot of them returned to the Northwest.

Following graduation, classmate Butch Kent became a contractor in the 50’s and built a number of the streets in Bellevue including Bellevue Way.

“I saw a lot of change back then but now I don’t even recognize Bellevue, he said. Kent’s great grandfather came to Bellevue in 1905 and built houses on the land that is now occupied by Overlake Hospital.

“There is so much history connected with all of us. We could go on forever with our stories,” Annie Stevenson said, like the time a group of boys led a horse up the school steps and into the library as a prank. “They couldn’t get the horse back down,” she laughed.

Young teenagers living in a small town could be recipe for trouble but according to Annie Stevenson, the scariest thing you could do back then was to steal a piece of candy. Her husband Bob grinned.

“I paid two cents and took three pieces of candy,” Bob said. “But I went back to the store and paid the next day because I felt so guilty. I mean it was such a small town, they new us and we new them.”

Back then, Bellevue was made up of main street and stretched roughly four blocks from 100th to 104th. Classmate Alex Davis fondly remembers the soda fountain in Meta’s Drugstore, the local hangout.

“That’s where we all went for lunch every day. It was such an icon and the center of Bellevue,” Davis said.

Senior Sneak Day remains one of Annie’s fondest memories.

“We ran out of the school and there was a big field of scotch broom in the park and the principal was six feet five inches and we hid in the scotch broom from him. We would pop up to see where he was and he would come jumping through the scotch broom trying to catch us,” Annie Stevenson said. “That was fun-that poor guy.”

A group of ten girls have an annual slumber party, gathering for a weekend of fun.

“It only takes them about thirty minutes for them to revert to being 16 years old again,” joked Bob Stevenson.

The 1948 graduating class worked closely with the city to secure a plaque in memory of the high school that now sits at site of the old school representing an important piece of Bellevue history.

“It was the age of innocence,” Annie Stevenson said. “We always said we lived in the best of times.”

Lindsay Larin can be reached at llarin@bellevuenews.us or at 425-453-4602.