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Powell, WY

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Four generations of PHS grads

When she graduated during the Great Depression, Mary (Floan) Bever couldn’t imagine owning a car as a high school student.

“Oh heavens, no,” she said at the thought. “No one had the money to buy a car.”

For young women to wear pants to school instead of a dress also seemed unthinkable back then.

Over the next 75 years, dresses, cars and much more changed for Bever’s daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter.

But each shares something in common amid eight decades of changes: As a young woman on the cusp of adulthood, she received a diploma from Powell High School on a spring day, the world open to new possibilities.

For Bever, that day came in 1935. Her daughter, Carol Johnston, graduated from PHS in 1971. Granddaughter Jodee Metzler followed in 1994.

In May, great-granddaughter Tamara Connally received her diploma, becoming the fourth generation in the family to graduate from Powell High School.

The four women “have all been blessed with a PHS education,” Metzler said.

Though they learned similar subjects — history, English, math — technology dramatically changed how they were taught.

Bever, 96, and Johnston used typewriters, and along with Metzler, all three took typing classes, something no longer required for PHS students. Some classrooms had computers when Metzler was at PHS in the 1990s, and the school had a computer lab everyone shared.

Today, computers and tablets are ubiquitous in Powell High School. Along with everyone else in the Class of 2013, Connally used an iPad provided by the school district. Of course, most students now have cell phones, too.

Bever recalls the frugality of the 1930s, when students received the necessities but little more.

“That was during the Depression ... we didn’t get to have a yearbook or anything, because there was no money for that,” Bever said.

Bever said some teens didn’t finish school, because they started to work during the Depression years.

“Then in my class, it was the Vietnam War,” Johnston said. “For a lot of kids, you either stayed in school or knew you were going.”

Without a car, Bever waked to school. She lived at the end of Absaroka Street, then on the edge of town.

“You kind of just scooted across the fields in between ... to walk to school,” she said.

By the 1970s, when Johnston was in high school, most students had their own vehicles and drove to school. Connally started driving when she was 14.

While students today are used to driving to school or social events on their own, teens in the 1930s often were chaperoned.

“Boy, you didn’t go unless your dad was driving the car. That’s how you got to the ballgames,” Bever said. “You had to be well taken care of.”

For fun, students in the 1930s participated in school plays or watched the productions, Bever said. Music also was popular.

“People really sung a lot,” she said. “There were a lot of singers.”

Downtown Powell drew families on weekends.

“That was the big thing — on Saturday, the farmers would come into town to sell their eggs and stuff, you know, and the kids all got to come,” Bever said.

While the mothers shopped, kids would stroll through the town for several hours.

“You would just walk around that two little blocks of Main Street ... you didn’t realize how small a town it was,” Bever said.

Teens also would have friends over on the weekends — with their parents’ permission.

“Every once in a while, one of the mothers would allow us to have a party at their house, and we would make fudge and taffy and things like that,” Bever said.

Hanging out with friends remained a favorite pastime for teens through the generations, but the activities changed.

Dragging main was especially popular in the 1970s.

“We’d do it for hours and honk all night long,” Johnston said.

She also attended dances at the old American Legion, which is now Homesteader Museum. Kids also would go to the soda fountain at Skyline Drug, which is where The Merc is located today.

Dragging main also was popular for Metzler and her classmates in the 1990s. They also went to drive-in movies, attended sporting events and hung out at friends’ houses.

Connally enjoyed game nights and bonfires with friends during high school. She also was very involved in FFA, participating in a variety of activities and trips.

Organized sports for girls once were sparse, but now, female athletes have numerous options. Metzler and Connally both played volleyball.

Teens today travel much farther than they used to for sports and other school-related trips.

In the 1970s, “you never traveled anywhere that you spent the night. Everything was just in the (Big Horn) Basin,” Johnston said.

“It was a big deal to go to Riverton,” Metzler added.

Student travel was very limited in the 1930s.

“The buses were really not civilized enough to take kids on tours,” Bever said. “Some of them were even horse-drawn, the buses. And there would be kerosene lanterns inside to try to keep the kids warm in the winter. It was a pretty hazardous thing.”

After high school, Metzler and Johnston both attended Northwest College. Today, they work in the local school district — Metzler teaches at Powell Middle School and Johnston is the librarian at Southside Elementary.

Connally will attend Northwest College this fall on a livestock judging scholarship. She’s planning to double major in ag-business and ag-education.

Over the decades, the family saw some patterns emerge. In some cases, mothers and daughters had the same teachers.

A principal who sent Johnston home for wearing a miniskirt as a high school student ended up hiring her and her daughter for jobs in the school district years later.

“It all comes around,” Johnston said.

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