Skip to main content


January 2022

George Ayoub

Class of 1968
Alumni Liaison

Volume 7 | Number 1

Welcome to Rise, the voice of Grand Island Senior High alumni and friends. We show up every other month in over 7,000 in-boxes bringing you news, views, and memories of GISH. Rise is published by the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation.

Some changes are afoot as we begin, including two new Islander voices: Bianca Ayala, Class of 2005 and Abbey Kutlas-Prickett, Class of 2014.

We’ve also added a video introduction to Rise, divided the newsletter into four distinct sections, and added Class Notes, a chance to catch up with Islanders from all over the world via births, anniversaries, promotions, or other accomplishments. More on that inside this Rise.

As usual we’ll remember Islanders who have passed recently, hear from a letter writer, catch up on all the news from the Foundation, and read the musings of Mike Monk, Class of 1967 and yours truly.

Enjoy. Keep in touch. And remember: Keep pushing on

  • At the Top

    Traversing the New Rise

  • (e) Mail Bag

    Reader appreciates Mike Monk’s “Cake in the Face” column

  • Milestones

    Kendall Bartling earns student leadership position at UNL

  • Shaking the World

    GIPS Foundation leading the way at the national level with Director Traci Skalberg assuming presidency of association

  • Your Legacy. Their Opportunity.

    Clark Reese Legacy Grant at work

  • Shining Bright Since 2005

    Bianca Ayala introduces herself and her journey back to GIPS

  • I've Been Thinking

    Gas wars seemingly millions of miles from electric vehicles

  • On the Island

    GISH students participate in Toys for Tots at Christmas

  • Distant Mirror

    Pinball machines and the joy of playing them

  • One More Thing

    New columnist Abbey Kutlas-Prickett muses on what being Abbey Kutlas-Prickett means

  • Class Reunion Updates

    Class gatherings in Islander Nation

  • In Memoriam

    Remembering Islanders who have recently passed

  • Class Notes

    The latest happenings and info on and in alum’s lives

At the Top

New Rise for the New Year

"There is nothing permanent except change."
- Heraclitus

For the record, Heraclitus was not a graduate of Grand Island Senior High although I think someone who looked like him sat next to me in homeroom my junior year. Rather, he was a Greek philosopher, famous for trafficking in the idea that opposites eventually coincide. Go figure. He also dabbled in the notion that fire was the world’s most basic material and something called “universal flux” was always at work. (See details in the quote above.)

Heraclitus and his doctrines notwithstanding, welcome to the new Rise, a change — however impermanent — we at the newsletter believe will make our little publication easier to navigate and read. That’s because we took to heart another saying: “Change is inevitable, growth is optional.” We are growing so, yes, changing.

These changes come as we begin our seventh year of bringing Rise to over 7,000 in-boxes every other month. That math works out to this being our 37th issue. What hasn’t changed is our focus as the primary informational connective tissue for Islander nation. Thanks for reading and supporting us.

On with the changes —

For starters, Rise’s “Introduction” is now a short video of me letting you know what’s in this issue. You can find this issue’s here.

We’ve divided the newsletter into four sections, which should make it easier for you to get around. The four sections are New and Newsy, Solid Foundation, Islander Voices, and Alumni Record. Each will have its own heading, contain three stories each, and be easily identifiable.

The New and Newsy section will include our main story, “At the Top,” which you are reading now. That’s the piece of news we feel is most important in each issue. Also in this section we will include “Milestones,” stories about Islanders who have notable achievements we want to recognize. We’ll be including other types of achievements, too, in “Class Notes,” which I’ll discuss below in Alumni Record. Rounding out New and Newsy section will be our (e)Mailbag, your letters to the editor.

Solid Foundation is news from the Grand Island Public School Foundation. Its three components are “Shaking the World,” from GIPSF Executive Director, Traci Skalberg. She’ll keep you posted on the exceptional work done by the Foundation. Annual Giving Coordinator, Alicia Lechner will pen “Your Legacy. Their Opportunity.” each issue, detailing how you can support and be a vital part of the work of the Foundation. Finally, Bianca Ayala will offer her views from the unique perspective she has as a Senior High alum, GIPS teacher, and Foundation board member. Her column is entitled “Shining Bright Since 2005.”

Island Voices is a quartet of columns from Senior High alums and one alum-to-be. They include “From the Island,” GISH junior Jackie Ruiz-Rodriguez’s update on what’s going on at Senior High. Mike Monk, Class of 1967, writes “A Distant Mirror,” his musings on the past and present, which many of you already read and enjoy. The newest member of our Islander Voices team is Abbey Kutlas, Class of 2014, a gifted writer and teacher in her own right. Finally, yours truly, Class of 1968, offers my take on life in the time of … well …. whatever in “I’ve Been Thinking.”

The Alumni Record includes “In Memoriam,” which remembers alumni and friends of Senior High who have died in the previous two months. We also list class reunions and regular class get togethers in “Reunions.” That list can also be found on the Foundation web page. We’re excited about our newest source of information for alums, “Class Notes,” which will highlight alumni births, anniversaries, promotions, college degrees, awards, and other notable personal achievements. You will find a form in this section to fill out if you want something mentioned in “Class Notes.”

