Beach Writer in the Rocky Mountains

Alice M. Batzel

Published Author, Playwright,

Journalist, Poet

[email protected]





October 21-22, 2022



          Greetings from your 1971 Senior Class Secretary, Alice (Smith) Batzel, from 2,000 miles away in Northern Utah! I'm thrilled that our alums are gathering to celebrate our 50th-year reunion! I wish I could be with you, but I know you all will be having a wonderful time as organized by our reunion committee. Thank you for the invitation to write an address that can be shared during the reunion, in a printed program, or accessed electronically.

          Like many of you, when I was growing up, I always looked forward to the day I would be a student at Choctaw. I feel fortunate that I was a student on the CHS campus, making friends, making memories, and getting good preparation for my future. Our school life was full of academics, vocational training, school clubs, student government, student council, ROTC, choir, and marching band practice. Similarly, we had basketball games, football games, track meets, tennis competitions, baseball games, pep rallies led by our cheerleaders, and homecoming bonfires with our booster club and spirit squad. The school cafeteria was a gathering place for friends and classmates during lunchtime. Some students would go through the lunch line twice to satisfy a growing teen appetite. I was one of those double lunch students on my favorite school lunch days.

          Some events of our senior year were monumental, such as getting our driver's license and attending homecoming and the prom. Many students belonged to numerous school clubs and had a rich after-school social life. Many of our graduating class worked after-school jobs. Teenage milestones such as our first date, going steady, breaking up, getting our hearts broken, and finding new love would never be forgotten. Braces on our teeth and acne were adolescent rites of passage, and only a few escaped those experiences. Getting rid of eyeglasses and getting contact lenses was something to celebrate!

          Thanks to the geography of Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa Island, and the surrounding area, we had beach parties, sand skiing on the Matterhorn, swimming, surfing, boogie boarding, boating, waterskiing, snorkeling, scuba diving, sail boating, parasailing, fishing, and dune buggies. Monday mornings in the CHS hallway were marked by many sunburns from the weekend. Getting a tan before Easter was a priority for many girls.

          Though many of us rode the school bus, driving a car to school was something every senior wanted to do. Sometimes that meant driving the old family station wagon. Teenage drivers would gather with their vehicles in the school parking lot before school, and so would the students who preferred riding their motorcycles.

          Away games for our CHS sports events marked many Friday and Saturday nights. Our Big Green Style Marching Band and the majorettes with their fire-twirling batons gave good reason for thunderous applause from spectators. I remember some of the majorettes also twirling dangerous machetes. A menacing site was Pop Marler in Big Green Indian attire, riding his horse across the football field, then throwing his war spear into the ground. Flag twirlers and rifle-whirling ROTC members brought more spectacle to CHS halftime shows. The Tomahawk yearbook staff and Smoke Signals newspaper staff captured photographs and reported the news of every school event. Sports team managers were an asset to every sport.

          We had our favorite teachers, coaches, club advisors, guidance counselors, and administrators. However, the dress code caused administrators to daily patrol the hallway for violators. As we reminisce, perhaps you were in violation of the rules of the 1971 student handbook:

  • (1) The boy's hair length could not be longer than one inch above the collar. Hair had to be cut or behind the ear at all times. A boy's bangs could not touch the eyebrows. NO beards or mustaches were allowed. Elvis-style sideburns were not tolerated; sideburns were not to extend below the tip of the earlobe and no wider than the growth at the temple. Trousers had to be worn at the normal waistline, and a belt had to be worn if the pants had belt loops. Shirts advertising products were not allowed. Shirts had to be tucked into the pants unless they had a straight hem. Some boys kept a spare tee shirt in their locker, just in case their favorite shirt was questioned.
  • (2) Miniskirts were allowed for girls, but if undergarments were seen, the girl would be sent home to change her clothes and return to school. Girls were prohibited from wearing long pants except from December 1 to March 1. In the case of freezing weather outside those dates, the Superintendent would issue a directive through the local news media. Jeans, levis, hip huggers, and form-fitting ski-type pants were prohibited. You could try to defend your violation by saying that your mother had not washed the clothes yet, and the only thing that was clean to wear was against the dress code. But I don't recall anyone getting away with that excuse.
  •  (3) There was detention after school for violations of the dress code. Were you one of those? I didn't think so.

