Pat Lydiard Barga, Pamela Joy Turbeville, Jody Burke Bartel and Dan Madison were seated around a small table – childhood friends reminiscing about attending Scottsdale High School as if it all happened just yesterday.
“The roads weren’t paved, so we rode our horses everywhere,” Turbeville recalled, the other three nodding in agreement.
Bartel leaned in, adding, “Oh, people had horses here in town – lots of kids had horses.”
“The canals weren’t cemented, so we water skied, rafted, swam the canals – which we probably are all going to glow when we get older,” Turbeville said.
The 1968 graduating classes for both Scottsdale and Saguaro high schools are holding joint reunions next weekend as members spent their freshmen and sophomore years together at Scottsdale High while Saguaro was being built.
Barga and Turbeville graduated from Scottsdale High while Madison and Bartel are Saguaro alumni, and all four have been planning the dual reunion celebrations.
They vividly recall the scene in Scottsdale 50 years ago: plenty of unpaved roads, including Lincoln Drive, where kids, their parents and grandparents would ride horses as early as 4 a.m.; frequent trips to Kiva Theater and the Sugar Bowl for “Gosh Awful Gooey” sundaes; and picking tangerines and citrus off the trees.
“I miss the orange blossoms, the smell in March and April because there were groves everywhere,” Turbeville said. “We would literally pull up outside of the gates, and it was just neighborhood fruit. We all just ate fruit whatever we went.”
They can’t hold their reunion at their alma mater: The original Scottsdale High School was closed at the end of the 1982-1983 school year and torn down in 1991 to make way for downtown commercial development.
“The land was very valuable, and that’s why they obviously knocked it down, but it’s still sad,” Turbeville said.
But no one can tear down their memories of a time when everything was different – from the dress code to what passed for fun after school.
On the dress code: “No pants, no slacks for the girls,” Barga said. “We had to wear dresses to school.”
Turbeville added, “It couldn’t be super-short – even though some girls, they rolled their skirts up, and so we all learned how to do that.”
Describing students then as a “free group of kids,” Turbeville recalled, “We could go anywhere and not get in any trouble. Just be home by dinner.”
And by “free,” Turbeville may have meant a little wild because their idea of fun involved the canal, long rope and high speeds for their version of water skiing in the desert.
“Someone would drive their car on the canal bank, slam a rope in the car, some kid would be in the canal holding onto the rope,” Bartel said. “There were no overpasses over the roads and you could just go forever. The canals were like an oasis with the most beautiful cottonwood trees.”
“And leaves,” Madison added.
Madison even got the OK from SRP to play a game of tug-of-war across the canal along Pima Road with rope.
“The first one we did was a mud tug-of-war. We dug a pit for water,” he said. “They sat there and watched. They thought it was the funniest thing they’d ever seen.”
Camelback Mountain wasn’t solely a place to hike.
“It was called Wonder View, and we would ‘watch the city lights,’ Bartel said with a wink.
Bartel said they always felt safe growing up in Scottsdale back then – especially at school.
“I think a really important thing – apropos of what’s happened in this century – is when you went to school, you were safe,” she said. “There were no gates; parents could go right to your classroom. We weren’t worried. It was just different.”
Madison also recalled the vocational schools that were offered – including wood shop, auto shop and home economics.
“A friend of mine ended up coming up to me senior year and he said, ‘We’re not going to see each other because you’re a college guy, a preppy guy. I’m in the auto shop,’” Madison recalled. “He ended up having a very successful automotive business career because he had a choice.”
Barga said students benefited from those classes because they taught life skills – skills many students do not learn in high schools today.
“We learned things beyond the academics,” Barga said.
Added Bartel: All those experiences are what drove you to do what you were doing later in life.”
Bartel, who retired after a long career in print advertising, spends her time volunteering.
Turbeville retired as the CEO of Navistar Financial Corp., but then started another company and is now CEO of I-calQ.
Madison went on to work as a residential contractor for 25 years and then a commercial developer for 20 years.
Barga performed billing and insurance work for dental offices for 20 years and is also retired.
Though they led very different lives following their high school graduation decades ago, they’ve all managed to keep in touch and catch up, be it at each others’ homes or at a small Starbucks just off Hayden Road.
They can’t wait to reconnect with the 125 classmates who so far have registered for the reunion.
For those interested in attending the 50-year reunion, be sure to visit shs-shs68reunion.com and register ahead of the event.
If you go
Scottsdale/Saguaro High Class of 1968 Casual Get-Together
When: 4-7 p.m. Nov. 2.
Where: Social Tap, 4312 N. Brown Ave.
Scottsdale/Saguaro High Class of 1968 50-Year Reunion
When: Nov. 3; cocktails from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. and dancing from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Where: The Scottsdale Resort and Conference Center at McCormick Ranch, 7700 E. McCormick Parkway