Finally, Rise is now offering opportunities for individuals or businesses to sponsor sections or even advertise. We'll have more on this in the coming months, but suffice to say Rise can be your way to support the Foundation and its good work and get your own message out. 

We hope you find our changes to your liking. Please let us know because if you remember Herclitus …

(e) Mail Bag

Distant Mirror Column Appreciated

Dear Mr. Monk,

What a coincidence that I took particular notice of your plaque on the GISH Hall of Honor wall this morning and then spotted the unread Rise Grand Island, November 2021, newsletter when I was cleaning up my email this morning, too--something I have to do periodically as unread emails usually are overdue work tasks yet to be completed which causes stress.

I don't read everything in the e-newsletters I receive, but I was intrigued by the title of your story and the fact that I recognized you from the Hall of Honor wall this morning. I found the story so amusing because it is like one of those stupid crime stories. I'm always grateful for people like you who protect us from people like that who don't understand or don't care that they can't benefit from treating people poorly. Also, I'm always grateful to hear when justice prevails.

Thank you for being on the side of justice and for sharing your story. It made me giggle a bit.

Have a terrific day and a 2022 filled with happiness and abundance.

Carolynn Perkins
Registrar, Grand Island Public Schools
Academies of Grand Island Senior High


Bartling Assumes Leadership Role at UNL Voting Organization

Kendall Bartling

Kendall Bartling, a first-year student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and former Rise correspondent has been selected to be the chairman of the Huskers Vote Coalition. 

The Coalition is affiliated with the Big Ten Conference’s Voter Registration Initiative and has been in existence since the University joined the Big Ten in 2012. 

UNL’s Office of Community Engagement reached out to Bartling in September, looking for students to help transition the Coalition from being led by staff to being led by students.  

“I accepted the offer and began working with the office to start the process of converting the organization to a student initiative,” Bartling said. After the initial transition work was complete, the office selected students to serve in leadership roles going forward.

“I am honored to serve as the chair of the Coalition, and to have this wonderful opportunity to stand up for the right to a free and fair ballot,” Bartling said. Among his and other students leaders’ tasks are deciding on the group’s goal and objectives.

According to Bartling, the Voter Registration Initiative encourages all of its member universities to increase voter registration, participation, and education in the student population. UNL has previously delegated this task to a group of six, including four staff members and four faculty members, with little to no student involvement.

He provided this summary of the Huskers Vote Coalition: The Huskers Vote Coalition is a nonpartisan and student-led initiative that aims to increase voter registration, civic engagement, and voter turnout not only at UNL, but in the community surrounding it. This is done through the work of four distinct committees:

The Voter Registration Committee, which schedules, organizes, and holds voter registration events on campus several times a year, and plans the University’s responses to various voting initiatives, such as the Big Ten Voter Registration Initiative, the All in Campus Democracy Challenge, and ensures that the University remains a Friendly Voter Campus.

The Voter Education Committee, which creates educational materials about voting, bills in the Legislature/Congress, ballot initiatives in Nebraska, and candidates running for office. This committee also organizes various events to engage students in meaningful political discourse.

The Voter Communication Committee works with outside organizations. This can be as local as working with other student organizations on campus, or as wide as a national civic engagement nonprofit. The committee also operates the social media presence for the organization.

The Voter Advocacy Committee engages in meaningful, nonpartisan advocacy on behalf of the UNL student body, advocating for unrestricted access to a free and fair ballot for all. This includes monitoring election legislation and policy on a local, state, and federal level, attending and testifying at legislative hearings where possible, and coordinating advocacy with other campus leaders.

Bartling said his work with the Coalition reminds him of his experience at GISH.

“As this organization begins to operate, I am reminded of the various clubs and organizations I helped to start and lead at Grand Island Senior High. GISH gave me several opportunities to lead and to refine my leadership, and even gave me a couple of opportunities to stand up and advocate for my fellow peers. This experience is invaluable, and I cannot wait to make a positive impact for UNL, and for all of Nebraska.”

Bartling, Class of 2021, wrote the “On the Island” column for Rise from November 2019 through September 2020. He was also involved with local voter registration drives and worked part-time at the Hall County Election Office.

back to top

Shaking the World

Adjusting the Sails

Traci Skalberg

Executive Director
GIPS Foundation

"The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.”
-John Maxwell

What on earth is a public school foundation? Why would you need to raise philanthropic funds for a public school? I pay taxes. These are the questions and statements that I was faced with when I made the announcement that I was planning to start a new career with the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation as their first director. That was 2003. I was quickly able to answer these questions and more as the Foundation Board and I dug in and added value in all the spots we could see. We focused on college scholarships, classroom grants, and special opportunities for students. As the years wore on, we were needed at the macro level for big initiatives and programs, while still serving students individually by buying tennis shoes, coats, eyeglasses, etc.

