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The City Journals

Years pass, but memories remain for Granger Class of ’71

Oct 05, 2021 10:20AM ● By Darrell Kirby

Officers in student government at Granger High School in 1971 reunite after 50 years. (Darrell Kirby/City Journals)

By Darrell Kirby | [email protected]

The hair is thinner, maybe a few pounds have been added, and half a century of life’s experiences after leaving high school have taught lessons far more impactful than anything learned in the classroom. Even the school building they attended has changed.

Students of the Class of 1971 at Granger High School in what is now West Valley City gathered in September to rekindle friendships and look back on their time as Lancers that ended with graduation 50 years ago. 

The reunion took place at the new Granger High that opened in 2013 to replace the original facility that first welcomed students in 1958 when the then-rural community was known as Granger.  

The youngest of six children, all of whom attended Granger, Marlon Nielson was part recruited and part volunteered to organize the 50-year reunion. 

The ’71 grad reached out to classmates on Facebook and asked if anyone was working on putting together the milestone reunion. “I said we need to get a committee together and get this thing going,” Nielson said. “I talked to one person who said, ‘if you want to be in charge, I’ll help you.’” So he channeled his old high school spirit and took it on.  

Through web searches, networking, and other means, about half of the 373 graduates were tracked down and contacted about the class reunion. Most of them made it to the gathering. 

One of them was Susan Winder Tanner of West Valley’s Winder Dairy family. “It’s interesting to be sitting here with classmates that we haven’t seen for 50 years. Everybody looks kind of different and you look into their face and then you think “Oh yeah, you’re the same person that I once knew.’” As for today’s Granger High, “this facility is phenomenal, it’s beautiful,” said Tanner, who now resides in Provo. 

When asked to compare life as a teenager in 1971 to now, Tanner said there were challenges then, but not like today. “I think the world is a more difficult place. I don’t envy teenagers right now. There’s a lot of turmoil, a lot of commotion, and a lot of dissonance. It’s not like we didn’t have those things then, but a lot of it seems so in our face right now.”

Nielson cited other reasons why things were better back then. “We had the best music in the world in the ’60s and ’70s,” he said. “You got The Beatles, the Beach Boys, The Association. It’s just really good music.” Some of those tunes played in the background as he spoke. Also, “everyone dressed modestly. There wasn’t much crime. You could leave your car unlocked if you wanted to.” 

The 68-year-old, who still lives in present-day West Valley City, reminisced about hanging out with buddies at a Frostop Root Beer stand on 3500 South after a Lancer football or basketball game. “That’s all gone now. The whole city’s changed a lot.” 

Despite the memories made in the original high school, Nielson is impressed with Granger 2.0. 

“This new school is a lot better than the old one. This is like the Waldorf Astoria,” he said, gazing at floor-to-ceiling windows, the spacious indoor commons area, and other architectural features that didn’t exist in schools of their era. 

Susan Sterzer was especially tuned in to the doings of the Class of ’71. She served in student government as school historian, chronicling all that happened during the academic year. “We just had such a good time. We’re remembering how good it was when we were teenagers growing up in Granger. We’re sharing great things that have happened in our lives since.”

“We’re reconnecting in a way that is deeper than I thought.”