Imperial School kids get together 30 years later

The writer, the former Cindy DuBry, is a 1968 graduate of Imperial Schools, Big Sandy, Texas.

By Cindy Curley

PASADENA, Calif. - Saturday evening, July 12, my husband, Harry, and I attended the 30-year reunion of the Imperial School Class of 1967 in the third-floor Lounge of Grove Terrace, formerly an Ambassador College men's dormitory on the Worldwide Church of God's headquarters property here.

Imperial Schools were elementary and high schools on all three campuses of Ambassador College.

We were warmly greeted by Elaine Hockwald, wife of Imperial graduate Clarke Hockwald, who led us outside to the table at which her husband and some of the other Imperial grads and their mates were seated. We first spoke with Clarke, who told us the history of this reunion.

We learned that Barbara Clemons had called Clarke on a matter having to do with insurance a couple of years ago, a call that eventually led to their discussing the possibility of a 30-year reunion.

Barbara and Clarke worked on making this happen for a year and a half, contacting graduates through friends and relatives and the Internet. Clarke used the Web site at to find four or five former classmates.

"As we began to contact people, Greg Kloster's mom was local, so Barbara got his address," said Clarke. "So we, Barbara and I, independently started looking for people, and she sent me notes and letters saying who she had found.

"There were some people I didn't think we were going to find. And she found the really hard ones like Linda Ulrich, who was living in Florida."

Did they locate everyone?

"Everybody except for two people," said Clarke.

They made contact with 15 of the 17 with whom they had graduated. All but two of those 15 made it to the reunion.

"Richard [Reed] and Glenn [Bechtold] didn't actually graduate with us, but we felt like they did; they graduated the next year.

"I sent out three newsletters on the 1st of April, May and June this year to everybody that we had located at the time. The response was overwhelming. I got calls from people I hadn't talked to in 30 years, and we would talk for an hour.

"I had lunch with Del Amaral Dinger. She had a very positive response, and she and I talked for almost an hour.

"Greg and I have been E-mailing back and forth. I don't think we've even talked on the phone; we've just been E-mailing.

"I saw Chuck [Zimmerman] a few weeks ago down in Arizona. He was all excited about it."

Tom Carrozzo didn't think the reunion would really happen, he said. "I thought, well, you know, we'll give it a shot and see what happens. But I really didn't think anything would come of it."

"You wonder after 30 years how much you still have in common," Clarke commented, "because we haven't talked for 30 years. Tom and I have maintained contact, but most people I haven't talked to. I've talked to Richard periodically over the years. We run into each other around town. But you wonder how much you're going to have in common.

"We've been talking nonstop since we got here, for four and a half hours. So I guess we answered the question about having anything in common. We have a common history. A lot of our conversation has been reminiscing."

Greg Kloster went on from Imperial to attend four years at Ambassador in Pasadena; Clarke went to AC in Big Sandy.

"A lot of my class went to Pasadena initially," Clarke said. "But all of the class members who applied for Pasadena got accepted here, except for me. So I went down to Big Sandy. I enjoyed Big Sandy."

"They just wanted to split us up," said Tom.

"Then Tom came down his sophomore year, and so did Byron Duke," said Clarke. "Robin Sutcliffe [now Mrs. David Hulme] went to Pasadena and to Bricket Wood, I think. She came to the reunion for an hour and a half or so."

Several former students asked who generated the call for us to visit the reunion. We told them it was Dixon Cartwright of THE JOURNAL. Clarke remembered Dixon from college. "He was a character. How did Dixon find out about it?"

I also spoke with Paula Streeter Evans, who attended Imperial for five years. She stayed in the Pasadena area until 1976, then married, went to San Diego, then came back here. She had two children, was divorced, then remarried. I asked if she had fond memories of Imperial,

"Kind of," she said.

Paula lives in San Bernardino. She was contacted after Barbara talked to her mother, then she got a flier from Clarke. Elaine mentioned that Paula was one of the first people Barbara was able to locate.

We went inside to speak with three other graduates: Barbara Clemons, Delfina Amaral Dinger, with her husband, Marc, and Linda Ulrich Wilberding. Both Barbara and Delfina began attending Imperial in seventh grade. Linda came in the middle of the first grade.