Traci Skalberg, GIPS Foundation; Toba Cohen-Dunning, Omaha Public Schools Foundation; Wendy Van, Foundation for Lincoln Public Schools

But it was lonely. Like many who work in school foundations, there is usually just one of you in your community. In a lot of cases, there isn’t even one staff member. We all look for our people, our tribe. Looking for professional development that was focused on school foundations, I finally found the National School Foundation Association and started to get plugged into their network. 

I served on several committees for the organization and participated in their first national cohort of the Certified Education Foundation Leader program. In 2017, I joined the board of directors for the National School Foundation Association. The organization was built on relationships, but lacked the infrastructure and underpinnings of a solid operational model. In the spring of 2021, as I was getting ready to transition to the presidency of the 1,000 member organization, we boldly decided to commit to the vision completely and rebuild an organization that would be everything our members needed it to be. We kept the original National School Foundation Association which had been organized as a 501c3 non-profit organization. We also founded a new organization, incorporated in Virginia, the National Association of Education Foundations, as a 501c6 membership association. We will finally have the appropriate legal infrastructure to deliver our member trainings, certification program, and member benefits.  

This year, 2022, the five officers/incorporators of the organization will seat the remaining board members of our new organization. I am serving a two-year term as president and will continue on the board as past-president until 2024.  

The work of course has only just begun. There is much growth and development ahead. But, this time our infrastructure is appropriate to our purpose. We have, indeed, adjusted our sails.

Traci can be reached at

Your Legacy. Their Opportunity.

Leaving Behind a Legacy of Opportunities

Alicia Lechner

Annual Giving Coordinator
GIPS Foundation

When you think of the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation, what three things come to your mind first? For me, they are: Traci Skalberg, Classroom Mini Grants and being available to help. Yet, there are so many additional pieces that make the Foundation whole. Some of these pieces are the awesome Teacher of the Year program honoring exemplary educators and staff each year, the 170+ scholarships that are available to graduating seniors, alumni from near and far are able to stay connected to “The Island” (as I affectionately refer to Grand Island) through the RISE Newsletter, the renovation project of our Grand Legacy that is Memorial Stadium and so much more. However, a piece from the Foundation that you might not be as familiar with is the Legacy Grant program.

At the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation, the Legacy Grant program is made up of funds that a donor gives to be used for something specific, for years to come. In many cases, the principal value is given by a donor and invested by the Foundation to create an endowment. Over time the invested fund will generate enough income annually to fund a scholarship or grant activity benefiting students of Grand Island Public Schools. Each fund has its own guidelines, its own purpose, and its own reason for existing. But every one of these funds touches Grand Island Public Schools students forever, and in a meaningful way. Legacy funds can be created for loved ones lost, or those who are still with us that want to create opportunities for students.

Clark W. Reese

The Foundation currently has 20+ different Legacy Grants, and most are available through an application process. Educators and staff can request funding throughout the year for students based on their needs and the criteria for each of the grants. For example, the Bill and Bea Southard Endowed Fund is available for Walnut Middle School students. Bea Southard was a long time Walnut teacher, which is why part of the eligibility for this grant requires that the recipient is a current Walnut student. Another legacy fund is the Gloria and S.N. “Bud” Wolbach Student Kindness Fund. Gloria Wolbach was the first AOK (Acts Of Kindness) Lady in Grand Island and she and her husband spent their lives building the town of Grand Island into a community. Their acts of kindness, big and small, are a source of pride for Grand Island. So this fund’s purpose is to grant a little kindness to students with physical, emotional or educational needs who cannot afford opportunities or services to meet those needs on their own. 

Recently, the Grand Island Senior High Show Choir was granted funds through the Clark W. Reese Memorial Endowed Fund. This fund was created in Clark’s memory to enhance fine arts programs within Grand Island Public Schools. Clark was a 1969 Grand Island Senior High grad, a proud band and stage dad, involved community member, and loving husband and father. He also served as a board member for the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation, which was formerly known as the Grand Island Education Foundation. His inaugural board meeting was held on January 15, 2002, exactly 20 years ago. During his time on the board, he served as Vice President and Treasurer in 2004 and President in 2005. Through the opportunities provided in the Legacy Grant that was set up in his memory, his supportive impact will live on forever. 

The Grand Island Senior High Show Choir used the funds granted through the Clark W. Reese Memorial Endowed Fund to bring in a highly sought after dancer/instructor/adjudicator, Danny Dwaine Wells II over the winter holiday break. Wells prepared the Future Image, Sweet Revelation and Ultimate Image show choir groups for their upcoming competition season. To prepare them, Wells emulated a faux show choir competition experience including choreographic adjudication and critique for the students. Using the critiques, he “cleaned” the choreography of the three show choir groups ensuring the dancers move in the exact same way, at the exact same time. This grant benefited 150 show choir students. 

