Local classmates reunite, look back 77 years

FAIRMONT – High school reunions are the norm during the summer, but quite unique when 77 years have passed since the diplomas were awarded.

Three members of the Fairmont High School class of 1937 recently met at Perkins for lunch and memories.

“We all still drive; we still live in our own homes,” said Arlie (Bishop) Farnham, 96, of Granada.

Nellie (Blanck) Oanes, 96, lives outside of Truman.

The youngster of the trio, Edith (Jones) Bateman, lives in Mankato.

The women talked about their families, their gardens and mowing their lawns. Soon they were recalling their high school years and life after graduation.

After the death of her parents, Bateman moved from Iowa to live with her sister in Fairmont and finish her last two years of school. Grade placement was arbitrary for new students, so she was younger than her fellow classmates.

Farnham secretly married her husband, Ted, while still in school. Back in those days, the order of things was school first, then marriage, followed by children, but she switched things around.

“I got married in ’36, graduated in ’37, and had Carol (her daughter) in ’38,” she said.

Her husband was a carpenter and built the couple a small home.

But that was just the beginning.

“I had 10 kids,” Farnham said. “Everyone in Granada knew when I was having another baby when we added on to the house. My husband built the house, and I still live in it. I’ve been there 76 years.”

Oanes worked in the Woolworth’s store in Fairmont for a while. While she was raising her two sons, she did “a lot of day work,” helping out other families in their homes.

“Just out of high school, I worked for 20 cents an hour,” Oanes said.

“I was good, I got 25 cents,” quipped Bateman.

After high school, Bateman attended commercial college in Mankato and met her husband. They married in the spring. The following fall, he was in a motorcycle accident, resulting in his being in a wheelchair until his death in 2000.

Bateman worked in quality control at Continental Can in Mankato for “not too many years, 35 or 36,” she said. But her husband wanted her home, rather than working, so she complied.

These days, Oanes occupies her time with cleaning out her house. She marvels at the number of possessions that have accumulated over decades.

Bateman assists in the care of a friend who is losing her sight.

Farnham is a recent retiree.

“I worked in home health care until I was 91,” she said. “The Lord has been good to me. He keeps me healthy.”

The women don’t get together as often as they used to, but they still relish the time they spend together.

“We’ve been friends a long time,” Farnham said.