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Boomer's Journal - The annual senior skip day trip

By Rachel Barduson of Alexandria


We all may have skipped a few days of school during our high school career – for no other reason than to skip school for a day. We thought our parents wouldn’t find out about it and we thought we were pulling the wool over the eyes of our teachers. Unexcused absences were far and few between, but in the history of where I attended high school we were allowed one legitimate free skip day. It generally fell on the first Friday of May. We were the senior class and evidently we ruled, we had gone to school for 12 years to earn this skip day. It was our spring and it was our time.


Photo saved in my album includes front left to right: Char, Susan, Esther and Ethel. Back standing are Julie and Gail.

The winter sports awards banquets were done, spring sports were underway, the spring music contests and concerts were in full swing, the Senior Class Play had been presented, speech competition had been held, one-act play competition had been successful and our parents were planning graduation parties. We had prom the weekend before and we had done fund raising for proms and for this particular skip day trip for the past four years, including those dreaded magazine sales. Before graduation, the “Senior Class Skip Day Trip to Duluth” was a ritual at our school for all the classes before, and I am sure after our class was long gone.


Before all that though, we apparently experimented with things that our parents would not have approved of (if they ever found out). During our senior year, and before our legitimate skip day (and after), there might have been a few shenanigans, all good, clean fun. I was surprised to begin reading some memories from my senior memory book and find that in the month leading up to our graduation we hit a somewhat rebellious streak, albeit innocent fun. I wrote, “One night after play practice about 10 of us kids piled into Jeannie’s little car and drove around town. Her car didn’t have a muffler so it made a lot of noise and we got pretty cramped. We got more kids and rode in the back of Stanley’s truck, singing and yelling. We drove by Mr. Kaess’s (our high school principal) house and he happened to be outside and then we met the sheriff, so Stanley drove his truck behind the lumber yard where we hid (or, so we thought). We scattered and hid by the railroad tracks until we saw the sheriff leave town and Stanley took us to the bowling alley. We were all full of dust and mud but we had fun.” I guess we were more bold in those last few months of school than we had ever been. The mindset of “seniors rule” must have been firmly planted in our brains. 


Right around the time of that incident we bused to Villard for the choir contest and while we were trying to find things to occupy our time (because why would you just wait until your turn and make sure you are fully prepared to sing) I wrote in my senior memory book, “While we were there a bunch of us found the fire escape and decided to climb to the top of the school and slide down. I was scared at first, but I climbed and slid down it three times. It was the best part of the contest, except, even better were the two ‘A’ scores or stars we got for our performance.”


Photo in our senior yearbook of the school bus to Duluth. Les in foreground; Pete and Jeannie in the back.

And so, when it came time for the Senior Class Skip Day Trip some of us were fully prepared for an adventure. We experienced all of the chaperoned events and outings that were planned for us and they were wonderful. The unchaperoned shenanigans were just as memorable, for me anyway. For the chaperoned senior holiday stops I wrote, “We left E-town at 5:30 a.m. on Friday, May 7, 1971. We stopped at an open pit mine by Crosby Ironton and before we got to Duluth we stopped at Jay Cooke State Park and climbed around on the rocks. Char and I kept getting farther from the bus until we heard Kaess yelling that the bus was leaving...and we couldn’t figure out how to get back to it. We were the last ones on the bus. Then it was on to Duluth and we hurriedly ate at Sandy’s and then continued on to Hotel Duluth.” My yearbook states, “Once inside everyone checked in and quickly learned how to operate the elevators – especially Pete. Then the whole crew headed down to the dock.”


Add to that my personal notes, “Char, Beth, Debbie and I shared a room. We were the last ones to get our keys. We got on the 12th floor and found we had the wrong keys. By that time it was 12:45 and we had to be on the bus at 1 p.m. We finally got in our room but we were the last ones on the bus (again).  We rode the Flamingo in Duluth Harbor and climbed Ingor Tower. (I wonder if my classmates remember what we found at the top of the tower). On Saturday we went on the North Shore Drive, stopping at Two Harbors and Agate Beach, climbed rocks on Gooseberry Falls and visited Split Rock Lighthouse, drove up to Silver Bay and saw the taconite mining industry at a glance, turned around and back to Hotel Duluth and dinner at the Sweden House.” The unchaperoned shenanigans can hardly be shared.


The most embarrassing was, “Friday when we got back to our room, the phone rang and it was for me. This guy said there was a long-distance phone call for me in the lobby so of course we four girls ran to the elevator. It stopped on the 11th floor (where the boys were all rooming) and Brad, Lee B., Monty, Harold, Doug and Larry all got on. We told them to hurry cuz I had to get to the lobby for a phone call. (I did not notice their smirks or glances at each other). I ran to the desk and the clerk told me there was no phone call for me. I looked behind me and there stood those six characters bent over laughing (ring any bells guys?).”  


Hotel Duluth postcard saved in my senior year scrapbook. Description on the back: Overlooking beautiful Lake Superior in the “Air-Conditioned City” is Hotel Duluth, the finest and most modern hotel in the Arrowhead Region; 400 rooms with bath, coffee shop, dining room, excellent convention facilities and the famous Black Bear Lounge, with entertainment nightly. Contributed photo

The big shenanigan on Friday night would be “sneaking” the boys up to the 12th floor, which I am convinced was no surprise to the chaperones. They knew all along that the congregate meeting place would BE the 12th floor. The chaperones seemed ready and some group games in the elevator area were played. Even with those organized games we found time to sneak up to the ballroom where Duluth’s High School prom was in progress...and sneak some of the telephone-prank guys into our room.


Our class trip came to an end as we checked out of the hotel at noon on Sunday, May 9 and arrived back home at 4 o’clock. We had memories to last a lifetime.


The Hotel Duluth is no longer there. The Sweden House is gone. There are classmates that are no longer with us. Reminiscing like this makes me happy. Honestly, high school was so much fun. I believe everyone has kept those special memories of high school, and the shenanigans they were a part of, to some extent. I look back on the memories, the scrapbooks, the photo albums, the yearbooks and my diaries - and I don’t have the heart to toss any of them away because every now and then, depending on the season or the most recent loss of a high school friend, those memories give me joy.

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