Last weekend Ray, North Dakota celebrated its annual Grain Palace Days with an all-school reunion. We were there in a two- fold purpose. First of all, my wife, Jan, is an alumnus of the Ray High School, and second we were the official photographers of the class reunion photos. This is a great position to serve in at a reunion because, like sitting at the registration table, you get to see many of the folks who have come for this blissful event. Naturally, your contact with the alumni is indeed short because of the pressing schedule to capture all the classes present.
Even though our visits were quick, fast, and at some moments, expeditious, my eyes were certainly tweaked for color, fashion, texture, style, humor and exuberance. Lifting high the imperative fashion bar were the Ray High School lady alumni! My eyes certainly had the pleasure of seeing many a fine runway fashion on parade in front of my camera lens. Even with the towering heat and humidity, the ladies brought forth style.
Our class photos started with graduates from the early ’30s and ’40s, and my eyes were treated to lovely fashion coordinates of light aqua, pink, and even coral–complete with jewelry meant to be noticed. One gal stepped forward wearing a cotton, white-embroidered blouse that appeared to be as light as a wispy cloud. There was a rose paisley wrap skirt, tank, complete with a light cardigan that made the stage brighter as soon as it appeared.
As these seasoned ladies stepped in front of the camera, I continued to be amazed and dazzled by not only their flare for fashion, but living as well. These gals laughed and smiled as they greeted each other on stage, and shared moments of their current enjoyments as well as past memories of Ray. Now the men were certainly playing an equal part in the category as well. Many of their parents had come as homesteaders to this area. They had engraved their mark on the land, but none was more important than the joys of home they had planted with this generation.
Next came the ladies of the ’50s– many of these sported painted toenails, and I even noticed one gal very cleverly had incorporated two varicose veins into an attractive butterfly design on her leg! Give this woman the beautification award for recycling varicose veins! Several of them sported eyelet laces rimming the scoop neck of regular tees enduring them into pure femininity. Pin tuck smocking and jacquard lace were also flattering these ladies. Wouldn’t you know, one gal even showed up wearing a wrap top so creamily smooth she looked as smooth as silk. She certainly must have been paying attention in home economics class when they discussed the wonders of a svelte knit! It was during this time period Ray experienced its first oil boom as the Iverson Well was discovered.–vivid yet in their memories. .
Hip slung belts pulled together several fashion statements from the ladies from the ’60s. Making it look effortless were the many shifts– some solid in color, others sunny with flowers or bright designs. Purses of lavender, red, mustard and many other colors were making a statement as well. Some of these chimed in with matching peek-a-boo canvas espadrilles. When you are craving fashion excitement, go for matching shoes and purse–it works every time! Several alums of this era shared how they enjoyed the neighboring towns and playing them in sporting events. It was easy to see in many of these folks that even though they had been gone from Ray for many years, their hearts are forever in Ray.
Young enough to still sing “Let it Be” by the Beatles and to be dressed in above-the-knee skirts were some of the gals of the ’70s. They recalled with ease the mini skirts they wore to Ray High School–and many of them sported these once again. Having a great pair of legs is certainly something to celebrate, and nothing does it better than a mini skirt. I asked one of these alums what else they recalled from this era. One alum shared the excitement of having Art Link from near by Alexander being elected Governor of North Dakota.
Is that a fancy pair of coral backless shoes on a Ray ’80s graduate? Sure enough it is. Soon I noticed another one wearing a tone on tone aqua cotton twin set complete with blouse and jacket tucking. Look–some took the time to pack their slimming chemise for this reunion jaunt. Well, all of her former boy friends will be having regrets now! This era experienced the change of downtown Ray as it had moved to the Ray Mall forever changing Main Street.
Into the ’90s lots of Ray alumni are wearing reunion sportswear. In fact the class of 1990 all wore matching t-shirts. What fun to see the red, black and white combinations of school colors displayed. The town fits many of these folks like a comfortable easy chair. They know the sturdiness of its arms and have yet reflected on the softness of its cushions. Like many before them, it is a contour fit and it is easy to see they have molded to each other in a splendid comfortable manner.
I had the pleasure of having a personal tour of the fascinating Ray Opera House given by Irma Ann Solberg. As I was about to exit, I noticed a photograph with the saying “Ray-Always Awake.” After seeing the parade of fine fashions by the lady alumni of Ray and spirit of the overall alums, I would have to agree they are “Always Awake.” By these actions, they have created a “Ray” of sunshine of the western horizon of North Dakota. Congratulations to the city of Ray on a wonderful celebration.
Repnow is a Rugby resident
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