Albert M. Lowry High School opened its doors for its first graduating class in 1968. This first ever class only consisted of about 50 students. Throughout the last five decades, thousands of students have graduated, the campus has expanded immensely and the students have been exposed to many more opportunities than before.
Mr. Ray Parks has been the principal at Lowry for five years, and has been in this school district for 26 years. He has been around long enough to know how things used to be and how they are now.
“The biggest advancements are definitely the opportunities for kids now as far as dual credits, AP, Great Basin, work-study programs and scholarship opportunities. I think with the growth of the community, we’ve kept up with opportunities for our students while they’re in school and when they graduate. The opportunities for kids have grown immensely. 50 years ago, there wasn’t really much mining here, it was almost all agriculture. This whole school, 50 years ago was built for 400 kids maximum. Now we’re at a thousand kids. We’ve added six buildings and we’re up to fifty-some teachers when they had a dozen or so, then,” said Parks.
The First Graduating Class: ‘68
In 1968, there were a lot of new beginnings that ranged from new music to new food. There were also, some unfortunate events.
The Beatles came out with their “White Album”. Martin Luther King Junior was assassinated on April 4, as well as Robert F. Kennedy on June 5. A gallon of gasoline costed only 34 cents and a brand new car was $2,822. The first Big Macs were being sold for 49 cents. The population of the Earth was 3.5 billion.
Since only 68 students graduated the year Lowry was established, you could imagine the campus was fairly small.
“There was probably a total of 400 kids,” said Sandy Hopfer, a graduate of 1968. “When I went to high school, Lowry used to be so far out of town. It was just surrounded by sagebrush. You kind of had to wonder,‘what were they thinking?’”
Sandy Hopfer is now retired, but she was a secretary at Sonoma Heights Elementary and also worked for Le French Twiste on downtown Bridge street for a period of time.
Mike Wolicki was also a graduate of 1968 and is retired. He’s the grandpa of junior, Mikayla Wolicki. Mike loves hunting, and back in the day he worked on the railroad.
Even 50 years ago, Lowry had dances and a variety of sports, but according to Mike Wolicki, not as much school spirit.
“You know, there was a lot of school spirit, but not as much as there is now. We never painted ourselves blue and gold or anything like that,” said Mike.
Hopfer was involved in the downtown drives and chic clothing of ‘68.
“When we were in school, we weren’t allowed to wear pants. All girls had to wear dresses. Now I think that you’re able to wear anything you want in a reasonable state, that’s not too exposing,” said Hopfer. “All of the kids hung out together, and we would drag main street. We would go from the Frontier Motel and turn around, and where the Subway is used to be a place called the Krazy Kone, and we would turn around there. Every night, and on the weekends especially, there would be a lot of traffic on Winnemucca Boulevard because that’s what kids would do for fun.”
There are also a greater variety of courses available for students than there was in 1968.
“You probably have more things to learn now. We had Biology back then, but we didn’t have Physics. We had Algebra and Geometry, but we didn’t have Calculus. Now you’re offered the chance to do a lot of your first-year college credits,” said Hopfer. “You have the community college, Great Basin, right across the street. We didn’t have that. When you were a senior in high school then, you had just enough credits to finish your senior year. Students now can almost be a sophomore when they get to university.”
Hopfer, like many students today, had a plan for college and things didn’t exactly go as planned.
“I was going to go to college and become an elementary school teacher. My first year of College at UNR I had to have an appendectomy, so I couldn’t go and finish my first semester. Then I went to beauty school and became a beautician. Then I became a school secretary,” said Hopfer.
70’s: Age of the hippies
In 1973, a gallon of gasoline cost 40 cents. A dozen medium eggs cost 25 cents. The World Trade Center in New York became the tallest building in the world. In 1978, a pound of bacon was $1.20. Ashton Kutcher was born February 7. Garfield made its first debut, and the world population was about 4.4 billion.
Jim Billingsley is the owner of Jim Dandy Productions in Winnemucca and also teaches Northern Nevada Outdoors for a class period at Lowry.
A common theme in Lowry’s history is the improvement and expansion of the school. Jim Billingsley (1973), confirmed that.
“For years and years even when I came back and started teaching, the population of the high school was about 400 kids. That’s about a hundred kids a class. It’s at least double that now, and because of that you have more buildings, more classrooms and there are a lot better facilities and of course, the technology has changed immensely,” said Billingsley.
Billingsley also mentioned that there were fewer activities for women.
“There were very few women sports back in 1973. There was no girls basketball it was just kind of club stuff. Now baseball and football have summer programs and there was no swim team back then,” said Billingsley.
