Harlandale High School Class of 1966 Celebrates 50th Reunion
By Juliet Mendoza
On the morning of Harlandale High School’s reunion, the class of 1966 enjoyed a private tour of the high school in South San Antonio. More than 40 alumni gathered to look at the old gymnasium, band room, and the football field.
The tour began in the main building entrance where a replica of the Rose Window from Mission San Jose rests in a glass covered bookcase.
Antoinette Huizar, ‘66, said to her classmates that the replica was made by her brother.
“It’s a great honor and I am so proud of that,” Huizar said. The original Rose Window was crafted by Huizar’s ancestor sculptor Pedro Huizar.
Classmates recollected about their high school days, and were astonished by the changes.
The Reunion, Class of 1966
On the evening of their reunion, students from the Class of 1966 filled the dancefloor of El Tropicano Hotel.
Smiles and laughter trickled through the crowd in every direction. Couples twirled, stories were shared about good old days and new memories were made.
Of the 469 people who graduated in the class of 1966, 63 attended the reunion.
Nancy Hermer Olansky, once the Second Lieutenant of the Gold Battalion at the high school and now a receptionist at KSAT-TV, greeted every guest with a smile and handed each classmate a name tag with their Harlandale senior class picture.
Olansky said the reunion committee prepared for the event for over a year. They’re proud to have a class that overcame a most tumultuous time.
A night to remember, the class announces and recognizes all of the classmates that took part in sports, school activities, and other mischievous anecdotes.
The secret to a long marriage
Fifty years after their graduation, sweethearts Charlie and Susie Pacheco took to the dancefloor. She wore a soft leopard sweater that highlighted her light brown hair. His blue button-down shirt brought out his olive eyes. The two were married 49 years ago, a year after their graduation.
The Pachecos met in the 4th grade in Stonewall-Flanders Elementary. “We’ve been going together since the 8th grade,” Charlie Pacheco said.
Susie’s parents enforced strict household rules. Her curfew of 10 o’clock limited the amount of activities on their nights out.
Charlie described a typical date: “We would always double-date with our friends, Frank and Carmen, we only had money for the gas to get there… Carmen was a year older and had a job, she would always pay for our dinner.”
The Pachecos share the secret to their marriage. “It all about being spontaneous, we talk about something, decide, and we just go for it,” Charlie said. It’s a tradition they exercise every day.
Student life in the ‘60s
The Class of 1966 shook things up at Harlandale when talented individuals turned over a new leaf for the high school.
The Harlandale Indians won the football district championship in 1966, 18 years after the last district championship. Florencio “Flo” Gonzales, captain of the football team and class officer his senior year, said the championship is the most memorable experience he has from high school.
Current Principal Fred Anthony said, “They set the standard for the next year. The class of 1967 went undefeated and was 10-0. The first and only in 93 years.”
The class of 1966 shared more fond memories.
“It was about the time I began driving, but the only way I could get the car is that I had to take my little brother, he spent a lot of time in the floorboard,” Olansky said. “I had to look cool.”
High school would not be same without the occasional prank. Susan Velzy, sergeant of the Gold Battalion, shared the time they played the egg carton prank.
Four students drove over to their rival McCollum High School which was only two miles down the road with a carton of eggs, but the joke was on them.
“An egg comes flying in the window, grazed my nose and splattered on a classmates’ face. He had egg dripping all down, it was hysterical,” Velzy said, laughing.
Charlie Pendleton, member of the boys pole vault team, shared another prank story the night of the reunion, “We were walking by the field house and the Indian was painted gold and green,” Pendleton said.
He got a crew together and went over to McCollum High. They painted a cowboy bent over, and an Indian on the other side with a bow and arrow. “The cowboy had an arrow up his butt,” said Pendleton.
“I shimmied up the flagpole, and I am painting the ball of the flagpole and two cop cars pull up, they never saw me. We did get them,” Pendleton said. Everyone laughed.
Harlandale issues in the ‘60s
Founded in 1924, Harlandale High School took nearly 40 years to elect a Hispanic class officer. There was racial tension at the school, that caused trouble.
“After school, that’s where [they] would meet for the rumble, Hispanics versus Anglos,” classmate Donald “Don” Yunger said. The fights, he said, were just something to do and nothing more.
“Fights would break out for no reason at all,” said Susie Pacheco, the first Hispanic awarded major of the Gold Battalion in Harlandale’s pep squad.
“When we had our class election, it was the first time that [Hispanics] were elected class officers in the history of the school,” said Charlie Pacheco. Charlie was a member of the football team and class officer his sophomore year.
The Pachecos remember Harlandale as a very respectful community. “My dad built his own store. People would knock on the back door and say, my child doesn’t have any milk, so my dad would get up in the middle of the night and give them the milk, they wouldn’t pay for it. He would put it on a ledger book and they come pay him,” Charlie said.
Charlie’s dad earned the respect of the community and in return they called him Don Joel.
The term Don, is more commonly used in the Hispanic tradition as a deep form of respect.
Betty McDonald Hicks, Staff Sergeant of the Gold Battalion self-published a memoir “Who’s That Girl With The Red Dress,” that recalls her sophomore year on Nov. 22, 1963 when President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was shot and killed.
Betty said in her book, “None of us wanted to believe that our, larger-than-life president who spoke so eloquently and inspired American people, was gone.”
A day before his assassination, President Kennedy cruised through Pleasanton Road, the street alongside the high school football field.
Coming of Age During Vietnam
The class faced its coming of age during the Vietnam War.
“In Vietnam they started calling people up because they needed bodies, so they started pulling up your number and if your name came up, you had to go, it was a terrible time,” Gonzalez said. “The military back then was despised. As soon as the soldiers got home they would take their uniforms off.”
Charlie Pacheco said he enlisted right after high school in the Air Force Reserves. “We had a lot of friends that went over, and a lot of friends that didn’t come back. It was a pretty sad time,” he said.
But, on the evening of the reunion, celebrating with classmates, they smiled, laughed, danced and stood as a solid group after 50 years.
Gonzales said technology may have contributed to why the class of 1966 got along so well.
“I think we missed the boat, because the 60’s was a very turbulent time in America. We were sort of protected, I think,” Gonzales said. “We lived in a small town environment. Once I left high school, I realized my eyes were opened to the world.”