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Penticton high school hosts party of a century

a photographer  composes a reunion photo for the Pen High class of ‘57, which got together Saturday during the school’s 100th anniversary. - Joe Fries/Western News
a photographer composes a reunion photo for the Pen High class of ‘57, which got together Saturday during the school’s 100th anniversary.
— image credit: Joe Fries/Western News

Pen High has produced some notable graduates over the years, including a few in the class of 1957.

The class staged its 55-year reunion on Saturday in conjunction with the larger Pen High 100th anniversary celebrations.

“When we were in school, we were a very socially-organized year going through. We were into sports, academics and social get-togethers,” said Allan Offenberger, who helped organize what was the group’s seventh reunion.

“And it’s reflected in our having gotten together so many times over the years. The ones you see here are (here) because they genuinely enjoy coming back and getting together.”

Offenberger is a retired University of Alberta electrical engineering professor, a past-president of the Canadian Association of Physicists, has a planet named after him, and is considered one of Canada’s leading experts on fusion energy technology.

Offenberger was joined by classmate Hugh Cleland, a member of one of Penticton’s founding families, who travelled back from Toronto for the shindig.

Cleland’s resume includes a stint as a vice-president of the Toronto Stock Exchange and more recently as a business consultant.

He said the class of ‘57 never seemed particularly tight-knit during high school, but that changed after its 10-year reunion.

“I don’t think we thought we were so responsive to the idea until we did it,” he said. “And it was kind of fun.”

So fun, in fact, it enticed Phil Montgomery to travel all the way from Australia.

“I like these people. They’ve all achieved something in the time I’ve left them, and it’s very interesting to see the achievements that they’ve had,” he said.

“We’re all aging, some of us have got physical problems, we’re not happy about things, but when we get together we do have a good time.”

Montgomery was a 26-year-old produce manager for Safeway when the company transferred him to Australia to help establish its presence there. He went on to join the corporate world, before he retired to his macadamia nut farm and a turn as head of the Australian Nut Industry Council.

Cal Meiklejohn has done pretty well for himself, too, although he didn’t graduate from Pen High until 1978. The well-known local architect co-chaired the Pen High 100 organizing committee with school principal Bill Bidlake and was pleased with the three-day celebration.

“Everybody, including people having breakfast on Sunday morning, were meeting people they hadn’t seen in a long time and saying, ‘What a great show. What a great weekend,’” Meiklejohn said.

“I didn’t hear one comment that wasn’t very positive.”

The highlight for Meiklejohn was the Rock of Ages dance Saturday night at the Lakeside Resort, where Loverboy frontman and Pen High alumnus Mike Reno performed a four-song set with the help of band mates and local musicians.

Meiklejohn praised the work of volunteers who made the weekend possible and said he hopes more large-scale reunions can be scheduled. Maybe not once a century, but perhaps every five or 10 years.

“Something like that,” he said. “That would be fun.”

An estimated 1,200 to 1,500 people visited the Pen High campus over the weekend, according to Jane Shaak, organizing committee member and executive director of the Shatford Centre, not to mention a class of ‘68 alumnus.

Most of the returning graduates, she said, attended in the 50s, 60s and 70s, although some current students helped with the festivities.

Shaak was particularly pleased to see the Shatford, home of the Okanagan School of the Arts, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary, serve as event headquarters “to bring this all together for Pen High.”

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