Editor’s Note

This story idea was submitted by a reader. Do you have a lead for our reporting staff? Submit it here.

BELLVILLE — While some high school friendships fizzle out after graduation, bonds remain strong among the Clear Fork High School class of 1966.

The class celebrated a joint 57th reunion and 75th birthday party last week. With the exception of a pre-meal prayer and moment of silence for their deceased classmates, their laughter and chatter echoed through the dining room of the Wishmaker House for nearly four hours. 

More than 25 class members attended. With spouses, the party included a total of 40 people. Colts traveled from across Ohio and even out-of-state, with residents from Arizona, Nevada and Florida in attendance. 

“We are calling this get together the ‘575’ party,” said Stan Butts, whose wife Diana was part of the 1996 class.

Clear Fork class of 66 graduation photo

Part of the reason the class is so close may be the sense of pride and excitement they felt as one of the first unified Clear Fork classes.

Bellville and Butler High Schools merged to become Clear Fork in 1964, when they were sophomores. Students from both high schools voted on the new school colors and mascot. 

“Being from Butler, I had new best friends from Bellville that I wouldn’t have had,” said Barbara Weixel. 

The sports teams, school dances and marching band were all unified, even as students continued attending separate buildings while the new high school was being built. 

The class of 1966 can still remember bus rides back and forth — Latin was only available at Butler, band practice was exclusively in Bellville. 

“We were the first ones to be in the Clear Fork marching band and we had uniforms that weren’t even really uniforms,” Candy Branham said.

“We wore white jackets, we took our hats from the previous band that were blue, put a green cover on them. We wore black pants and that was it. We were Clear Fork. And it was so exciting.”

Class members say there was an air of excitement surrounding the consolidation. Sports teams now had the best athletes from both towns, leading to undefeated football seasons in 1965 and 1966.

Nevertheless, some girls weren’t fans of the new mascot, since colts are exclusively male horses. 

But when the votes were tallied, the Colt prevailed above suggestions, including the Jolly Green Giants.

Classmates said they are also connected by memories — both of high school and more recent adventures.

In addition to their annual reunion, some more local classmates have visited other restaurants in the area and taken trips to Amish country. The class celebrated their 70th birthday together by taking in a show at the Renaissance, where they got a special shoutout from the emcee.

“We just decided its foolish to pull along the side of the road and rust to death,” Stan said. 

The class also has a standing lunch at the Bellville V&M on the last Friday of each month. To the best of their recollection, the tradition goes back to the 1980s. Attendance typically ranges anywhere from five to 30 people. 

Butts said the class has also been there for each other in times of need. At one of their lunches, they each chipped in some money to give to one of their own who had recently lost her son. The total came to $300.

On another occasion, the former students pooled their money to send to an out-of-state classmate so he and his wife could pay travel expenses to attend a class reunion. 

As they sat and chatted, alumni from the class of 1966 passed around ten thinking of you cards to send to peers who couldn’t make it. 

“We’ve stood up for each other through thick and thin,

“This class has really stuck together from the get go,” Stan said.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *