Student and staff alumni gathered Saturday morning at Klamath Union High School to swap stories on what many KU alumni view as sacred ground.
That’s how William “Shocky” Hungate, class of 1959, views the campus.
Seated Saturday morning on the restored KU senior bench, a project undertaken by members of his senior class as well as other school officials, Hungate smiled proudly.
Hungate’s class helped pay for the restoration of the bench after it was recovered by Wayne Huggins, who works in city school maintenance.
Believing someone would like it restored, Huggins kept a portion of the bench after finding half of it. The bench was kept at the transportation department building during the renovations until a plan could be put in place to restore it.
“We worked on getting it up here and it wasn’t till the last three weeks,” Huggins said.
For Hungate, and many others at KU, the seat is more than just a bench. It brings alumni back to younger days.
And Hungate will tell you without pulling any punches what it means to have it back on campus.
“It was what united the seniors against the other classes,” Hungate said, with a laugh.
“The two longest and most endearing traditions were the painting of the K on K hill … and then the senior bench thing, where only the seniors were allowed.
Hungate sees the saving of the bench as a tangible example of the care that went into the renovations.
“It is sacred ground and this is one of the sacred things,” Hungate said.
Although he divides his year living in the Portland area and Pennsylvania, Hungate plans to come back to the campus, especially with the bench there to remind of him of days gone by.
“All of this is kind of sacred ground to me,” Hungate said.
Hungate said he’d planned to never visit Klamath Falls if KU had been torn down and/or moved to another location.
“When the school board approved the doing of the renovation, my friends and I, we stood up and cheered,” he said.
Hungate, pointing toward the school, complimented the construction: “This is the sundae that they whipped together.”
Speaking of the bench, he added: “This is the cherry (on top).”
While Hungate, project manager Samanthea Totten-Perry, safety officer Mike Herron and Principal Tony Swan gathered around the bench, a squadron of Pelicans — the pelican is the school’s mascot — flew in formation above the school, prompting them all to pull out cellphones for a photo; a fitting scene for a school showcasing their Pelican pride.
Totten-Perry took a seat on the bench for a photo with Hungate and Herron, and shared relief in a finished project that totals approximately $49.5 million.
“It’s been a very long, hard job,” Totten-Perry said.
“They get to see the labor of our love.”