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The first graduating class of what’s now Valley High School to hold 60th reunion

August 2, 2018
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Members of the New Kensington High School class of 1958 are shown in the yearbook, the Taleoken.

It’s been 60 years since the class of 1958 was the first to graduate from the newly-built New Kensington High School and they are ready to take a walk down memory lane.

The class will hold its 60th class reunion Aug. 24 and Aug. 25 at the Comfort Inn at RIDC Park. A pizza party will be held at the hotel at 6 p.m. Aug. 24. A buffet dinner will be held at 6 p.m. Aug. 25. Group photos will be taken at 7 p.m. both nights by Lower Burrell photographers Teri and Terry McCutcheon.

The school was touted as being outfitted with “the most modern facilities available” in 1958.

It was later renamed Valley High School in the late 1960s, when the New Kensington and Arnold school systems merged and is still used today.

“I just remember I think we were excited with the idea that we were the first class -- that was a real distinction,” said Susan Burgart.

Burgart, who lives in Atlanta, had been planning the event for the past year with class president Bruce Shaw. Burgart took over the whole event after Shaw passed away earlier this year.

“He was so admired by everyone in our class as our leader and as an outstanding athlete,” she said. “He had a distinguished career in the U.S. Air Force, stationed for a number of years in Germany.”

Burgart said the class has lost about 112 members over the years.

She expects about 60 classmates to attend this year’s reunion where memorabilia will be on display, including a brick from the old “Ken Hi” school that Shaw owned.

“This has been just a wonderful part of my life to orchestrate these reunions,” she said. “I just love to connect people with other people.”

The class of more than 350 people graduate on May 27, 1958.

Burgart recalls how different it was to grow up in New Kensington back then.

“We grew up in a really grounded community,” she said. “You knew everybody on your street.”

Jim Sweetland, who now lives in Oakmont, plans to attend the reunion. He didn’t go to his first reunion until the 30th was held but now he tries to go to each one and catch up with everyone.

“I’m glad I’m still around,” he said.

Sweetland said he enjoyed the pep rallies before football and basketball games. He also recalled the annual school plays.

“It was a good time, that’s for sure,” he said.

Burgart hopes for a fun weekend this year, but is already looking ahead to the future.

“I’m going to be doing a 61st -- as long as the local people enjoy getting together and some of us come in (from out of town),” she said. “It’s just a wonderful thing.”

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