Federal Way High School’s class of 1958 bonds over lunch

Judy Hoffman and Gladya Fenstermacher share lunch together during the class of 1958 50th reunion at Federal Way High School last week.  - Margo Hoffman/The Mirror
Judy Hoffman and Gladya Fenstermacher share lunch together during the class of 1958 50th reunion at Federal Way High School last week.
— image credit: Margo Hoffman/The Mirror

One thing that’s definitely improved at Federal Way High School since 1958 is the food.

At least that’s what 68-year-old Roger Elley says.

Elley was one of about 30 Federal Way graduates from the class of 1958 to participate in a class reunion at the school last week. The alumni ate lunch in the cafeteria with the rest of the students before touring the campus.

The sandwiches and cookies, standard Federal Way High School fare today, were a hit. Elley recalled 1950s-era lunches of rice and hamburger gravy, chili with olive pits and Jell-O with sliced up carrots jiggling inside.

The Jell-O was awful and throwing it away wasn’t an option, Elley said.

“You had to clean that plate up or sit down until you did,” he said, adding that he tried various strategies for hiding the dish and getting it in the trash.

“I’d scrape it off onto the tray and then put the plate on there and kind of mash it up under there,” he said. “I never got away with it.”

A school lunch in 1958 cost about 25 cents, compared to $2.75 today.

For Jim Knutson, 69, the most startling change at Federal Way High School was not the food, but the student dress. When he was a student there, girls never wore jeans.

“All the girls wore dresses — long dresses past mid-calf,” he said. “It’s very relaxed now.”

Students also carried no backpacks, just books under their arms. And the boys wore “Elvis Presley hairdos,” Knutson said.

Today’s fashion is better, he said. “It’s more relaxed. It’s more who they are, I think. Their style, their dress.”

The building that is now Federal Way High School opened in 1930 for grades one through eight. An addition for high school students opened in 1937. In 1944, a junior high was added and all grades were taught on the campus.

Contact Margo Hoffman: or (253) 925-5565.


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