For alumni, Houlton will always be home

Karen Donato, Special to The County
8 years ago

HOULTON, Maine — The Houlton High School Alumni Association held its multi-class reunion from July 3-11. The association set up the Hospitality Center in a vacant storefront on the corner of Main and Mechanic streets. The center was a great gathering place for alumni to stop in and view photos, pick up tickets and share conversation with either volunteers working the counter or other alumni stopping by.

It is always interesting to meet former students. Many have spent their adult lives in other parts of the United States or sometimes in other countries. No matter where they have been, they have great memories of Houlton and “our town” will always be their home.
Mike Donovan (Class of ’57) was here not only to attend the gala events, but also to receive an alumni chair for establishing a scholarship in honor of his sister, Patty Fitzpatrick, alumni secretary who was very active in all of the alumni activities since its beginning in 1996.
As Donovan thought back over his high school years, he noted the dedication of the teachers. Some of whom may have influenced his own career in education as a teacher in Massachusetts. He had fond memories of band director Bill Rutledge. Donovan was the manager of the band during high school.
He also recalled his many jobs on the farm. His father, John was a farmer, so as a youngster Donovan did a variety of jobs in the potato house, fieldwork and even counting tickets at the end of the day during harvest.
Rick Nickerson (Class of ’81), director of choral activities at Windham High School for the past 27 years directed the alumni chorus. He shared his love for the Houlton school system and the community. He recalled his vocal teacher, Gladys Tarbell and how her influence along with Mark Scalley led him to his own career in music.
Nickerson also gave a solo performance of his own singing an original arrangement of a song called, “Caledonia,” a type of love song. He compared the song to expressing his feelings about his hometown, the high school stage where he sang his first solo and participated in the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.” It was a very touching moment for those attending, as well as emotional for Nickerson.
Another visitor was, Bob Fowler (Class of ’59) from Stratford, Conn. Fowler was raised by his grandparents, who lived in a house close to Community Park entrance. He remembered the grandstand with the stables around the racetrack for the horses. There were all levels of baseball and even skeet shooting. It was a busy place back in the 1950s, especially in the summers. However, other high school alumni remembered Fowler as the skater everyone emulated.
Fowler said, “I would watch figure skating on our black and white television and then I would go to the outside skating rink and try to do all the spins and moves that I had seen.”
It was an example of “practice makes perfect” as more than one alumni recalled his talent and watching him skate to the music of the fifties.
“I always had lots of skating partners back in those days,” he said with a laugh.
Fowler said, “Growing up then was the Golden Age where one could travel all over town, fish and hunt with your friends and no one looked for you until suppertime. There were no worries, it was the most fun time of my life.”
He also recalled the days of working after school at Fishman’s department store, shopping at Almon H. Foggs, where they carried just about everything from hardware to hunting and fishing equipment. He loved to see the Dunn Furniture Company Christmas window.
“It was a magical time of the year,” said Fowler.
Tim Taylor was also in town to participate and visit with his mom Madeline, now in her 90s. Living just outside Austin, Texas he was exclaiming about the new location of the Houlton’s web camera in Market Square. He checks it everyday when he is in Texas. One of the days he was here in town he called his wife, who couldn’t be here, so that he could stand in view of the camera and she could see him as they spoke.
“Thank you Fred Grant and WHOU radio station for letting so many former residents have a glimpse of their hometown,” Taylor said.
Even though it was mostly former alumni who visited the Hospitality Center, one visitor was Josh Hughes of Boca Raton, Fla. Hughes had been walking up and down the Main Street looking at the various class windows searching for photos of his parents, Mark and Mary Ellis Hughes who grew up here in Houlton.
Winners of the raffles were: Sara Douglas, painting by Barbara London; Diane McKinney Brogan, quilt; Becky Miller $500; and Polly Joslyn, 50/50 raffle.
As another Alumni Gala came to a close, the committee members began to reflect on the work from this year- long effort. Beginning back in September of 2014 with meeting once a month to meeting every two weeks since April to work out all the details. We had our challenges with the major one of losing a cherished board member and Gala chairman, Paul Porter. How could we fill his shoes? It was a team effort with Patty Fitzpatrick, our secretary seeing to many of the details Porter usually handled. Everyone went the extra mile to make the event one that Porter would be proud of.
Our thanks, to the many volunteers, businesses and organizations who contributed in some way to make the 2015 Alumni event a success.