How many of these people have you been in contact with since school?

"We [Barbara and Delfina] were best friends," said Barbara, "and we don't really get together that much. You know, your lives go in different directions, but we were really close."

Close group

Barbara's best memories were of a close-knit group of students who got along well with each other.

My husband asked if the ladies had learned to obey their husbands. They just laughed. "We are '90s women," said Delfina.

"You know what was the best thing about Imperial?" asked Linda. "All kidding aside, I think of the fact that we were so small. We were a very close-knit class. You got to know everybody very personally. We all got along well in school."

The three graduates felt they gained a good education at Imperial, although Linda didn't feel it was broad enough.

"I went from Imperial to Pasadena City College," said Linda, "and there was a big difference. It was very difficult to adjust to PCC after being in Imperial for almost 12 years. It was like Pasadena City College was a foreign country. I did not do well. I went one semester and dropped out. I went back to college when I was in my 30s and got my A.A. Now I'm starting to work on my bachelor's."

I asked how far people had traveled to come to this reunion. Barbara mentioned some in attendance who live in California: Delfina from Orange County, Greg from San Francisco, Paula from San Bernardino. Others were from farther away: Linda came from Chipley, Fla.; Byron from Missouri; and Chuck from Peoria, Ariz.

Wild and crazy class

We returned to the outside group. We spoke with Glenn Bechtold, his wife, Donna, and Richard Reed, who all had attended Imperial for two years.

Gloria Carrozzo, Tom's wife, said that many stories mentioned at the reunion table agreed with what Tom had told her over the last 16 years. She said her husband had related to her the wild and crazy things the class had done, such as speeding in cars and eluding the police.

"Whose car did they put up on the sidewalk?" Gloria asked. Glenn answered, "Dave Harris's. Remember that little Volkswagen? Richard and I picked it up and set it up on the curb."

Richard denied any knowledge of the incident.

"Yes, we did," said Glenn. "And it was a faculty car."

Gloria mentioned that she understood that study hall was in a pool hall down the road.

Gloria said her husband, Tom, was the first in the group to become a grandfather. His son Steve has a son, Tyler Wyatt Carrozzo, who will be 1 year old in July. She mentioned that Delfina is running a close second; she will be a grandparent soon as well.

I asked Glenn and Richard if they have kept in touch over the years. No, said Glenn, but "Richard and I are from the Sacramento area [before Imperial]. We grew up together, but basically we haven't stayed in contact."

Richard lives in Arcadia and Glenn in San Diego. Richard remembered Dr. Floyd Lochner fondly as being a great influence in his life. Glenn mentioned Jim Petty, who used to say, "Don't think about it; just do it," which Glenn felt was a great philosophy.

"It's been nice to be a part of this class," said Glenn, "to know these people."

Best people in the world

Chuck Zimmerman attended Imperial for 10 years, enrolling in the school for the first time in the third grade. He remembers only seven students in his class that year.

He said he enjoyed "going to school with some of the best people in the world."

Byron Duke attended Imperial for all 12 years. He mentioned that he was the first student to go the full 12 years and receive a diploma. After Imperial he attended Ambassador College first in Pasadena for a year and a half and the last two and a half years in Big Sandy.

I asked him what the transition was like going to Ambassador in Pasadena after going to Imperial. He said it was like a continuation of high school: "I just walked up the hill."

Byron said that only three students attended the full 12 years: Mark Elliott, Merle May and himself.

"There are certain things about Imperial I haven't gotten over yet," he said.

I asked how they found college after high school. Chuck went to Ambassador in Bricket Wood, England, and found it scholastically challenging.

Chuck told a story. He, Byron and Merle were eating lunch one day, and Byron was complaining about having always to eat the sand kind of sandwich: bologna on whole-wheat bread with mustard and cheddar cheese.

So the three boys decided Byron shouldn't have to eat it that day. They hid the sandwich under a rock. They checked back a few months later, and the bologna was still there.

Also attending the reunion, but earlier in the evening before I arrived, was Robin Sutcliffe Hulme.

Not present at the reunion were were Sharon Foster Hall, Nancy Harrison Potts, Carol Ince Mann, Merle May II and Richard Watkins.

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