High school seniors usually get but one chance to enjoy life at the top of the ladder, but six decades ago, the first graduating class of Whitehall-Yearling High School ran the show for three years.
Thirty members of Whitehall's class of 1958 celebrated their 60-year reunion Aug. 4 and 5.
They entered Whitehall-Yearling High School as sophomores in the waning days of summer 1955, but as the Brooklyn Dodgers were en route to their only World Series title that fall, they were still upperclassmen as the remainder of the school was seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade students. Rosemore Middle School had not yet been built.
"They were the top dogs for three years," said Thomas Tykodi, one of two teachers who taught the class of 1958 to join the 30 classmates during weekend gatherings at two Gahanna restaurants.
Tykodi, 88, of Pataskala taught math and a driving course at Whitehall-Yearling High School.
Fresh out of the U.S. Air Force, Tykodi began teaching at Whitehall-Yearling when it opened in 1955, retiring 24 years later in 1979.
"I was sentimental about the old school," he said. "I hated to see it go, but it is progress, and I'm glad the kids have a new school."
The current Whitehall-Yearling High School, 675 S. Yearling Road, was rebuilt in 2013 on the same site as the original high school. A small part of the original structure -- a refurbished gymnasium and auditorium renamed in 2015 as the Walter Armes Learning Center -- remains.
Whitehall's class of 1958 had 130 graduates. As freshmen, the class was bused to South High School.
Previously, students living in Whitehall had the choice of attending South High School or high schools in Bexley or Reynoldsburg, but in 1954, students were required to attend South High School, said Harold Metzger, a 1958 graduate.
There were no junior or senior classes in Whitehall in 1955, but a new freshman class was added each year, and Rosemore Middle School was open by 1957 -- the first year Whitehall-Yearling had all four high school grades.
"I walked to school (from Westphal Avenue)," said Metzger, 78, of Lewis Center, who played football, baseball and basketball and ran track -- all the sports that were offered.
"We graduated in the auditorium," said Metzger, who added he enjoyed the opportunity to see the new high school several years ago during a sporting match in which his granddaughter played.
Ron Anderson, 78, came from suburban Dallas to attend the reunion.
He and other classmates recalled a nondescript white residence across the street from the high school that served as headquarters for the Whitehall police.
"I think they had six officers and three patrols cars -- and all of them were chasing one of us kids," Anderson said.
High-horsepower vehicles were not in short supply in that era, and several classmates recalled drag racing on East Broad Street, east from North Hamilton Road to the bridge that crossed Big Walnut Creek -- a distance of about a quarter-mile -- when East Broad was a two-lane road.
Tony Boesch of Johnstown drove a 1948 Chevrolet to high school but recalled a time as a passenger in a friend's brand-new 1959 Chevrolet convertible with three carburetors.
The driver, after being spotted by a state trooper traveling at a speed of about 120mph, continued east on East Broad Street -- Interstate 270 did not yet exist -- and escaped the trooper by turning into a cornfield, Boesch said.
"He used the (emergency) brake (to slow down), so no brake light came on," said Boesch, who attended the reunion with his wife, Carolyn, a 1960 Gahanna graduate.
As the first students to occupy the school, significant responsibilities fell to the class of 1958, including choosing the school mascot, the Rams, said Nancy Sanner-Brake, who still lives in Whitehall.
She was among those who brought memorabilia to the reunion, including copies of a school newspaper she typeset and a card indicating she had successfully completed the driving course that Tykodi instructed.
The card is signed by Tykodi and the school's principal, Austin Peel, and dated May 29, 1957.
She added she typed the school newspaper as well as correspondence for Peel and other administrators.
"They'd just call me out of class to type up something they needed," said Sanner-Brake, who went on to work in the library at North American Aviation, the forerunner of Rockwell International.
Copies of the newspaper, the Spokesman, in October 1956 told of construction workers "continuing to work on our high school's new wing," the hiring of a new superintendent named Robert Crabbs, and the addition of 17 new instructors at the school.
Dave Foltz, who lives in central Florida, and classmate Ken Lewis helped plan the reunion.
"We wanted to do something special for our veterans," Foltz said.
Eleven classmates and Tykodi were recognized and presented pins for their military service.
"It's been a good time ... a lot has changed here since we were kids," said Don Amrine of Lancaster, who attended the reunion with his wife, Susan, a 1961 Pickerington graduate.