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Young, old mix for CHS centennial
The weekend-long celebration of Ceres High School's Centennial seemed more like a homecoming to thousands whose lives were touched as students.

A large number of graduates from years past turned out for Friday night's Bulldogs football contest versus Davis High. The celebrating continued Saturday morning with a special event that revisited the school's century of history. On Sunday 100 years of athletics was celebrated as the school opened its Athletic Hall of Fame.

The 100-year history of Ceres High School was condensed into about an hour of review during Saturday's Centennial celebration that prompted a flood of memories for the mostly alumni crowd.

The oldest living graduate of CHS, Mary Edith Forney Thompson, 101, of Santa Rosa, was unable to attend the celebration. She left Ceres in 1926 after graduating from Ceres High School in 1925. Emcee Nate Cousins said Thompson couldn't make it "because her children are in their 80s and they couldn't drive her here."

However, Alice Dora Caulkins Melugin, 98, was celebrated as the oldest graduate present. Mrs. Melugin graduated Ceres High in 1928 and still lives close to the house where she was born. She was presented a special sash by CHS activities director Linda Cooper.

Wayne D. Salter, class of 1930, was honored as the second oldest graduate in attendance. He later reflected on how CHS prepared him for a life of farming.

"I was an ag student," said the 94-year-old Salter. "I remember Professor Freeman, he was the ag instructor. Howard Wakeman was the shop instructor. I remember those two in particular because I spent a lot of time in there. I was always too small to be much of an athlete."

Salter said what he learned at CHS prompted him to further study agriculture at U.C. Davis. He returned to farm peaches, and helped to organize the first Ceres Peach Festival, which evolved into the Ceres Harvest Festival and now Ceres Street Faire. Salter also served in his church and was elected to serve as a Ceres School Board trustee in the late 1950s.

Patti Taylor La Pointe, a member of the Ceres High class of 1934, turned out for the program. One event - one of her last at CHS - stood out in her memory.

"I do remember our (senior) ditch day," said LaPointe. "We rented a truck and all of our class got into the rear of the truck bedded with straw and we went to Yosemite National Park. And we got part way there and on one of the steep grades, we had to get out of the truck and walk a ways before the truck would get to the top of the hill. We made it. It an official ditch day so we didn't get into trouble. It was a great day. And then we were all very, very tired and headed back in that truck."

La Pointe said her class was just 48 students in size.

Saturday's celebration drew 1935 graduate Dorothy Barbour Wallace back to Ceres. She left Ceres for Santa Rosa in 1953. Wallace, whose uncle Alfred W. Gondring graduated in 1916, said Ceres has changed greatly. She was going to check out her old neighborhood on Fifth Street near Whitmore Avenue to see if two farms were still behind her former house. She was reassured that the farms were gone.

Betty Taylor Baker, a 1939 graduate, said she enjoyed the strolling back through time.

"Mr. (Aaron) Cakebread was our principal," Baker recalled. "He was great, absolutely great. And believe it or not, though he was principal, he directed a number of outstanding plays for us. We did 'Little Women,' 'Anne of Green Gables' and, oh dear, I don't know what else. But those were good memories. I had a great time at Ceres High School."

Baker said that of the 62 graduates in her class "way over half of us are gone."

Emcee Cousins, a 1988 graduate of CHS, punctuated the concise historical review with elements of humor and entertainment acts by current students. The CHS Royal Scarlet Brigade marching band performed as did the Perpetual Motion dance team and Ceres High cheerleaders.

Guests later enjoyed a lunch barbecued by the Ceres Lions Club and a tour of the campus. Guests also pored over displays of old photographs, yearbooks and other mementos from Ceres High's past inside the Student Center. The display included portraits of the students of the first graduating class of 1912.

Organized chiefly by elementary school professor John A. Wagener, Ceres High opened on Aug. 31, 1908 with 25 students at a time when 250 resided in 35 homes in Ceres. The first classes were held in the Grange Hall, which was located in Triangle Park, now known as Whitmore Park. By 1910 there were 54 students at Ceres High. The first class in 1912 graduated on the second floor of the Collins & Warner commercial building on Fourth Street (now gone).

The current CHS campus was created in 1915. The first building was contracted at a cost of $31,000. Furnishings cost $3,000. New buildings were added in 1939 and 19431. The old school was razed in 1967 and replaced by the current administration building and classrooms.

Occasionally Cousins' recitation of history was corrected by graduates who remembered things otherwise. Such a moment came when it was stated that the classes of 1941, 1942 and 1943 didn't have a yearbook due to the war. After someone raised a copy of the '42 cereal, Cousins said "1941 is in the house as well. One of the great things about history is that it's constantly being revised."

The event was in the Phil de la Porte Gymnasium, built in 1956. The first basketball games were played there in 1956, four years after Richard McBride graduated. McBride, who is a former Ceres mayor, recalled the hazards of playing in the old smaller gym with the braces used to hold the backstops in place.

"How many times did I get put into that thing?" said McBride. "That's why I hurt today."

Population of Ceres High School swelled to 2,414 in 2003 before Central Valley High School was opened. Enrollment in 2008 was 1,240.