Joan’s Pick for this Week: 50 Year High School Reunions!

210 Members of the Class of 1963 Come Home

joans high school

I was reminded of the beautiful architecture of our high school.

OMG…it’s true, but I can’t believe it.  I don’t feel that old, I lead a crazy, hectic life, play tennis, and am very active…it can’t be…but it is true.

“It’s 50 years since we graduated from high school.  How is that possible?”

That’s what I said to my classmate, Ramsay, when she found me and called last October.  A reunion for Dwight Morrow High School’s class of 1963 was being planned.  The question was…did I really want to go back?  Did I want to see people and friends (most of whom) I hadn’t seen in 50 years?  As we all started connecting on Facebook and on the phone, I realized, maybe I did want to go.  It’s now or never, and it would be fun…right?

I’m a very visual person, so seeing Dwight Morrow High School (in Englewood, NJ) on Saturday morning was quite special.  My high school (and it was a public school) was absolutely beautiful.  Designed by Lawrence Licht in 1932, the structure is reminiscent of the late Gothic style associated with Oxford and Cambridge University in England.  Licht went on to design many other educational buildings, including some at Princeton, but Dwight Morrow High School is said to be his masterpiece. The asymmetrical campus plan of the school was dominated by a high tower with tracery and pinnacles.  The building and grounds are absolutely magnificent.  Most significantly, it was still as architecturally amazing as I had remembered.

Peter, Ann and Louie…lots to catch up on! And really, the cafeteria still looks the same

Peter, Ann and Louie…lots to catch up on! And really, the cafeteria still looks the same.

As our class gathered Saturday morning in our high school cafeteria (which, by the way, was exactly the same!).  The common conversation amongst us was about our racially mixed class and how well we worked together…the friendships and the bonds and the total lack of prejudice.  Here we were in the early sixties, in the midst of the Civil Rights movement and only months before Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have A Dream Speech” in Washington DC, and the diversity of our school was already a template for the most inspiring education I could have ever hoped for.  I was part of a unique and diverse group of young people in a high school during the early sixties.  In the course of those years, our future lives and feelings about race and ethics were affected forever.  Color and other prejudices were not part of how we looked at things.  In the decades since I graduated Dwight Morrow, things changed and there were battles over segregation, and the school became disproportionally black and Hispanic.

My family’s home…the steps had many a stoop ball game

My family’s home…the steps had many a stoop ball game

My family moved from Englewood in the late sixties, so I hadn’t seen our family “home” in many years.  I went back “home” with reflection and curiosity.

The neighborhood was a mix old and newer homes (built in the fifties) on “blocks” where you could ride your bike, walk to school, and explore the freedom of a beautiful, surburban town. Architectually, the old brick and stone homes blended with the newer homes that were being built. There was a sense of neighborhood.  The homes seemed so much smaller than I had remembered.  I chalked that up to living in the country and having big expanses of land around me.  The neighborhood wasn’t much different…just a few homes torn down replaced with larger “McMansions”.  The memories were vivid of playing stoop ball on my front steps, the Good Humor truck, the playground behind my house and the bike rides down the road to my friend’s house. And again I wondered, can it really be over 50 years ago? Where did the time go?

Juanita and our Class President, Andy, address the class of 1963.

Juanita, who organized the reunion, and our Class President, Andy, address the class of 1963.

As we all looked back together, we remembered what a great time it was to grow up. No Facebook, iPhones, social media and all the other technology-driven devises that invade and become embedded in our lives.  Today, here we were a class of educators, lawyers, doctors, entrepreneurs, bankers, social workers, activists, engineers and hard working public citizens; a class of people who had learned to give back to others; a class where the color of your skin did not matter; a class whose Class President was black; a class where it didn’t really matter which side of the tracks you lived on; and a class where women took leadership roles. Returning after fifty years you reflect back and see how those four years were part of your character building and had made you the person you are today.

That evening we danced and danced to the Oldies. Reminisced and reminisced…and couldn’t believe all the memories that came back of those high school years.

So, thank you Dwight Morrow High School. I feel fortunate to have walked your beautiful halls with my amazing classmates and to have experienced such a great education.  It took going back to fully appreciate those high school years and what they really meant to me on my “life” road.

It was so much fun…more than I could have imagined.  I had a blast!!

For those of you who dread the idea of a 50th High School Reunion…don’t!  I highly recommend it.

[click photos to enlarge and for descriptions]

 

4 Comments

  • Michele Haab says:

    Joan,

    I so enjoyed your article. I echo all your sentiments. So much like my life back at high school in Port Jeff, Long Island. Next year is my 50th and I will go!

    Michele

  • Linda Hyman Carey says:

    Beautiful….all those wonderful feelings. It was a blast!

  • Barbara Benson Johnson says:

    Joan,
    I couldn’t have said it better. This reunion was more than I had expected – so many memories, so many wonderful friends, good times together then and now – great to be reconnected!

  • Joan, I SO enjoyed reading your account of your reunion. I have stayed in touch with a couple of my high school friends (whoa, Class of 65!) — Even after all these years, we still finish each other’s sentences and when I look into their eyes I see the “high school version” of them, smiling back.
    I remember the laughter, tears, MUSIC, mischief, the teachers and parents who were such a big part of our adolescence. Maybe our teen years are
    “supposed” to be full of angst — but it was one of the most interesting and joyous times of my life, thanks to kindred friends who are “still crazy after all these years”. Rock on, people!

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