Going back in time

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 28, 1999

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / July 28, 1999

May 1979 was a time of polyester shirts, bell bottom pants, feathered hair and afro styles. The movie “Grease” was the big box office hit, and”Oggie-Boogie Woogie” was the number one record. It was also the yearwhen the graduating class of East St. John High School buried a timecapsule in front of the newly-built school.

Recently, 20 years later, members of the class returned to their alma mater to unearth the capsule. Underneath a tent set up to ward offthreatening skies, former classmates gathered to relive the halcyon days of high school. With lots of hugging, back-slapping, tears and laughter thealumni eagerly awaited for its 1979 valedictorian, Tammy Williams- Milioto, to open the time capsule.

The idea for the time capsule came from faculty advisor Anita Granier.

She said it was a tradition for the first graduating class of a new school to bury a time capsule.

You see, the Class of 1979 was not supposed to graduate from East St.

John High School. A year earlier they had been attending Leon GodchauxSenior High. However a fire on May 24, 1978 destroyed the Godchauxschool, forcing the students to move into East St. John High School, whichwas still under construction. Thus, the Class of 1979 became the firstgraduating class of East St. John High School.Granier, Williams, Lisa Maurin, class president Cheryl Miller and Principal C.J. Tastet formed the committee that gathered all the items to be placedin the time capsule. On this night, except for Miller, the time capsulecommittee were present for the grand opening.

Tastet, now with gray hair but looking healthy and happy, remembered working on the committee.

“I even donated my ID bracelet for it,” he said proudly.

Retired since 1983 after over 30 years of service to the St. John publicschool system, Tastet remembers his years at East St. John High fondly.”I had five of my best years at East St. John High,” he recalled, “and theClass of ’79 were a good bunch of kids.”St. John Parish School Superintendent Chris Donaldson, a former studentof Tastet, former faculty member of East St. John High and formersponsor of the Beta Club, opened the festivities with some memories of his own.

“I remember the Class of 1979 as the first to wear ID badges with pictures,” he said, smiling, “and also back then lunch was only 25 cents.”To save time, reunion coordinator Linda Stein, (the only self-proclaimed “retiree” of the class), had gotten her husband to lift the granite slab covering the capsule, dig down to unearth the capsule before the ceremony, then cut the top open.

The time capsule, an old aluminum beer keg that then-shop teacher Grady Hall had welded shut, had survived 20 years underground in good condition.

As the Class of 1979 was about to find out, the contents had fared very well, too.

The crowd of alumni crowded around Williams-Milioto as she and classmate Maurin pulled items out of the keg. With oohs, aahs and cries ofrecognition from the crowd, the two women held up a pair of gym tennis shoes, a girl’s gym suit, a cheerleader’s outfit, numerous student picture ID cards, school newspapers, class schedules, lunch forms, a list of top 10 records, a purse, an economics textbook and champagne classes from the senior prom.

After the capsule was emptied, the contents were spread out on a counter in the administrative office, and while refreshments were served alumni pored over the items.

Former student Liz Gareich proudly showed her picture ID to her daughter Ashley. Ashley grimaced and didn’t seem impressed, much to Liz’samusement.

“Hey, this is an article I wrote,” exclaimed Janice Moritz, holding up a yellowed copy of the school newspaper.

Memories of 20 years ago filled the room, and as the former students laughed and reminisced it seemed as if the time capsule had fulfilled it mission in bringing back good times.

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