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Bill and Eileen Gebhardt – An ED/Story

Everyone has an ED/story – an educational experience – maybe you overcame a challenge, or succeeded when you didn’t think you could. What was learning like for you? Was it hard? If it was, did you get help from a teacher or family member? Or did you figure it out on your own? Were there lessons both inside and outside the classroom?

This ED/story starts in 1905 when students from a private academy in Ione became the first class to graduate high school in AMADOR COUNTY. The next year, in 1906, the Ione Union High School was formed and students continued graduating from that high school until 1983, when the county unified into ACUSD.

The formation of Ione High School contributed to history and community and by mid 1950’s, to the founding of the Ione High School Alumni Association. It still exists. Posing the question “How can there be an alumni association for a high school that is no longer?” Well that takes a certain kind of“moxie” AND a long list of friends and family who still feel affection for and the impact of that school.

…And affection and impact are perfect words to associate with the oldest living Ione High School alumnus, Mr. G. William Gebhardt class of 1939.

There are two “Gebhardts” Bill and Eileen, both Ione High Alumni, though Eileen graduated in 1944. They also still live in Ione, raised 2 sons in Ione, and both taught in IONE.

Bill and Ilene seemed the perfect choice for our first ED/story on local people. They were both educated, educated here, then faraway in colleges; and came back…and I do have facts!

Like how, when they both started school there was no kindergarten, school started in 1st grade. How Eileen and her family traveled throughout the west, her dad and uncles in mining and construction and how one uncle always managed to get her into classes at the local elementary schools (that kind of exposure probably the reason she eventually skipped from 2nd to 4th grade).

And how Bill’s 1st grade teacher was Miss McKeen, Ione Elementary School was the current VFW Hall, and Ione High School was only the white building… a replica stands there now…and how there was no gym but that didn’t matter to Bill. He didn’t play sports, he liked cars.

Eileen describes how during World War II, there were years the entire study body was only about 50 people, as all the boys 18 and over went to fight. By that time, Bill was at the then MEN’S ONLY Cal Poly in SLO and graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering. Eileen studied business and they both eventually got their teaching credential.

And there it was! A story! But that wasn’t the whole story that wasn’t the ED/Story.

By the end of the day I interviewed Bill and Eileen, to a person, everyone to whom I mentioned I was writing this story said to me, “You know what I remember about Mr. G…?” and without me ever answering, they would tell me.

These stories echoed down through a whole list of people who have taken varied life paths but who all have one thing in common – Mr and/or Mrs G.

The 5th generation Ione rancher who credits to both these people his ability to read AND take apart and put back together ANY engine or piece of heavy equipment, enabling him to successfully forge out a life of decency and industry.

A local business owner who maintains that when Ione High had five periods a day, Mr. G made sure he took at least four of them in the shop with him, and who says it’s the lessons about fairness and treating people with dignity that he most remembers.

Another storied local whose career wound him through CA government and historical stewardship remembers it was Mr. G who first told him about lasers – it was 1966!

These were just a few of hundreds of people he influenced and whose lives he impacted – and – throughout ran a theme – a theme of fairness, hard work, and an eye to the future and what’s next.

So their ED/Story was not about how they learned, who influenced them, who made an impact on them. THEIR ED/Story was about how they taught, who they influenced, and their impact.

I came home flummoxed and ranted to my husband! Who, by the way, always said he learned from Mr. G how to weld and read blue prints… and who, after high school, worked as a mechanic then followed me to LA. A week later he got a job at a commercial set company because he could weld and work on the motors of all the power tools…and who, when he retires soon, will have worked successfully for over 41 years in the motion picture industry.

He stood in our kitchen as I ranted on to him.

“I got it wrong..!” I said “The ED/Story is about how he changed people, how he impacted them how he influenced, maybe even changed the course of lives!”

My husband picked up an apple headed out the kitchen door. “Yeah”…he said. “I know”…

“…you’re looking at one”.

Now that’s an ED/Story.

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