Eagle Ambassadors, Inc. - BEA Grads Share Memories in their Golden Years at ‘Elder Eagle’ Picnic

BEA Grads Share Memories in their Golden Years at ‘Elder Eagle’ Picnic

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From The Centre Daily Times

If you opened up the Bald Eagle Area High School yearbook from 1957 and turned to the page Ed Skripek was on, you’d see a description next to his headshot.

Photos courtesy of The Centre Daily Times (Abby Drey)

It described him as “smooth” and “suave,” and said he was known for his 1931 Model A Ford — the motor of which flooded when he and a group of students were driving to a class picnic near Julian.

Skripek said he attempted to go through a road that was covered by a rising Bald Eagle Creek, but couldn’t make it out.

“Yeah, we drowned out the motor pretty bad,” he said. “It had to get towed later, but those were the good times. It was definitely memorable.”

He was also voted “best dressed” by his classmates.

Just more than 59 years later, not much has changed.

Still smooth with words, and a nice dresser, Skripek, 77, of Moshannon, described his time at Bald Eagle Area as a member of the school’s first graduating class.

“It was a different experience and a lot bigger than what we were used to,” he said.

The 1956-57 school year was the first year BEA opened as a joint school among areas in the Upper and Lower Bald Eagle Valley regions, and the Mountaintop Region.

There were formerly high schools in Howard, Port Matilda and Snow Shoe that served the area.

People who lived in Milesburg attended high school in Bellefonte before switching to BEA when the school opened.

District spokeswoman Rose Hoover said BEA is now the largest school district by geographical area in Centre County.

It encompasses 342.6 square miles and serves residents within Boggs, Burnside, Howard, Huston, Snow Shoe, Union and Worth townships.

Skripek attended Snow Shoe High School for his first three years and moved to BEA his senior year.

“It was interesting getting to know other people from an area so big,” he said. “But really fast you became friends with everyone.”

He was among about 100 people Wednesday afternoon who had some similar shared experiences.

For the second year, the Elder Eagle picnic was organized at Bald Eagle State Park for members of Bald Eagle Area graduating classes at least 50 years ago or more.

This year, it featured grads from the classes of ’57 to ’66.

It was organized by Class of ’64 graduate Sue Irwin after fellow classmate Smokey Fisher, who now lives in Orange County, Calif., came up with an idea to get BEA grads together.

“Some classes meet monthly, and do a good job of keeping in touch,” Irwin said. “For those who don’t, this is a nice annual reunion we started.”

It also serves as a way to celebrate the class that celebrated its 50 years since graduation — a milestone, and time when the class is invited by district administration to walk with students graduating in the current year at the commencement ceremony.

Last year, Class of ’65 graduate Bob Watson was the designated speaker for the Class of 2015.

Watson’s message to the class was to stay connected, volunteer and be open to learning something new every day.

 “There’s a sense of pride to be part of this school,” he said. “I hope kids know that now. I didn’t realize what good education we had until I went to college at Shippensburg.”

During the afternoon reunion, people mingled, ate lunch and even met people they never met before.

Vicki Wedler, from the Class of ’61, introduced herself to Joan St. Clair Hedges from the Class of ’57.

They briefly chatted, and then mingled with others.

 “It’s interesting to be from this community and this school and to have never met someone before,” said Wedler, who attended the Elder Eagle picnic for the first time. “What I think of when I think of Bald Eagle (Area) is a rural and homey place that brings people together. To me it’s second to none.”