CASHMERE — Gerry Jessup scored the first basket ever for an Eastmont High School basketball team.
Ed Brewer was the first student to qualify for a state tournament in any sport for the school.
Linda Apted sold countless candy bars to help buy the school’s first uniforms for sports, band and cheerleading.
The Eastmont High School class of 1958 tallied a number of benchmarks on its way to becoming the school’s first graduating class. This weekend, the 61 surviving members of that class are celebrating their 50th reunion.
“People don’t realize all that we accomplished that year,” Joel Hume said at a reunion dinner Friday night at Studebaker’s ’50s Diner in Cashmere.
They dreamed up the name Eastmont and chose Wildcats for a school mascot. They picked crimson red and Columbia blue for school colors, and came up with the words for the school fight song and motto. They developed the first school government and laid the foundation for sports, music, drama and clubs.
But perhaps the most satisfying mark is they were the first eastside students who never had to cross the Columbia River to attend Wenatchee High School.
“I was not a bridge walker,” Hume said with pride.
The members of the 1958 graduating class were ninth-graders at the East Wenatchee Junior High when the community voted in 1954 to combine several small school districts into one and jointly build a new high school. The original plan was to open the school in 1956, with the first class graduating in 1959.
But the enthusiastic group of ninth-graders wanted to be the first to graduate, so they convinced the school board to open the school a year early.
When they started their sophomore year at the new Eastmont High School, all juniors and seniors were still bused to Wenatchee High School. So the class of 1958 had to blaze its own trails.
“We didn’t have any older kids to look up to,” Hume said.
They started that first year in an incomplete school. The gymnasium, combined cafeteria and auditorium and the band room were not yet built. The school district had little money to spend on extras, so the students held fundraisers and solicited donations to buy equipment and uniforms for extra-curricular activities.
Hume recalled the school held “work days” at least once a year, when students went to work for businesses in the community and their wages were donated back to the school. Most of the work was in agriculture.
With no junior or senior class the first year, the students had to build sports teams with ninth- and 10th-graders.
“We were getting creamed in sports all the time,” Jessup joked, adding he scored the first basket for the school. “Do you know where that fact is recorded? Nowhere!”
He said the team lost 38 straight games during his sophomore and junior year before they finally beat Othello High School to end the losing streak. The team signed the winning game ball, and it was displayed with pride at the school until the new high school was built on Third Street and the ball was thrown out, Jessup said.
Because the Eastmont High School did not have a gym when it opened, the basketball team practiced and played all its home games that first year in the gym at Rock Island Elementary. The court was great, Jessup said, but there were no bleachers. So spectators had to crowd onto a small stage to watch.
He added school officials didn’t want the school’s young football team to get “beat up on” by larger schools like Wenatchee that first year, so they scheduled games against tiny high schools in the region, including Entiat and Brewster.
“Are you kidding me?” Jessup laughed out. “Entiat was outstanding that year. And Brewster? There weren’t going to be enough digits on the scoreboard to record their score against us.”
But despite the losing ways of Eastmont’s inaugural sports teams, Jessup said the school spirit was intense.
“At every basketball game, every football game, you’d think we were vying for a state championship by the cheers,” he said. “Even though we lost nearly every game.”
Hume was one of just a few students who bought the first Eastmont High School sweater-jacket. He was the only one to wear it Friday, adding with pride that he could still fit into it.
He said no one in their class went to a state tournament during those first two years, and only one — Brewer, a wrestler — went during their senior year.
But that did not diminish all they accomplished as a class, he said, adding, “What we did, it was quite an achievement, even today.”