The Foundation’s mission of “Your Legacy. Their Opportunity.” aligns perfectly with the Legacy Grants program. Through the legacy of educators, community members, parents, staff and friends of education, the opportunities for our students become endless. If you have ever considered becoming more than a donor and/or supporter to the Foundation, building a Legacy Fund to honor a loved one or expand your own outreach to students is an ambition we would love to support you on. Read more about some of the current Legacy Grants on our website.

Alicia can be reached at

Shining Bright Since 2005

Giving Back

Bianca Ayala

Class of 2005
GIPS Foundation Board

Happy 2022, everyone! This year is going to be all about the “new’s” for me, and the first new is being part of the Rise Newsletter! 

My goal for this column during the year 2022 is to reconnect with my peers from the Senior High Class of 2005. I feel that many of us are giving back to the Grand Island community and a big reason for that is how much the community gave to us as we were growing up in Grand Island. With that being said, Grand Island deserves to hear about the great things happening by the Class of 2005. 

I will begin by introducing myself and highlighting my path since graduating from Grand Island Senior High in 2005. 

From 2005 to 2011 I attended the University of Nebraska at Lincoln (UNL) and the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK). I graduated from UNK May of 2011 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Unified with a minor in Spanish. I then taught in Lexington as a Kindergarten teacher at Bryan Elementary. In July of 2012 I had the opportunity to come back home to Grand Island, and it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.  

From 2012 to now, I have been teaching English Learner’s (EL) for the Grand Island Public Schools. I taught nine years K-5 EL’s at Howard Elementary, and I am now teaching 6-8 EL’s at Barr Middle School. 

Bianca Ayala, 2018 Elementary Teacher of the Year

During my time of being back in Grand Island, I have had many accomplishments and I’m excited to share them with you all. I was awarded Elementary Teacher of the Year, the Grand Island Independent’s Extraordinary Person, became a board member for the GIPS Foundation, a Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce’s Top 35 Under 35, and host Glow 4 Gabby 5K (in honor of my sister Gabby Ayala). I also enjoy volunteering during my free time as well as being an advocate for immigrants in the Grand Island community. I also have received my Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an endorsement in ESL. A few years later I also received my Reading Specialist Endorsement. 

In my spare time I spend time with my family and dog, Van, read many books, travel every opportunity I get, and create new friendships. 

I look forward to sharing the Grand Island Senior High Class of 2005 with you all. Happy New Year and I hope your resolutions are fulfilled. 

Bianca can be reached at

back to top

I've Been Thinking

Plugged into the Gas Wars

George Ayoub

Class of 1968
Alumni Liaison

My first full summer of legal driving (don’t ask about the adjective “legal”) was 1966, a glorious time of freedom from bumming rides or worse — having Mom or Dad drive me somewhere. And among the finest memories of those nascent days on my own behind the wheel was a gas war.

Gas wars, those of you of a certain age will recall, were inexplicable, precipitous drops in gasoline prices to lure in customers. An average gallon of “regular” checked in about 35 cents the year the State of Nebraska issued me a drivers license. Adjusted for inflation, that’s just under three bucks in today’s world.

A gas war, however, could lop off nickels and dimes from the PPG. The lowest I ever recall paying was 15 cents for a gallon of regular, the fuel we used in my parents 1964 green Studebaker Lark Commander. Even Ethly, the anti-knocking, lead depositing better half at the gas station was reduced during the fight for customers during the gas wars.

All of which meant if my four buddies and I all ponied up a quarter, we could spend the night tooling South Locust, hanging out at Nifty’s, and still get home with something in the tank for my parents, who, at my house, kept track of such things.

My gas war memories came rushing back to me recently as I plugged in my all electric vehicle (EV) to the charger I had installed in my garage. We have, at our house, officially halved our ICE (internal combustion engine) count from two to one. 

While I’ve never heard of “electricity wars,” I can set my charger to “fuel” the massive battery in my car when the cost of the juice is “off peak” … and therefore cheaper.

The Studebaker told me how fast I was going and how much gas I had but not much else. My EV tells me everything just short of the price of pears in Pennsylvania. While the experience is new — we picked up our EV on December 22 — to date I’ve found driving it is akin to driving my iPad or cell phone. 

It has no gauges, just a computer screen in the middle of the dashboard, a monitor that controls everything and gives me readouts, music, directions, warnings, pictures, phone calls, texts, emails, speeds, autopilot, help steering and staying in my lane, where to find nearest charger, and I’m sure a host of other things I’ve yet to figure out.

Still, even with all that information and whiz-bang whirligigs, nothing on my screen compares to the rumor mill during gas wars. That’s when someone would call or flag you down or stop by your house to tell you that so and so just dropped their price a couple more cents, causing a mad rush to fill ‘er up or, more likely, top ‘er off because when the gas wars raged, tanks remained plenty full.

Nor did I ever hear the acronym MPG until after the oil embargo. We drove big cars and ran them on cheap gas. And sometimes cheap got even cheaper.