          Our 1971 senior class was the last year for many strict grooming and dress code regulations. Things seemed more relaxed the following year when my sister was a senior. However, our senior class withstood the pressure. While doing so, we made many lasting happy memories, excelled academically, and had a historically large-sized graduating class. How many graduates did we have? A conclusive number has been hard to verify though it has been estimated to be approximately 700. There are 616 seniors photographed in our 1971 Tomahawk yearbook, and we can assume that some students missed their photo day during the summer. With additional seniors as move-ins during the school year, it's easy to see how our graduating class has often been called the largest graduating class in the history of Choctawhatchee High School.

          After graduation, some classmates enlisted in the military, some went to trade school and college, and many worked full-time or multiple part-time jobs. Some married their high school sweetheart, while some still anticipated their first date. With pride, we have many classmates who have established traditional families, being husbands and wives, fathers, mothers, and now grandparents, and some becoming great grandparents! We also have fellow alumni with successful non-traditional families and blended families. We celebrate all alumni and their families.

          The careers of our 1971 graduates have been varied, contributing to vast areas of society. The poll responses on our Choctawhatchee High School: Class of 1971 Facebook page detail many of those careers; additional responses were submitted privately. With good reason, we can celebrate our 1971 alums and their impressive career successes. I invite you to visit that Facebook page and read about the many careers of our classmates. For those who do not participate in social media, or to see the inclusion of careers that were submitted through private messages, a report of the alumni careers poll follows at the conclusion of this address; if time permits, the findings of the career poll may be read aloud during one of the reunion events. It is with pride that we acknowledge the many sectors of society that have received career contributions from our CHS 1971 senior class graduates.

          Those who attend the 50th reunion and those who live too far away to come will observe this moment in time with memories, fellowship, lasting friendship, and shared humor. We also fondly remember and salute our classmates who are no longer with us. We've had to say goodbye to many of our fellow class graduates as their lives were cut short. May their memory continue with us. We celebrate them and count ourselves fortunate to have had them in our lives. At the hallmark of this 50th reunion, we are invited to live up to the privilege of a long life.

          As we reminisce, we realize the truth that playwright Thornton Wilder wrote in his Pulitzer prize-winning stage play, OUR TOWN. Emily Webb-Gibbs reflects on her life, saying, "Do human beings ever realize life while they live it? – every, every minute?" We may not have realized it back in 1971. But now, 50 years wiser, we recognize the value of life and the privilege of living it. We see that our experiences, relationships, accomplishments, challenges, and struggles have been opportunities for growth and maturity. Let us remember all that our CHS 1971 graduation year meant to us. May we remember all that it has come to mean to us over the many years since. May we always remember our classmates. May we care for one another, respect each other, and cherish friendships and shared memories. May we stay in touch with one another and look after one another. We are family. Hurrah! for the CHS 1971 Senior Class!



(data gathered for 50th reunion, poll responses on Facebook page

Choctawhatchee High School: Class of 1971,

and from private responses through email, texting, and phone calls.)


CPA – public, industry, corporate

CPA, newspaper/media industry auditing, corporate tax specialist

Corporate tax specialist

NASD series 6 securities license professional, market variable annuities, investments

Financial services management, Charles Schwab

Accountant, State of Alabama, 40 years


Chief Accountant, construction industry

Accounting – payroll, retail credit, hotel industry, and housing authority

Administrative, General

Administrative Assistant

Executive Secretary

Personal Trainer for business


Aerospace Engineer

United Space Alliance, Space Shuttle Program

Aerospace and Defense, Rockwell Space Shuttle Program, military bomber and missile programs, F-18 Super Hornet, and Boeing.

Federal Aviation Administration, Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic License. Helicopter mechanic in the Oil and Gas Industry, Gulf of Mexico. Helicopter parts inventory and warranty. Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Technology; Corporate, working in air, marine and other types of insurance, helicopter accident investigation and risk management. Retired after almost 47 years in aviation. Federal Aviation Administration Private Pilot airplane license to fly for pleasure.




Professional artist/illustrator

Art gallery founder and owner

Kodak award-winning photographer

Owner of photography business

Editor, publisher

Author, Journalist, Playwright, Poet

Author of six books

Freelance writer, magazines, and newspapers

Christian genre author and poet

Freelance writer, regional lifestyle magazine, Carolina Mountain Life

Arts Administrator

Executive Director, Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival

Grants Officer, Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

Director, Avery County Arts Council of North Carolina

Grant writer


Print shop manager


S. Georgia High School, Football Coach 31 years

Sports coach

Automotive and Marine

Automotive and marine engine specialist

Owner of a marine engine repair company

Technical college instructor, marine engine service/technology

Marina developer

Director of multiple marina operations

Chartered boat captain

Marine vessel captain

Supply Boat Captain, oil field


Child daycare business owner, 30 years

Construction/Design: Industrial, Commercial, Residential

Outside sales, electrical material for contractors, and industrial manufacturing, 39 years

