Note: all photos by Kate Poss, unless otherwise noted.
Hello everyone. I am writing this blog from the lovely Mukwonago Community Library, a wonderful community town half an hour from Milwaukee WI.
Why am I here in the Midwest? I traveled here for my 50th high school reunion from Kettle Moraine High School in Wales WI. While I am Facebook friends with a number of my former classmates, it’s been 50-plus years since I’ve last seen them. Someone I’ve kept in close touch with is my bestie from high school, Kris Laak-Schoolcraft. She is someone whose friendship has stayed true over the years, and I visit her and her family at their Mukwonago home every time I visit Wisconsin.
Flying in to the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport July 26, I was picked up after midnight by a dear friend, Gretchen Babbitt, whose home is a little over a half hour’s drive away in the Wisconsin town of Roberts, where she lives with her daughter Teddy and their two dogs, Max and Chazz.
The following day we shopped for dinner supplies and enjoyed a Mexican themed dinner of pork sausage, homemade guacamole and Pico de Gallo salsa. We laughed and told endless stories. Gretchen was a real life saver for me back in the mid 90s when my sister was hospitalized, and Gretchen took care of our two children, Gillian, then 7, and Raymo, then 3. They learned to play video games, like Spyro, and ever since then, Gretchen and her girls have been like family to me. Gretchen even loaned me the use of her car to drive across the wide state of Wisconsin for this trip. I am truly grateful to her for her kindness. On July 27 I enjoyed an evening lightning storm.
Friday July 28 found me and Gretchen’s Kia Soul driving southeast across the state through rolling hills, forests, corn fields, farms and silos. I-94 was lined with blooming Queen Anne’s Lace and cornflowers. I noticed the numerous roadkill, mostly deer and coyote, lining the freeway, all of them deflated bags of bone and skin. I learned later on that road kill is no longer picked up, but left to decompose along the state’s roads and highways.
As I approached Delafield WI, where I lived with my family from 1969 to 1972, I began recalling the boys I’d kissed in ninth grade. As a Catholic school girl from Buffalo Grove IL who moved to Delafield in the summer of 1969 after my dad Ray Burbey’s job transfer, I found I enjoyed kissing the boys that first year. 1969/1970 also saw a school- wide sit down protest so that girls could wear pants to school and boys could grow their hair longer. My late brother Bob, and his cool friends in their senior class, organized the strike, which brought us the freedom to dress warmer and the boys to style their hair according to the times.
Though I did not graduate with the class in 1973, I still think of Kettle Moraine as my primary high school experience. Fed up with Wisconsin winters, my mom, Helen, said she wanted to move to California, where it was warmer. While my parents were away looking for homes during the autumn of 1972, I thought I’d have a few friends over. Word traveled to the nearby towns and before I knew it, we had probably 150 high school kids at my parents’ home, partying to high heaven.
While I tried to cover up the fact, my parents found out about the party after their return. Our neighbor lady told them. Evidence where kids had smashed pumpkins in my parents’ garden, chipped paint from when someone had leaned back on the dining room chair and dinged the newly painted wall, and a boy’s corduroy jacket in the hall closet were the proof of my crime.
My parents said they could not trust me to stay on my own—I was going to stay with Kris and her family to finish high school and then planned to enroll in German language school in Switzerland where my grandpa and his third wife lived. I thought I’d become a Lufthansa flight attendant or an interpreter at the United Nations. But, I moved to California instead, where I attended Chatsworth High School in a class of 1,500. Never did connect with that group, though I met my husband Bill/Willy in November of 1973 through a longtime friend, Linda Hanson, I have known since 1960. I will reunite with her and other friends in Maine next month.
Fifty years later, Kris and I drove to the Dousman Derby Days July 28, where our class met up at the beer tent. There was Mark Lurvey, a former Future Farmer of America club member, then a skinny guy who wore plaid shirts and arrived at school after milking cows 50-plus years ago. Now he’s a distinguished silver-haired grandfather, and has created an empire of sod farms and garden centers. Since Kris and I shared lockers, his was next to hers, and we often kidded each other in between classes.
