The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

October 21, 2012

'49 St. Joseph graduate assembles book of photos

ENID, Okla. — St. Joseph Catholic School has photos of nearly all of its graduates, thanks to a multi-year project by an alumnus.

Bill Waken, a 1949 graduate of the school, spent two years working on the collection and putting the photos together in a book, which can be purchased for a donation to the school.

“The first photos were destroyed or thrown away when they tore down the school,” Waken said. “They had all the senior class pictures hanging in the halls, and when they tore down the building after it closed in the late 1960s, they threw them away.”

Waken thought it sad the school, which has since reopened, did not have the photos.

Putting the book together took only a couple of years, but Waken spent another four to five years tracking down photos and collecting them. He has all of the photos with the names of students from 1936 to 1968. He is missing photos for 1934 and 1935. The book has the photos and names, along with a history of the school, which started in 1904, Waken said.

“Since then, three generations of Wakens have passed through the portals of [St. Joseph],” he said.

Thirty-two class pictures now are framed and hanging in the school, and about 100 books were printed, but most were sold for donations to the school at a recent school reunion. Only about 25 books remain.

Waken assembled the individual photos and put them together, scanning some from old yearbooks. His friend, Cynthia Williams, a 1955 St. Joseph graduate, assisted with the book. He said writing the book was not difficult, because he took information already present and just copied it. Gathering all the information was the hard part.

St. Joseph Principal Wade Laffey said the books and photos help the current generation develop pride in their school. They can see they are part of many generations who came before.

“It’s rekindling that kind of pride that exists among St. Joseph’s alumni,” he said.

The original school was a two-story building in the 600 block of West Randolph that opened Oct. 5, 1904, to 150 students in grades 1-12, according to Waken’s research. Students were taught by the Sisters of Divine Providence from San Antonio. In 1925, the school became fully accredited, and by 1942, nearly 250 students were enrolled.

Bishop Eugene J. McGuiness dedicated a new Catholic high school, Enid Memorial High School, on Nov. 11, 1949, on the site of the first Catholic church in Enid. After the building was completed, Monsignor Leven launched plans for a new gymnasium and auditorium, which were dedicated by McGuiness in December 1952. A new grammar school was built in 1955 at the corner of Randolph and Monroe.

Increasing costs of education forced the high school to close in 1968, but during its 64-year history, 768 students graduated. The elementary school remained open for a few more years, closing in 1975.

In 1999, the Father James Mickus initiated a campaign to open a parish school. The school was reopened in 2001 and gained accreditation in 2005.

“We’re standing on the shoulders of giants when it comes to faith, and a lot of current generations and families can see that,” Laffey said.

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