Studebaker quit making cars after 1967. By the late 1970s, its name had become something in an archive or a history book. People who should know these things tell me my EV is part of a new wave of vehicles, a change in getting from here to there. Part of that change is planning where to “fill up” while on the road, a learning curve on which I still find myself. They also tell me that part of that plan is to charge my vehicle off-peak, a chance to save a few bucks here and there. I appreciate the insight.

But for the sheer joy of saving what really only amounted to a few nickels and dimes, I’m not sure my EV and its new universe can ever recreate the excitement of a gas war.

On the Island

Senior High Hosts a Toy Drive for Children in Need

Jacqueline Ruiz-Rodriguez

Class of 2023
Student Correspondent

The Christmas Cheer that spread at Senior High was warm enough to melt the snow outside.

Students gave back to their community and children in need in December. They set up a Toys for Tots toy drive that started Nov. 16 and lasted through Dec. 10.

Their goal was to collect as many toys as they could to help families that couldn’t afford to buy presents.

Hosting the event were students from Jobs for American Graduates (JAG) and their advisor Sherah Piercy.

“We did Toys for Tots last year, and it was something that the students found relatable. I think that some of them could relate because they’ve seen their parents go through the same thing,” Piercy said. She added that she wanted her students to see that they could make a difference in other people's lives.

“We thought that this would be a great alternative for the event we had originally planned. I think that seeing other people happy is what spreads the Christmas cheer around,” she said.

The group had originally planned a movie night to raise enough money to buy some toys and books for children, but because of construction in the school, they could not go through with that plan. Instead, they came up with the toy drive and added a twist.

“This is no ordinary toy drive for us. We made this drive into a competition between the three JAG classes,” Piercy said.

Three of the JAG classes competed for who could raise the most toys for the toy drive. The class that won was rewarded with a pizza party. That number is still unknown to the public, but will be announced at a later date.

“We don’t have all of the numbers in yet, but one of the classes is definitely taking the lead in the competition. It is more about giving to children in need, but I found this was a way to get the students more involved and excited,” Piercy said.

She said that she got the okay from the school to host a movie night next year and raise money for toys that way.

“Be on the lookout for next year's invitations. We hope that students and teachers will come in support of the community.”

JAG Students with Christmas Auction Items

JAG focuses on leadership skills, future life skills, and social and civic awareness in the community.

“This is what JAG stands for and I think that it's important for students to give back to the community. It helps them understand the importance of recognizing others' needs,” Piercy said.

Toys that were brought in were checked to make sure that they were packaged properly and were still in good condition.

“We want the toys to be something they can cherish and enjoy for a long time,” Piercy said.

The students agreed and said that they appreciate all the donations made and hope that next year will also be successful.

Piercy added that other JAG students were inspired and volunteered to help hand out the toys to families and children on December 17.

“They didn’t have to sign up, but they did and I’m very proud of them for doing that. It not only shows the hard work they’ve been putting in, but it also shows that they realize that there are people in need,” Piercy said, “I hope others are inspired to do the same thing and participate in activities that help our community.”

A Distant Mirror

The Golden Era of Pinball

Mike Monk

Class of 1967
Rise Contributor

Today, we gaze into the Distant Mirror and see Grand Island in the 1950’s and 1960’s, during the golden era of pinball machines.

At that time there were no “Play Station 5’s” (one of which my grandson Leonardo received for Christmas this year, to his open mouthed delight). Neither was there “Madden NFL Football,” nor the vast number of games in the Apple App Store. There was not even Nintendo’s Luigi or Mario or even “Pong.”

But there was the lure of the pinball machine. A real game where you saw a real silver ball bouncing merrily between barriers, bumpers and holes, whose collision with those barriers, bumpers and holes was punctuated by lights, buzzers and bells. The original machines had two flippers at the bottom to send the ball back upward for more points. You were given five balls with which to play. While getting a high score was one goal, the real treat was to win a free game, or replay, which the machine would confirm with a distinct knocking sound. In a very good game, you might hear successive knocks indicating multiple replays and producing great joy and excitement. You could push the machine just a bit to aid the progress of the silver ball towards scores or away from danger. But if you jiggled the machine too much, it would “tilt” and your game was over.  

When playing pinball the flashing lights, buzzers and bells create a cavalcade of sound and visual excitement, adding to the tactile pleasure of the vibrations and the progress of the silver ball. First you hear a soft plunk, and the first ball falls into place in the shoot on the right of the machine. Then you pull the plunger, and the ball rockets up the right side of the machine into play. The ball hits some bumpers and goes back and forth between them: bampaty bam, bam, bam! Points are racking up and lights are flashing. Then the ball rolls down and you send it upward with a flipper. It enters a shoot and lands in a hole that adds more points: ping, ping, ping…ding, ding, ding! Then the machine shoots the ball down rapidly, which requires a quick flip upward. The ball bangs back and forth between the bottom barriers, almost going down the center, but you flip it back up, first with one flipper and then with the other flipper. The silver ball then flies back up to the bumpers and more bampaty bam, bam, bam. Finally, the ball falls between the two flippers down the chute. It is now time for the next ball. Engrossing, indeed.  

