Memories, stories relived as school celebrates 34 years

Cat Cavazos and Delaney Garrelts

Back to the future? Not quite.

Olathe South, which opened their doors in 1981, celebrates 34 years of being open, and the old saying is quite true, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Quite a few former students remained in Olathe long after their high school years ended, as well as their teachers, and they are ready and willing to share their stories and reminisce about the decade.

Everything was different in the 1980’s: Hair, clothes, and even how people talked and acted in general. The school even had an area for teachers and sometimes students to just stand around and smoke outside.

School activities such as the dance team and theatre have also altered the way that they operate, with new ideas and a more modern style.

I remember there were a few rowdy senior men riding mopeds through the commons and having White Castle eating contests during lunch.”

— Heather Crocker, 1984 graduate

Chad Coughlin and Gail Holder, former students and now current directors of the Falcon Regiment, both participated in their respective activities when they themselves were in high school.

Holder remembers that every one of her drill team performances included cowboy boots and lots of fringe.

“We didn’t have different costumes like we do now. We wore the same uniform to every performance,” Holder said.

Current band uniforms are similar to what Coughlin wore then, and though things are mostly the same, “the way marching shows are designed is a little different,” he said.

Sports uniforms, in general ,have changed as well. Basketball shorts are longer and baggier while cheerleading uniforms are shorter sleeved and more athletic looking.

Regular clothes have also experienced a major shift since the era. Instead of the present day leggings and hoodies, tight rolled jeans, big hair, and bright, loud and baggy sweaters were all things seen in the ‘80s.

Both Kim Wahaus, social science teacher, and Coughlin laugh as they told stories of their parachute pants and sky-high hair.

Some things, like flannels, have been making a big comeback, but the big hair and parachute pants haven’t really followed into this generation.

Former students and teachers also noted that the school is much bigger then in the school’s younger years.

Heather Crocker, who graduated in 1984, remembers that the student population and the building in general were much smaller. The school store didn’t exist, and the Falcons Nest is where the office used to be. The front hallway used to be a parking lot.  Since 1981, there have been many remodels and additions to the school.

The staff has altered too, and only four of the original teachers remain.

The four original teachers who are still at the school, including Vicki Kohl; English teacher, Roger Ramseyer, technology coach and original theater director. RuthAnne Falls, business teacher, and Robin Weems, computer teacher. Thus have memories of what the school was like during the building’s younger years.

Ramseyer told about some of the struggles the school faced during those early times.

“The first year the school was open, a tornado took the gym roof off in the first year and ruined the floor,” Ramseyer said.

The school had to go through major renovations, starting with  repairs. In all, the school has had six renovations, including adding the band hallway, exercise rooms, and the Publication Lab. However, despite all of the additions and moving around that have happened in the building throughout the years, the walls still contain all of the memories and anecdotes of three decades of high school students.

Crocker still smiles about some fun moments. “I remember there were a few rowdy senior men riding mopeds through the commons and having White Castle eating contests during lunch,” she said.

Stephanie Ray, graduate of 1985, remembers many of the same kinds of rebellious memories. “[My friends and I] used to use payphones and would call [our]selves out, pretending to be our parents,” she said.

Calling themselves out of school was much easier at the time because they would use payphones outside of the school, which are harder to track.

Ray also has other sweet memories of high school as she met her first husband when he went to Olathe North, and she met her current husband after she graduated from South when he was currently enrolled there.

One thing that has remained the same about the school is the tradition of quality theatre. Both teachers and students alike have many memories associated with different productions. Falls remembers being impressed by the 1984 student production of “Grease.” Coughlin specifically remembers one funny instance when “senior Eric Steinle fell through two levels of a triple-bunk bed. […] Luckily it was the senior matinee, so […] a number of them were asleep or had eyesight poor enough that they didn’t even know what had happened.”

One main difference, however, was that in 1981, the area around the school wasn’t nearly as developed as it is now.

“When I signed my contract, 151st St. was just a dirt road,” Ramseyer said.

Coughlin remembers that more students from rural areas were attending.

“They came in pickup trucks with their boots, cowboy hats and big belt buckles each day,” he said. “And it wasn’t just a style that they chose to adopt.”

Just as the student body has changed, so has the staff.Teachers have come and gone and even switched positions. Crocker remembers that Phil Clark, the current principal, was her sign language teacher in the 1980s instead of on the administration staff like he is now. The “originals,” however, have stayed true to the community that they helped build.

Catherine Smith, English teacher who started working here in 1982, said that “what people don’t realize is that [the] people who chose to stay here were building the Olathe South community, and we’re very proud of that community.”