Columbia River High rocks a half-century in style

Fashion show raises money for current senior class

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor

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Columbia River tea and fashion

Winter Tea and Fashion Show

Benefit: The tea and fashion show raised $5,725 at the $25-a-person event. Proceeds will be used for the senior class drug- and alcohol-free graduation party.

Sponsors: More than 20 businesses provided free services for the show. The Blind Onion Pizza and Pub was the main sponsor.

Class of 2013: This class has more than 300 graduates, said Winter Tea and Fashion Show organizer Barbara Bersani.

Columbia River: The school on 99th Street in Hazel Dell opened in the fall of 1962.

Where: The show was at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, as Bersani said River does not have a stage for a big show.

Some of those gorgeous prom dresses modeled Sunday by Columbia River High School seniors looked familiar to Susan Lemcke Demme.

"Our mothers made most of them in the '60s," she said. Demme was in the second graduating class (1966) at River and was one of 211 women and girls who attended the Winter Tea and Fashion Show sponsored by the Columbia River High School Senior Boosters Club. The show highlighted fashion and music over the 50 years since River opened its doors.

The show featured about four dozen seniors, and they paraded on stage in fashions from 1962 to today. Most models had attitude and had been trained by professional choreographers.

As the decades rolled by, they strutted in the fashion of the day to "These Boots Were Made for Walkin'" (1966), "Hair" (1968), and "Billie Jean," (1983), then "Material Girl" (1985), "Oops! … I Did it Again" (1999), "Bye Bye Bye" (2000) and at least another dozen classics.

The crowd cheered, clapped, laughed and screamed. It was a love-in, man.

'What a treat'

After showing off the threads through the years, senior girls — with hair and makeup of the era — walked the runway in prom gowns from the half-century to a blazing version of "Call Me Maybe" (2011).

"What a treat to see all the clothes," said Debbie McGill Krebs, student body president in 1976. "It brought back memories. I had dresses like that."

Krebs met her husband, Dan (Class of 1974), at River. She later coached volleyball, basketball and softball at the school, and the couple's two daughters, Kaycee (2004) and McKensie (2009), are Chieftain grads.

Krebs remembered that smoking was allowed on campus for students 18 and older in those years. And she knew her teachers smoked but never found their smoking room.

Memories, laughs

Master of Ceremonies Stephanie Garrow employed a script that brought back memories and had the crowd laughing. For instance, this from the '80s: "River's baseball team won the 1984 and 1989 Washington State 3A Championships. A favorite pastime of the '80s was going to Frenchman's Bar. Entrance was through a farmer's gate where he had a tin can. Kids were on the honor system where they were asked to pay 25 cents admission. You might have seen Connie Sprinkle out there — she was voted Best Body in 1984."

"I loved the dances and the boys were really good," said Vancouver's Jorja Carter, a member of the Class of 1965, the first graduating class. She was there with classmates Judy Johnson of Vancouver and Teddy Mires of Washougal.

As for the models and dancers, they were on a high.

Kim Lowery, who modeled a light blue prom dress from the '70s, said she was honored "to be a part of something so important to our senior class." Her twin, Bethany, modeled a yellow and green gown from the '60s. Six senior boys dressed in black tuxes escorted the girls into the spotlight, down the runway and stairs, and then watched as the girls strided into the crowd and around to the backstage.

Hard work

Senior Sarah Case paid a compliment to the parents, saying, "You could see all of the work other people put in to organize it." Her twin, Haley, said it was fun "to see everybody look crazy for all the decades."

The craziness was in full force when the crowd joined the seniors for all the arm movements to the tune "YMCA" (1978).

And senior Grant Guernsey had the crowd in his hand when he "guitar-synched" to Chicago's "25 or 6 to 4" (1970). He had all the moves with the Epiphone electric guitar that he plays in pickup bands.

"I love to make people laugh," the senior said. "It was really cool."

Organizer Barbara Bersani, watched as her daughter, Anna, performed and walked the runway in a 2000 blue floral backless prom dress.

When the show concluded, Barbara Bensani borrowed a line from Tim Gunn on TV's "Project Runway" saying, "This was a total wow moment."

Dave Kern: 360-735-4534 or dave.kern@columbian.com