Online today, in fact, you can find vintage machines for sale. Not always cheap, but always intriguing, they include: 

  • 1948 machine called “Yanks Baseball.”
  • Gottlieb machine called “Ship Ahoy” with a nautical theme.
  • Gottlieb machine called “Rack the Ball” with a pool table theme. 
  • 1953 Gottlieb machine called “Flying High” with an airplane theme and a scantily clad woman front and center.
  • Gottlieb machine called “Royal Flush” with a poker theme. 
  • 1963 machine named “Slick Chick” with a group of people at a bar, including some slick chicks. 
  • Gottlieb machine called “Sinbad” with the Sinbad legend as the theme.

Four locations at which I recall playing pinball were (1) the Rockwell Lanes on Second Street (2) the Greyhound Bus Station (3) the small local grocery store, Crick’s, on North Wheeler Street, and (4) the burger joint, Ott’s diner, a half block from the old Walnut Junior High campus, on Eddy Street near the underpass.

At Crick’s, groups of youths would hang out, playing pinball, trying for free games, exchanging banter, eating candy, and drinking pop. Some small amount of decorum was required or you would be asked to leave the store.  

I would often go with my mother, Ramona, to the Rockwell Lanes to watch her bowl in the league in which she competed. While I would mostly watch her bowl, I would at times beg for a quarter and then drift over to the pinball machine near the entrance. This machine, called “Tropic Isle,” had a tropical paradise theme with luscious pictures of a beach and palm trees.    

Among other ways to score points, this machine had three monkeys who would successively climb a long curved palm tree when points were scored. It took a bit of time for each monkey to get to the top. But when all three monkeys reached the top you were rewarded with a bonanza of points and multiple replays. The intriguing aspect of this game was that the progress of each monkey up the tree was retained for the next game. So if you came upon a chance to play the machine when two of the monkeys were at the top and the third one nearly there, you had a great chance at the bonanza of points and replays.

Stunningly, I found a vintage version of this very “Tropical Isle” machine on sale online for only $3,095. If anyone is desperate to get me a late Christmas present, this would do nicely.  

Ott’s was the scene of a bustling lunch time crowd when Walnut was in session in the 1960’s. Just a half a block down the street, past the Woitaszewski house, the place had outstanding burgers and the best French fries in town. The three or four booths were always packed, and the pinball machine at the back of the little shop was always busy. The big treat at Ott’s was that if you won a replay, you not only got the replay, but also a free malt from the store. Wow!

One day I was in Ott’s, and I noticed an older boy (maybe 15 or 16), win a replay and a malt. As I watched closer, I saw he had ever so carefully lifted up the machine so the two legs of the front of the machine were resting on his shoes.  This had to be done with great dexterity, or you would tilt the game. But if successful, this reduced the slant of the machine, so the ball was far easier to keep in play. I was astounded at the boy’s audacity and the success with which he carried out his crime. I was also a nervous wreck that he would be caught in the act.

Today, the occasional original type pinball machine is still out there, in arcades and bowling alleys. I found one at a bowling alley in Minneapolis and introduced my two grandchildren to the game. They would play at the same time with one handling the right flipper and one the left. After their move back to California, we recently found a machine in Camarillo, again at a bowling alley.

The glory and attraction of pinball was captured in the 1969 song “Pinball Wizard,” part of the iconic “Tommy”  album by The Who. 

Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve played the silver ball,
From Soho down to Brighton, I must’ve played ‘em all.
But I ain’t seen nothin’ like him in any amusement hall.
That deaf, dumb, and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball.

He stands like a statue, becomes part of the machine,
Feelin’ all the bumpers, always playing clean.
He plays by intuition, the digit counters fall.
That deaf, dumb, and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball.

He’s a pinball wizard, there has to be a twist,
A pinball wizard’s got such a supple wrist.

How do you think he does it? I don’t know.
What make him so good?

Ain’t got no distractions, can’t hear no buzzers and bells. 
Don’t see no lights a-flashin,’ plays by sense of smell,
Always gets a replay, never seen him fall,
That deaf, dumb, and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball.

I thought I was the Bally table king, 
But I just handed my pinball crown to him.

Even on my favorite table, he can beat my best.
His disciples lead him in, and he just does the rest.
He’s got crazy flipper fingers, never seen him fall,
That deaf, dumb, and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball.

While this terrific song is a fantasy, it still conveys the joy and fun of pinball. May the days of pinball live on forever!    

Mike can be reached at

One More Thing

By Way of Introduction …

Abbey Kutlas-Prickett

Class of 2014
Rise Contributor

This column is meant to be an introduction — something that, at this moment, feels daunting and nearly impossible. Let me explain.

My mom told me once that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. For some, your first impressions of me were made a long time ago. For many others, this is our first pass. I’m going to ask you, regardless of which group you fall into, to give me a few more chances anyway. I’m still making first impressions on myself all the time.