I talked a long while with Melody Turner, now Melody Cook. She pierced my ears with a sewing needle and ice cubes. Her late brother Chet, was the first boy I ever kissed. Melody and I spent the summer of 1970 as summer girls. I worked for a good family, Dr. Weiss, a podiatrist my mom had worked for. Melody worked with the Hoffman family next door. She recalled our adventure with some older fellows who took us out for a boat ride on Lake Michigan on one of our days off. We were well treated by the gents. Melody and I recalled how naive we were then, but also trusted that nothing would go wrong.
Kris and I left just as lightning lit up the sky. By the time we reached her car, it was raining. We returned to her home, where her mother-in-law Carol and husband Rusty were watching the weather reports. Tornado warnings. Fist-sized chunks of hail were shown. Mukwonago was highlighted as the epicenter of the warnings. It began to pour and the wind howled. We walked out on the front porch, looking out at the nearby intersection of Sugden Road and County Hwy I. Illuminated in lightning, it looked like a hurricane had hit with the rainwater blowing in horizontal sheets. We lost power at 10:30 that night. The family’s water well was operated by an electric pump, so there was no flushing toilets or running water until the following afternoon. I walked down to my basement room with a flashlight Kris loaned me.
I woke at 6 the following morning and read in the family sunroom. A white-tailed deer sampled bird seed from Kris’s many backyard bird feeders. A Northern Cardinal flashed its red feathers. Since the household still slept, I drove in to Mukwonago needing a cup of coffee. Lucky to find the Bee Well Cafe, I stopped in and ordered a breakfast sandwich minus the bread. Since 2020 I can not tolerate gluten and am grateful for restaurants which accommodate my condition. The owner’s 14 -year-old son was wise beyond his years and a great asset to the bonhomie of the cafe. He brought me my coffee and breakfast. I was grateful for the cafe’s wifi and electric power so I could check in with peeps at home.
Returning to Rusty and Kris’s later that morning, the power was still out. I joined Kris, Rusty and Carol in completing a jigsaw puzzle. It was a calming and a fun experience to work together assembling the 1000-piece puzzle once owned by Carol’s mom Edie, which showed their hometown of Fountain City, along the Mississippi in southwestern WI.
Saturday night a reunion party was planned at the LakeCountry DockHounds sports bar. Thanks to the planning committee, the place was decorated with our high school colors, blue and gold, and a banner welcoming us. So enjoyable to talk with folks I spent high school days with, including Linda Butzer a close friend, who I shared many memories with.
Some of the classmates like Jane Marty were recognizable right away. Others I had to search my memories to remember them then and now. We had a little contest after the hotdog/burger dinner. The first question was who remembers the high school fight song. I raised my hand, stood up and sang: “The Lasers are the best by far, they fight all thru the game. Their history is victory, we’re proud of K.M.’s name! The Lasers know they’ve got the go, they’re reaching for the top. The coach, the team are on the beam, the Lasers can’t be stopped.”
I won a box of adult martini ‘cool pops,’ which I gave to Kris and Rusty.
Photographers took loads of group photos, which I look forward to viewing on this website. As soon as I get one with a sharper quality, I’ll post it to this page.
The following morning Kris drove us to Dousman once again to watch the town’s parade, including the Kettle Moraine Marching band and cheerleaders. Visited once again with folks I hadn’t seen for over fifty years, each of us recalling events we had in common. One conversation with former cheerleader Terry Wandschneider, solved a years’ old mystery: my brother Bob hosted a party when our parents, my sister Heidi and I were out of town. There was the story of a horse stuck in the garage and being led through the living room. Terry was at that party and recalled the horse owner and the garage door unable to open, and marching the horse through the living room. Why Bob wasn’t made to move with our parents to California, I will never know. Only the fates will.
Following Sunday’s parade, Kris drove me around sight seeing, where we visited her daughter Jen Wambold, who will take a new job as a regional customer relations with a banking corporation. Her daughter Ava is a smart and fun seven-year-old. Jen and Ava joined us later for a refreshing dip in Kris and Rusty’s pool. I treated Kris to lunch at Sol de Mexico in Mukwonago. Our waitress Jenny was a lot of fun and while we were there, a large crowd gathered to surprise her for her 50th birthday. Kris said the restaurant is generous and sponsored her bowling team.
So, that is life so far. Stay tuned for stories from Milwaukee and Door County.