Class of '37 honored at Barrington homecoming parade
There have been years when parkas were in order but sun and mild early fall temperatures set the tone Saturday for a special Barrington High School homecoming parade.
"We've had worse weather than this but I don't think we've had anything better," said Tom Leonard, superintendent of Barrington 220 schools. "I think it's a sign for the Class of 1937."
Alumni are always welcomed to the elaborate production that draws thousands each year to the sidewalks on Main Street in downtown Barrington. But this year, three 1937 graduates from the long gone Barrington High School on Hough Street were the grand marshals and VIP guests.
As the bands tuned up and participants assembled in noisy pre-parade preparation in the Metra commuter parking lot, an elderly white-haired man with a pony tail from Wernersville, Pa., explained how he came to be there.
"One day, I was sitting around and my brain told me, 'Why not get together?' " said Robert Koenig, 93. His out-of-the-blue quest to identify and contact his remaining classmates for a 75th anniversary reunion began in October 2011.
That was easier said than done as the old records had been destroyed in 1950. Classmate Ruth Van Wambeke, who still lives in Barrington, had the class picture.
"That gave us the names and we went from there," said Koenig, whose father was pastor of the United Church of Christ congregation in Barrington back then. Koenig also is a clergyman and served as editor of curriculum resources for the church.
He's writing a history of the church and made a vow in 2006 not to cut his hair until he finished. Hence, the ponytail.
"He's amazingly articulate and energetic for someone his age," said Jeff Arnett, District 220 spokesman.
When Koenig graduated, Franklin D. Roosevelt was beginning his second term as president and the U.S. was still shaking off the Great Depression. Other news of note that year was the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the explosion of the German airship Hindenburg at Lakehurst, N.J., and the disappearance of aviator Amelia Earhart.
The Barrington High School Class of 1937 had 52 students. Of those, 14 could not be found. Only seven of the remaining 38 survive. Besides Koenig and Van Wambeke, Clifford Schwemm, who lives in Cary, attended Saturday. The others either live out of state or are homebound.
Each of the trio rode in a different vintage car at the head of the parade: Koenig in a 1935 cream-colored Auburn Cord Duesenberg convertible; Van Wambeke in dark green 1941 Packard convertible coupe; and Schwemm in a black, 1956 Packard Clipper hard top.
Besides the class of '37, roughly 13 alumni groups participated in the parade, along with the marching band, cheerleaders, representatives from about 50 clubs, local businesses, school and youth groups and others queued up for the hourlong parade.
"All the classes really do come back and get together for the parade," said Anne Waliczek, a 1984 grad, who grew up in town and claims the same viewing spot at Main and Spring streets each year. "That's just rare to have a community that people like to return to."
Koenig said there was no homecoming parade when he was in school, but he had fun and got a good education.
"They're celebrating a wonderful educational institution and I'm glad to be part of it," he said.
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