Construction industry professionals – residential, industrial, commercial

Construction Risk Management, insurance claims specialist

Buying, remodeling, and selling homes and new home construction

Home Inspection Specialist

Owner, Hurricane shutter business

Sales Manager, custom cabinetry, and high-end lifestyle appliances

Owner, Interior design, and window treatment company

Painting and window treatments – residential and commercial

Flooring specialist

President and General Manager, several construction companies

Owner, fine home construction company



Restaurant and culinary professionals

BBQ food truck owner/operator

Restaurant owner and franchise developer



Dental hygienist


Elementary school teacher

High school teacher

Principal and school board member

School board member, 16 years

Minister of Education in multiple states; Seminary graduate

College professor

University Adjunct, Speech/Hearing Clinic

Orange County Public School Speech/Language Pathologist

Guidance Counselor, public school system

Homeschooling children and grandchildren


Chemical Engineer

Industrial Engineer

Industrial Engineer, security systems at military installations


Religious ministry

Christian school Secretary

Pastor's wife

First Responders


Funeral industry

Funeral Home Manager

Funeral Home Owner-Operator

Government contracting

Government contract administrator/manager

Government contracting and managing military construction sites

Government support services

Civil Service

Clerk/Typist for states of Texas and Kansas


Baptist Health Care Accountant and AIS Analyst with managed care contracting with health insurance companies and government payors.

Healthcare reimbursement and insurance contract specialist

RHIT Credentialed Health Information Management Professional

Pharmacist – military and civilian

Substance Abuse Counselor

Medical Technologist

Nurse and nursing instructor

Medical Assistant, Ophthalmology

Speech/Language Pathology, public schools, private practice, FSU clinical supervisor, and FL DOH federal consultant.


Domestic Goddess

Home care of family members

Information Technology

Computer programmer

3M maintaining and programming industrial equipment

AT&T Corporate manager of the computer division

Financial application developer

Information technology architect, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America

Information Technologist


Life insurance agent

Insurance industry, risk manager

Insurance, construction specialist in risk management, 35 years

Insurance specialist, policy writer for restaurant chains, healthcare, senior living facilities, and financial institutions.



Law enforcement officer, 36 years

Okaloosa County Deputy

Sheriff’s department (multiple FL counties)

Legal Secretary


Lifetime Louisiana Notarial Commission


US Air Force

US Air Force Colonel, Command Fighter Pilot, 30+ years

USAF Security Police

US Army

US Army, Firefighter and HVAC

US Army Hawk missile radar repairman, Weibel ballistics radar

US Navy Master Training Specialist, Squadron Chief Electrician; 20 years Electricians Mate, Nuclear Trained and Submarine Qualified, operating and maintaining Naval Nuclear Power Plants.

Naval electromechanical technical writer/instructor, college level accredited

US and International Military Security Systems

Military market price coordinator, AAFES (DOD) Eglin AFB and Hurlburt AFB

Military spouse

News Media

President and COO of The Washington Examiner

Newspaper/media circulation, production, consumer marketing

Real Estate

Realtor, commercial and residential

Real Estate Broker, Owner, Associate


Retail business entrepreneur

Retail sales and management

Clerk and Management, TG&Y, McCrory’s

Sales, office supply and business machines/equipment

Furniture sales

Bridal shop owner

Social Services

Job coach, Silver Sands School

Social services


Brick Mason and Owner of brick company


HVAC specialist

Plumber – residential and commercial, plumbing superintendent for general contractor


UPS Transportation, multiple positions, 41 years

Driver of limousine and shuttle buses

Okaloosa County School Bus System


Freelance International Travel Planning Coordinator for professional travel writers

Veterinary/Animal care

Pet sitter

Vital Statistics

Poll and census worker


Volunteer – community and national organizations

NOTE: Many alums simultaneously had more than one career, and some entered a second or third career after retirement. Many thanks to all who responded to the poll, and for the efforts to include the careers of our deceased classmates.



Art Credit:

CHS Indian Mosaic by Mark Forsman and Tonya Nunes

Alumni Career Poll findings compiled by:

Alice M. (Smith) Batzel

CHS 1971 Senior Class Secretary

CHS 1971 Senior Class 50th Reunion Address and Alumni Career Poll Results

link to Reminisce page of website:


Email at [email protected]