I’ll start with the facts: I am fully a product of the Grand Island Public Schools, and proud of it. For 15 years, my dad, Joe Kutlas, was the activities director at GISH and my mom, Ronna, was the secretary at Gates Elementary. My experiences learning with and from peers at Gates, Barr, and GISH, whose backgrounds and identities were often vastly different from mine, continue to be the greatest gifts of my life, and they ultimately inspired my own teaching career. 

Upon my graduation from high school eight years ago, I could have listed a great number of things I did, things I was. GISH (and GIPS as a whole) was ripe with opportunity; I had both the privilege and the drive to take full advantage, from rigorous academic offerings to best-in-class arts and athletic programs. My mentors and friends provided encouragement and support to try it all — my mom also told me once that I am the “Queen of One More Thing.” When I went away to college, though, I couldn’t do everything I had done for the first part of my life. I had to make choices, and those choices forced (and keep forcing) a redefinition of who I am. 

I wonder: Are we our secret skills and talents? Are we the things we include, consciously and subconsciously, in our daily routines? Are we what we do to make money? Are we what we do for ourselves? Are we the things we wish we could do, if given more time and money? Are we the things that keep us up at night, or the things that get us out of bed in the morning? Right now, I’m reflecting on these questions and trying to find balance among the answers. I’m trying to introduce myself to myself again.

I know, I know, I’m only 26. Twenty-six is young enough for those of you decades ahead of me in age to see me as young, rosy-cheeked and glassy-eyed, and old enough for my middle schoolers to call me a Boomer (historically inaccurate, but it’s my job as their Humanities teacher to correct them). 

At 26, I am, at once, nostalgic for the days at GISH when I really felt I knew myself, and yearning for the days when I think I’ll know myself again — whenever that is, knowing it might be never. I think this is a hard age because I’m a decade removed from any vestige of childhood and, hopefully, have a long life ahead. There’s lots of carefree-ness in cohabitation with a real sense of gravity of what it means to try and fail, to love and lose, to live. There’s a profound feeling of unsettled-ness — wondering, wandering — that is both really exciting and really scary.

Abbey and her husband Joe at their Omaha home

My fellow educators out there know that Maslow (and the indigenous Blackfoot wisdom he was inspired by) tells us that stability and community must come before self-actualization. I’ve been searching for that community for a long time while it’s been right under my nose, just like the best ending to a romantic comedy. Like the beautiful, successful protagonist in your favorite Hallmark holiday movie (I jest, I jest), I’m coming home — my husband, a former Hastings Tiger, and I just purchased a 1917 charmer in Omaha after years living in other states — and finding that it isn’t a failure to launch when home is a place full of possibility and belonging.

In the inky, frosty, star-smattered Nebraska nights, the creak of our bungalow’s original oak floors, the days spent making cookies with my mom again, I feel like I’m closer to that balance of answers to the age-old question we all grapple with: who am I? 

So, here’s your introduction: I’m Abbey, and I’m still figuring out what that means. I suspect it will take a while, but I’m getting more comfortable with that all the time. I’m glad to have you with me on the journey for a while.

Abbey can be reached at

back to top

Alumni Reunions

Kari Price

Alumni Coordinator
308.385.5525 ext. 201148

Planning a class reunion?

We can help get you started! 
Contact us for your class list and send us information about your reunion.
We will post it to our website.

NOTE: Reunion information in this newsletter is current as of the publication date. To see Reunion updates and additions go to our Alumni Reunions page.




  • The Class of 1956 wishes to extend an invitation to fellow classmates to join them at their monthly gathering. They meet on the 2nd Tuesday of each month at the Midtown Holiday Inn at 6:00 pm.

  • The Decades of the 60’s breakfast continues to be held the second Saturday of each month at Tommy’s, 8:30 a.m. This is a great opportunity to reconnect over a cup of coffee and/or breakfast. We would love to have you join us!

  • The Class of 1960 has resumed their gathering at Tommy’s Restaurant the first Wednesday of each month at 11 a.m. Local suggested COVID safety measures will be assessed on a monthly basis. Send your email address to Donna Weaver Smith for monthly communications at:

    UPDATE: In August, 34 local and area classmates met for an afternoon picnic at the Stolley Park Pavillion. A good time was had by all!

  • The Class of 1965’s 55th Reunion has been called off until further notice. For more information email Loretta Catlett at

  • The class of ‘66 meets for lunch the third Wednesday of each month at the Platt Duetsche, 12 noon. Please join us!

  • UPDATE: The GISH Class of 1970 Reunion Committee had a meeting of the minds and we have decided to postpone our 50th High School Reunion until 2022. We want everyone to be able to come and enjoy themselves and be able to interact with their classmates. We want the most members of the Class of 1970 to attend as possible and we just didn’t think that would have happened in 2021.The Reunion Committee will get together early in 2022 and make any decisions then. Please share this with as many of our classmates as you can. I will also email each of our classmates that we have a current email for. Those of you that haven’t contacted us with your current information, please do so now. DO NOT just post it on Facebook. Email your Name, Maiden Name, Mailing Address, Phone# to

In Memoriam

November and December memorial list of GISH Alumni

GARY CLAUS, Class of 1968, died May 11, 2021, in Silverton, OR. He was 71.