Vince Mendiola, graduate of 1974, still lives in Winnemucca. He is an assistant basketball coach for the girls varsity team at Lowry.
Mendiola tells us that the clothing style was similar to today's clothing, but not quite.
“The clothing was much like it is today. There were groups that wore baggy clothing, some wore tight jeans that would be decorated by pulling out the dark threads so the white threads showed up, and of course the western wear. We had a lot of ranch kids. The girls still had to wear dresses and we had a much stricter dress code.”
80’s: The Disco Era
In 1985, a US postage stamp cost 22 cents and Michael Jordan was named NBA’s rookie of the year. In 1988, a gallon of gas was 91 cents; the average price of a new car was $10,400; and laser eye surgery had just been developed. George H. W. Bush was elected president, and the world population was about 5.1 billion.
Tammy Gabica graduated in 1987, and is the mother of sophomore, Andrew Gabica. Gabica owns the Serenity Spa on Winnemucca Boulevard, and her husband Frank, owns Tallman Lumber.
The 80’s was definitely all it has seemed to be, according to Gabica.
“There was lots of blue eyeshadow, big hair, and acid washed jeans for guys and girls. Girls also liked to wear halter tops to school,” said Gabica.
Gabica also stated that her favorite thing at Lowry was getting an hour and a half for lunch and that she and the members of the 1987 class are still very close in contact.
Mrs. Alexis Maga-Mattson graduated in 1988. She is the mother of senior, Lorenzo Mattson and freshman Kole Mattson. Before becoming a teacher here, she worked at her parents' company, Maga Trucking. She has always planned on being a teacher, but she did get an accounting degree. Mattson also received the senior superlative of ‘loudest’, along with KC Kracaw.
Mattson enjoyed playing sports as much as she liked messing with her classmates.
“I loved playing basketball and volleyball. Or stuffing Dustin Christean in a duffel bag during practice,” said Mattson.
Mattson also mentioned that Lowry did not have a volleyball team in the 80’s, and the cool place to hang out was an ice cream place called Krazy Kone, the same place Sandy Hopfer mentioned from 1968.
KC Kracaw also graduated in 1988. He used to work at his dad's farm and is currently a science teacher at the Winnemucca Jr. High. Kracaw enjoys collecting exotic animals such as chameleons, hedgehogs, sugar gliders, an African Grey Parrot, cockatiels, parakeets, Indian Ringneck Parrots, and koi.
The 90’s: Grunge
In 1994, Bill Clinton was president. A gallon of gasoline cost $1.16. Ty launched the first ‘Beanie Babies’. Kurt Cobain died on April 5, and OJ Simpson fled police in his white Ford Bronco on June 17. The world population was about 5.6 billion.
Kelly and Sabrina Novi are both graduates of the class of 1993. They both went to UNR, and Sabrina had an engineering degree in mind. Kelly is now the principal of the Winnemucca Junior High, and Sabrina is a teacher there.
Even back then, many students at Lowry swore they would never return to Winnemucca, and that was exactly the case for the Novis.
“We left with no intention of coming back to Winnemucca, but then there was the job market, quality of life and family, so we came back,” said Sabrina.
Another innovation that Lowry acquired were the parking lots, which are now much different according to Sabrina.
“The parking now is different. As seniors, we got to park where the solar panels are and we got to paint our parking spots. We’d go up there to paint them before school started, and decorate them however we wanted to. Great Basin wasn’t there, so people didn’t park across the street. They would park down near the football field,” said Sabrina.
When it comes to things to do, getting involved at Lowry isn’t as hard as it seems.
“I think Lowry was, and continues to be, a school that provides a lot of opportunities for kids; if they’re willing to take advantage of them. With choir, band and all the clubs, there’s no shortage of things to get involved with,” said Sabrina.
Jennifer Ragsdale graduated in 1996 and is the mother of seniorGaven Ross. For a while, she worked for the Lovelock hospital as a Certified Nurse’s Assistant. Jennifer currently works at The Martin hotel as a waitress and has lived in Winnemucca for most of her life.
The 90’s were the beginning of the grunge era, and Ragsdale said she was part of the movement.
“I remember grunge was a big thing when I started high school. A lot of kids wore flannels and band t-shirts. Some girls wore babydoll dresses with stockings, and letterman's jacket and acid washed 501 jeans were very popular,” said Ragsdale. “Bodysuits and short shorts. Birkenstocks too. It seems like some of those fashion trends have made their way back.”
Cruising the Boulevard is what many generations of high schoolers did for fun, but sometimes skipping school was even better.
