ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — High school can touch us in ways we feel the rest of our lives.
Maybe winning that spelling bee or catching a touchdown pass in the homecoming game instilled a sense of self-confidence that helped overcome obstacles through the years. Maybe you formed friendships that have defied time and distance or even found a partner for life.
Or perhaps, as in the case of Helen Horwitz, Highland High School class of 1958, you were fortunate enough to have a teacher who saw things in you that you yourself had not discovered.
“My fondest memory is Frank Black, an English teacher who encouraged me to go into journalism,” said Horwitz, who was on the staff of Highland’s school newspaper, the Highlight.
“He saw my writing, I was 15 or 16 at the time so it could not have been too polished, but he saw something there,” Horwitz said. “He asked me if I had ever considered journalism as a career. I really hadn’t. My mother was pushing me to be a dietitian. He suggested three schools – Missouri, Northwestern and Minnesota.”
Horwitz earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Missouri in 1962 and worked a year and a half in Chicago for United Press International, a wire service, before going into public relations and advertising. She was employed by agencies in New York for 35 years.
Horwitz moved back to Albuquerque in 2000, having been inspired to do so, she said, by attending her 40th Highland High class reunion.
“I reconnected with friends here,” she said. “And one day I think I’d had enough northeast dinners, traffic and too many people.”
She has been busy recently helping plan the class of 1958’s 60th reunion, which will feature cocktails and dinner Friday and brunch on Saturday.
About 140 people are expected to attend, including spouses. You can bet the memories and the stories will be flying thick and fast.
Maybe Horwitz will recall some of the column items she wrote for the Highlight, like the one about the teacher who was presented with a dead black widow spider as a prank.
“I am still a freelance writer and an editor,” Horwitz said. “I owe a lot to Highland and to the Highlight.”
Model T’s and shop talk
In the 1957-58 school year, Allen Krumm, who would serve as an Albuquerque city councilor in the 1970s, was the Highland principal. The Highland Hornets football team lost just twice, both times to Artesia, the second time in the state title game. And the Hornets baseball team went to the state tournament in Las Cruces but was eliminated early.
“I enjoyed my high school years a lot, certainly the athletics because you get life-long friends in an environment like that,” said Fred Chreist, a member of the Highland football and baseball teams. “There was only one guy in our group, Leon Burnett, who had a car, a Model T, and he would pick us up on the way to school.”
Chreist went on to play baseball for the University of New Mexico, to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration from UNM and to serve as registrar and vice president for student affairs at the university.
After graduating from Highland in ’58, Gary Miller worked as a carpenter’s apprentice for four years before enrolling at UNM and earning a bachelor’s in industrial education. He taught shop in the Albuquerque Public Schools for 28 years. But the funny thing is he didn’t take shop classes at Highland.
“The shop was in the basement of the gym,” he said. “It was dark and gloomy, and I didn’t want any part of that. But I took drafting. I got a good foundation at Highland.”
Community of kids
Highland’s class of 1958 was huge, almost 700 people. But as big as Highland was in the mid to late ’50s, Sue Wood Williams found the school to be an exceptionally friendly place.
“It just felt like this community of kids,” Williams said. “In the halls, everyone said ‘hello, hi, how are you?’ If you were from Highland, you were my friend.”
Williams was in the queen’s court, Girl’s State, the student council, the student senate and, in her senior year, served as president of the Tri-Hi-Y (service) Club and the Highland Golf Club.
“We had a club for everything,” she said. “It was a great atmosphere, and we had fabulous teachers and coaches. They got us so involved in things.”
Williams got a degree from Texas Christian University and taught fourth grade and at a junior college in Dallas before returning to Albuquerque with her dentist husband in 1972. She has only missed one Highland class reunion, the one in 1968. But she had an excuse.
“I got married that night,” she said.
Now, Williams is on the class of ’58’s reunion committee, along with Horwitz, Chreist, Miller, Sue Ribble, Penny Del Castillo Christensen, Jackie Ferreri Berube, Tom Barela, Judy Christianson Matteucci and Stan Hultberg. Their mission is to re-create as best they can the special time that was their high school years.
“We grew up in such a good time,” Ribble said. “I don’t understand people who say they didn’t have a good time in high school. I loved it. You were with kids and doing something.”