CATHERINE ERION, Class of 1980, died Sept. 4, 2021, in Tucson, Ariz. She was 59. 

GUADALUPE SOTO, Class of 1973, died Oct. 3, 2021, in Springfield, OR. He was 67.

KENNETH BLUE, Class of 1964, died Nov. 1, 2021, in Grand Island. He was 75.

HEATHER MASTEN, Class of 1983, died Nov. 2, 2021, in San Antonio, TX. She was 56.

PAULINE (SHANKS) PREISENDORF, Class of 1958, died Nov. 2, 2021, in Grand Island. She was 80. 

CINDY (GREEN) SMITH, Class of 1971, died Nov. 2, 2021, in Grand Island. She was 68. 

RICHARD GION, Class of 1985, died Nov. 4, 2021, in Hastings. He was 54. 

DIX WAGNER, Class of 1953, died. Nov. 5, 2021, in Grand Island. He was 86.

GARY BENZEL, Class of 1956, died Nov. 8, 2021, in Grand Island. He was 83.

ROLLAND DIMMITT, Class of 1952, died Nov. 8, 2021, in Grand Island. He was 85.

DEB (VOICHAHOSKE) FLEMING, Class of 1981, died Nov. 9, 2021, in Grand Island. She was 58.

JANICE (HARDENBROOK) ALEXANDER, Class of 1960, died Nov. 11, 2021, in St. Paul. Janice lived in Chapman. She was 79. 

MARY JANE (HERMÈS) LEE, Class of 1950, died Nov. 11, 2021, in Grand Island. She was 89. 

RON LOWENSTEIN, Class of 1971, died Nov. 11, in Katy, TX. He was 68. 

CATHERINE (LOCKENVITZ) CHATHAM, Class of 1964, died Nov. 13, 2021, in Santa Monica, CA. She was 76.

MARIAN JANE (CULBERTSON) PETERSEN, Class of 1943, died Nov. 21, 2021, in Grand Island. She lived in Aurora. She was 89.

DALE MCBRIDE, Class of 1963, died Nov. 22, 2021, in Grand Island. He was 76.

BEVERLY (HICKS) SCHAUB, Class of 1944, died Nov. 28, 2021, in Riverside, CA. She was 95.

AMY WHITEFOOT, Class of 1993, died Dec. 4, 2021, in Grand Island. She was 49.

TERRY (GRAVEL) WETZEL, Class of 1961, died Dec. 6, 2021, in Dannebrog. She was 77.

IVAN STUEVEN, Class of 1955, died Dec. 13, 2021, in Grand Island. He was 84.

MARVIN TAGGE, Class of 1947, died Dec. 13, 2021, in Grand Island. He was 92.

BESSIE FRITH, Class of 1955, died Dec. 14, 2021, in Grand Island. She was 84. 

SHARON SWAFFORD, Class of 1963, died Dec. 14, 2021, in Kearney. She was 76.

DAVID THUERNAGLE, Class of 1974, died Dec. 14, 2021, in Grand Island. He was 66.

JEWELL (HUGHES) DEICHMANN, Class of 1948, died Dec. 18, 2021, in Central City. She was 91.

BETTY (KNUTH) GREENWALT, Class of 1956, died Dec. 18, 2021, in St. Paul. She was 84.

ROBERT LEE MEYER, Class of 1970, died Dec. 24, 2021, in Grand Island. He was 68. 

MIKE SMITH, Class of 1997, died Dec. 26, 2021, in Grand Island. He was 42.

STEVEN TONER, Class of 1978, died Dec. 29, 2021, in Grand Island. He was 61.

RON TRAMPE, Class of 1964, died Dec. 29, 2021, in Grand Island. He was 75.

DIANA LINKE, Class of 1967, died Dec. 31, 2021, in Lincoln. She lived in North Loup. She was 72.

GABRIEL RIVERA, Class of 2003, died Dec. 31, 2021, in Grand Island. He was 37.


To report an alumni death since December, 2021, please send an email with the first name, last name, class year and maiden name if applicable to

Class Notes

Rise wants to help you celebrate your successes with other Grand Island Senior High alumni and friends. “Class Notes” is the place to highlight a birth, an anniversary, a promotion, a college degree, an award, or other notable personal accomplishments and triumphs. Tell us about that new business. That perfect baby … or grandbaby. That Masters degree you earned after years of hard work. That recognition from your company, your cohorts, your community.

January 2022 Class Notes:
  • 1960

    Ken Aldridge, Class of 1960, has published his tenth novel, "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow.” The book is available on Amazon and Kindle. Ken and wife Vicki Varvel Aldridge, Class of 1961, live in Mansfield, Texas.

  • 2021

    Kendall Bartling, Class of 2021, was named chairman of the Husker Voter Coalition at UNL. (A longer story on Kendall can be found in Milestones.)

back to top
© 2024 Grand Island Public Schools Foundation

Powered by Firespring