“We used to cruise the strip for fun. We would start at Dave’s Dugout and end up at McDonald's where everyone would just talk and hang out,” said Ragsdale. “We also used to skip school after lunch and sunbathe down by the Humboldt River. It was a lot easier to skip class back then.”
Mrs. Rebecca Hill was also a graduate of 1996, who graduated and went off to college, only to come back and teach at her alma mater. She was Mr. Aberasturi’s teachers assistant and went to school with Ms. Cassandra Jenkins, Ms. Laura Mercardo, and Mr. Luca Bernardi, who’re all teachers here.
Hill stated that even in the span of 20 years, technology has changed plenty.
“When I was in school, only the teachers had the old Mac computers and there was no cell phones. Kids actually talked to each other,” said Hill.
The 00’s: A new millenium
In 2001, a dozen eggs were 90 cents; a gallon of gas a $1.46. A terrorist attack brought down the Twin Towers in New York on September 11. “Shrek” was released on April 22. In 2007, a gallon of gasoline was $3.38. Apple announced the very first iPhone in January. In April, a Virginia Tech student went on a rampage, leaving over 30 people dead. In 2008, Barack Obama was the first African-American elected president.
Benny Martinez graduated in 2002. He moved to Winnemucca with his parents when he was three-years-old and has been part of the community ever since. He works at CarWil and has coached many Little League baseball teams over the years. Martinez is also the varsity baseball assistant coach.
Martinez stated that the dances were one of his best experiences, and he was very involved in sports during his time in high school.
“Ever since freshman year, I played football, basketball, and baseball. Everyone hung out after practice, and at the school dances,” said Martinez.
Mr. Austin Mayo graduated in 2007, and since then has worked at Reliable, Khoury’s, and graduated from UNR with an Accounting degree.
Mayo stated that his favorite thing in high school was getting involved, which can lead to lots of good memories.
“My best experience was just participating in everything. I was in Leadership, I was in Drama, I played three sports. Being involved; you don’t get that opportunity once you’re out of high school. So those are the kind of times I look back on and say ‘it was nice to have that’,” said Mayo.
Some of the fashion sense in the thousands was very questionable. Mayo said he was part of the more reasonable side of the fashion trends; the casual t-shirt and jeans.
“In my day, people were really into Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister. So, there were a lot of polos, nice jeans. I guess you could call it ‘the frat boy’ look,” said Mayo.
Mayo is now a math teacher at Lowry.
The 10’s to now
In 2010, the price of a postage stamp was 44 cents, and a gallon of gasoline was $2.73. Apple released the first iPads, and the world population was about 6.9 billion. In 2013, the cost of a movie ticket was about $10.25, and gasoline went back up to $3.80 a gallon. Drake dropped his “Nothing Was the Same” album in September.
Jayna Hill, a graduate of 2010, is the daughter of English teacher, Mrs. Rene Hill. Jayna attended Great Basin College as well as UNR. She moved to Las Vegas but ended up moving back. Hill now teaches at Encore Dance Academy and even substitute teaches.
Jayna Hill said that she and her class were extremely busy during high school. Hill was a member of FFA, varsity cheer, journalism, Teen Court, and Letterman's club.
“I don’t know if we [the class] had any downtime really. We were always doing some kind of school activity or I had dance classes. And I had no social life… just kidding,” said Hill.
Hill also stated that all of her favorite teachers still work at Lowry.
“My favorite teachers were Mr. Espinola, Mrs. Dawson…sometimes. Mr. Corak and Mrs. Doyle,” said Hill.
Chaslynn McAllister graduated in 2015. She was a member of band as well as varsity cheer and is currently pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Social Science with an emphasis in Psychology. McAllister is also working toward a substitute teaching license.
“I went to school at the College of Southern Idaho to begin my studies of chiropractics; halfway through my first year, I changed my mind and switched my major to psychology in May, 2017 and am currently studying to receive my Bachelors in Social Science at Great Basin. The education and career plan is to receive my Masters in Counseling and possibly start my own private practice in Winnemucca,” said McAllister.
It is now 2018. The world population is 7.6 billion. The Apple iPhone X was recently released. Donald Trump is president. The federal government was shut down for three days. On February 14, three teachers and fourteen students lost their lives at the Douglas Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida. The winter Olympics were held in Pyeongchang, South Korea; where the US emerged with 23 medals total. Women, immigrants, and the LGBT community are still fighting for rights. We’ve come a tremendously long way in 50 years, but we all still have much to learn.
The Brand staff contributed to this article by interviewing a past graduates from every decade up to the latest graduating class.