Food, fellowship brings classmates together

Sioux Center High School Class of 1958 members Hendrene Kats, Esther Kats, Marge Beernink, Marj Meendering, Sharon Van’t Hoef, Mary Swets, Glenda Fedders and Karen Den Herder gather for coffee at Casey’s Bakery at the Centre Mall in Sioux Center. All members of the class are welcome to join them for lunch the third Thursday of each month.

SIOUX CENTER—A memory Marge Beernink has from high school in the 1950s makes her feel a bit nostalgic.

“I went around a corner too fast and by the time I came home, a member of the town council had already called to tell my dad about it,” the 79-year-old said. “He knew what I had done before I walked in the door. You think that’d be a bad memory, but there’s something about Sioux Center life in the 1950s I kind of miss.”

A few nods around the table of 1958 Sioux Center High School graduates followed.

About a dozen women from the Class of 1958, including Beernink, gather monthly at Casey’s Bakery in the Centre Mall in Sioux Center.

A meeting among four women started about three years ago, which evolved into meeting the third Thursday of every month.

“We mostly talk about our health and grandkids,” said Adella Hulstein, 79, of Sioux Center.

Sometimes, though, they reminisce.

“The whole community watched out for everyone,” Beernink said. “The whole town was our playground. You could tell by the whistles when to get home — one at noon and 6 at night for meals and at 9 at night to go home for good.”

Sioux Center had a population of 1,860 in 1950. It rose by 415 people to 2,275 by 1960.

“Everyone knew everybody in our town,” Beernink said. “No one used the word city. A lot has changed.”

One of the biggest changes is where they received their education as the facility is no longer standing.

“All our schooling was on Main Street just a couple blocks from downtown,” Beernink said.

The three-story brick high school building etched in their memories was located where the Sioux Center Post Office stands today adjacent to a three-story brick building for elementary and middle school, the land of which now is home to the Sioux Center Public Library.

Sioux Center issued a $200,000 bond to open a new auditorium/gymnasium in 1955, which was torn down in 2008 to create a parking lot for the public library. The gym was used by the Sioux Center Independent School District and the newly started Midwest Christian Junior College, now called Dordt University.

The year after the Class of 1958 graduated, the school district remodeled its school buildings and added a room just for the library.

A school reorganization program in Iowa went into effect in 1958 too, closing all country schools. The Sioux Center Independent School District then became the Sioux Center Community School District, resulting in the need for more renovations to its facilities.

“When you’re in high school, you don’t realize how big all of things these really were,” said Karen Van Beek, 78, of Sioux Center. “What you think of is what you enjoy doing with your friends.”

Walking downtown to Central Cafe was a big highlight for all Sioux Center teens back than.

“A Coke was just a nickel,” Hulstein said.

“It was a good destination after school, after basketball games and after catechism on Thursday nights,” Beernink added.

Most students walked to school with a few taking the bus or their parents’ vehicle.

“We all knew how to drive,” Beernink said. “Driver’s education was free. It was a course we took during school our sophomore year and everyone knew if you went.”

Hulstein and Sharon Van’t Hof, 79, of Hospers recall lots of marching in high school.

“I loved that,” said Van’t Hof, who played saxophone and drums. “We went on trips, that’s how we got to travel.”

“And it was required to participate in the Memorial Day service,” said Hulstein, who played the drums. “We marched from school down Main Street to the cemetery every year and walked back after the service. The route is technically still the same, starting at the library where the buildings used to be, but there’s not as much participation in Memorial Day. That’s sad to me.”

Beernink’s husband, who was a year behind her in school, reminds her of her class’s reputation.

“He’s said it a few times over the years how his class didn’t get to do some things because my class was so rowdy,” she said. “I don’t remember being so bad.”

A chorus of “me neither” and laughs rang around the luncheon table.

“That must have been the boys,” said Mary Van Middendorp, 78, of Sioux Center. “Though I may have skipped out on a school thing once.”