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Conway siblings taking part in All-School Reunion

From left, Alice (Conway) Gryte, Class of 1960, leans forward to get a good look at a photo of the old Bemidji High School on display Thursday in the "new" high school commons. On the right, her sister, Jean (Conway) Penoncello, Class of 1974, is shown photographs of building fragments preserved from the old high school. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

When Bemidji High School alumna Jean (Conway) Penocello, Class of 1974, and her sister, Alice (Conway) Gryte, Class of 1960, walked into the high school Thursday, they admitted they were a little shocked at what they saw.

"It's a far cry from what we used to have," Gryte said.

It was the sisters' first time stepping foot into the "new" high school and there was a lot to see.

For Penocello and Gryte, the All-School Reunion is more than just visiting old classmates - it's also a family affair. They plan to partake in the All-School Reunion festivities along with their siblings, Kay (Conway) Junke, Class of 1957, Chuck Conway, Class of 1959, Margo (Conway) Carlson, Class of 1962, and Chris (Conway) Larson, Class of 1971.

"In 50 years it's amazing how much everything comes back," Gryte said. "I can't remember what happened last week, but we talk about all the fun we have in high school. It just doesn't seem like 50 years. It went by so fast."

Walking slowly along a row of booths set up in the high school commons area, the sisters stopped to admire pictures of their old high school. They read aged newspaper clippings, scanned old documents for names they recognized and admired a square chunk of the old high school being sold as a decorative landscaping piece.

By late morning the women had relived a lot of memories of their high school days, some happy and some sad.

"It was quite sad to see our school torn down," Gryte said.

Getting the whole family together wasn't as hard as it used to be, said Penoncello. According to her, most of the family spends their summer here in Bemidji at an old resort they grew up on.

Gryte said this summer she spent a lot of time planning her 50th school reunion, which takes place Friday. She said the class king and queen are in for a surprise, although she's not allowed to say yet.

Penoncello said her class reunion includes a musical performance by an old high school band that got back together.

"I have a couple classmates I keep in touch with all the time," Penoncello said. "There are quite a few classmates who have moved back since they've retired. This year we've been spending a lot of time together."

The class of 1960, Gryte said, was a close-knit class, which made it easier to keep in touch with classmates.

"Everyone stayed in contact with each other," Gryte said. "When everybody moved back, it was easier to call each other up."

Taking one last look at the display of pictures of the old high school, Penoncello added, "Boy we have a lot of memories."