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Ah Nostalgia! Central '51 Class Relives Old Times at Saginaw Bay Yacht Club

Question of the Night: Who is the Anonymous Benefactor That Picked Up Tab?

September 11, 2008       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Central High Class of 1951 mini-reunion participants at the Saginaw Bay Yacht Club include, from left, Marge Hay Baldwin, of West Branch; Joyce Smith Wayt, of Lake Leelenau; Phyllis Daeschner Johnson, of Baltimore, Maryland; and Carolyn Stanton Smith, Class of 1955, of Sarasota, Florida.
(MyBayCity Photo Courtesy of Bob Smith)

When the seniors of the Central High Class of 1951 begin their final year . . .

  • It is the fall of 1950.

  • The memory of World War II is still fresh.

  • Before the grads receive their diplomas, President Harry S. Truman fires General Douglas MacArthur.

  • In Korea, U.S. troops are fighting both the Chinese and the North Koreans.

  • In Bay City, Michigan, (pop. 52,523) there is a post-war industrial boom. Factories like Chevrolet-Bay City, the Electric AutoLite Co., Industrial BrownHoist, Evenknit and Wolverine knitting mills are booming.

  • Balcer buses are running downtown;

  • The school district is just getting started on a nationally-famous "pay-as-you-go" school building program;

  • Paul Harvey is mayor, Casey Jablonski manager, Horace Hodge assessor and S. Dillon Foss heads the board of education.

    Enjoying the affair are, seated from left, Joanne Leinberger Patterson, Larry Rosenberg and Phyllis Johnson; standing, Joyce Gibson Gerst, Lowell, MI, and Joyce Wayt.
    (MyBayCity Photo Courtesy of Bob Smith)

    John Leppelmeier, from Gainesville, Georgia, with Joyce Wayt, Phyllis Johnson and Curt Cormier of Farmington Hills.
    (MyBayCity Photo Courtesy of Bob Smith) At Central that fall, students who will be the graduates of the Class of 1951 are signing each other's yearbooks from the previous year, many with pictures taken at Agdanowski Studio on Columbus.

    Central Principal Paul Briggs ran a tight ship, the students recall, but in athletics things have deteriorated. Football equipment, for example, is from the Red Grange era, 1929, and a faction wants Central to drop out of the Saginaw Valley League since from 1947 to 1949 the Wolves had lost 20 straight games.

    On the field, new coach Elmer Engel from the University of Illinois is taking charge and new hope is sweeping the town and the Class of '51. Briggs catches the spirit and orders all new football equipment.

    The Wolves begin a comeback that season of 1950 with a record of three wins, six losses and no ties. In their very first game Central, with Elmer Cabage as quarterback, surprises Midland and wins 12-6.

    Engel and the Wolves would go on to win 10 Valley championships and five state titles over 23 years; no team of his would ever lose more than three games during his career, that ended in 1972.

    Almost unnoticed that year was the hiring of a guy named Russell "Lefty" Franz as coach of all sports at St. Stanislaus High, a mentor who 25 years later would lead Bay City All Saints to two straight state basketball titles.

    And, also in 1951, a couple of Central grads are making good in athletics: Johnny Tews wins the Michigan Public Links golf title and Charles Egeler is swimming to All American honors at Michigan State.

    So, when the dozen or so 1951 Central graduates, their wives, friends and compatriots of other years, gathered last week at the Saginaw Bay Yacht Club, they had plenty of old times to talk about.

    Cocktails were the order of the day on the "Jeanette S" of grad Brad Spaulding and "Skylark" of Bob Smith, Class of '55, and a grand dinner was served in the club.

    And, as the graduates and friends drift away after the affair, another topic arises that will be sure to be a conversation starter for years to come: Who was the anonymous benefactor that picked up the tab for everybody?

    Gathering also includes, from left, Larry Rosenberg, Bill Walther, Joyce Wayt, Shirley Moulthrop Stange, Phyllis Johnson, Shirley Walther, Marge Baldwin.
    (MyBayCity Photo Courtesy of Bob Smith)

    Grant and Sandy Urband, Class of 1955 Central and Handy respectively, enjoy photos shown by Joyce Wayt.
    (MyBayCity Photo Courtesy of Bob Smith)

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    Dave Rogers

    Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
    respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
    (Contact Dave Via Email at

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