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posted: 8/27/2010 12:01 AM

Batavia class of '45 reflects on end of World War II

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August 14, 1945, the day that marked the end of World War II, was a day that many will never forget, especially the members of Batavia High School class of '45.

"We all went through school with the war on our minds," said Paul Bergeson, class of '45 president. "It dominated our lives."

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Like other classes that I have interviewed over the years, I found that most of the young people at that time were fearful for those who were away in service of their country but they themselves were never afraid, except for the day that Pearl Harbor was bombed.

"When we heard that the United States had been attacked it was terrifying," said Ethyl Bergeson. "I remember hearing that we were under attack and a friend and I got under the kitchen table to be safe."

Such activity wasn't hard to understand. As a child of the 50s, I had to undergo more than a few classroom drills when we were instructed to get under our desks at Blaine Street School in case the country was attacked

"I was never worried that we would lose the war, because I had such faith in our country," said Ethyl. "America couldn't lose."

The war may have ended in August, but the draft continued until June of 1946, sealing the fate for many in the high school class.

"We knew when we got out of school that we would be going into the service," said Paul. "but the war also enabled many to go to college on the G.I. Bill."

College was a dream come true for many who might not have had the opportunity without the government assistance program.

"I was the first one in my family to graduate from college, like many others," added Paul.

With World War II constantly in the news, you would think that the class of 1945 would have been a bit apathetic. Not in the least.

"Our class was small, but we were very close," said Paul, "and we had a lot of spirit."

Only 54 people graduated in June of that year, but what they accomplished as a class was beyond compare.

They started the Huddle, a place where high school students could congregate and have dances outside of school. The Huddle would be a tradition that would continue for over 30 years, enabling Batavia students to have a safe environment to get together.

With songs like "Three Little Fishies" and "Maizy Doats" playing on the radio, the high school kids in '45 could escape from the news of the war. They didn't just have to endure the blackouts initiated by the area towns. They also celebrated them, holding black-out dances at the high school.

The class of 1945 also brought back the Echo, the yearbook that had been discontinued during the depression to save money for the school district.

Of course, the biggest accomplishment for the class was the renaming of the BHS sports teams.

"We had the entire student body vote and the name that won was the Bulldogs." said Paul.

With a strong Swedish tradition the newly named Bulldogs continued to play in front of crowds that shouted cheers in Swedish. In the yearbook, the honor of "Typical Batavia Boy" was won by Harold Lundin who was Swedish. Many played on the Vasa Soccer team.

It was a different time and a different place, but the spirit of the class of 1945 was unlike any other.

"I loved going to school," said Ethyl, "Life was so good. We had no worries."

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