It Really Is The “Class” Of ’66

Staples High School’s Class of 1966 has always been special.

Growing up in postwar Westport, then coming of age in high school as a turbulent decade picked up steam, they were an active, accomplished bunch.

The Class of ’66 included 14 National Merit semifinalists, 29 All-State musicians and 5 All-State actors. The Orphenians traveled to the Virgin Islands; student government brought the Beau Brummels and Animals to Staples, and as a gift to the school — a tradition that unfortunately has disappeared — the class donated a handsome sign for the entrance on North Avenue.

John Lupton (left), Class of 1966 president, shakes hands with '67 president Dick Sandhaus at the sign's dedication ceremony. Principal Jim Calkins looks on.

John Lupton (left), Class of 1966 president, shakes hands with ’67 president Dick Sandhaus at the sign’s dedication ceremony. Principal Jim Calkins looks on.

But in the 50 years since graduation, the Class of ’66 has really stepped up its game. A few years ago they paid to refurbish the exterior of the Lou Nistico Fieldhouse at Staples, and added lighting to the current North Avenue entry sign. They’ve also organized their own special scholarship fund through Staples Tuition Grants.

Over the years I’ve become friends with many of the members, who I knew only by name and legend as a kid growing up in town. They’ve accomplished amazing things — in music, the arts, journalism, religion, education, even modeling and wine importing — but for half a century they have remained tight and loving. (Very, very fun-loving too).

A number of them remain — or became — reconnected to their hometown through “06880.” I’ve been honored to be a guest at their 2 most recent reunions.

This year’s 50th was fantastic. It began Friday night at the VFW (with kick-ass music from, among others, Rob Carlson, Jon Gailmor and Roger Kaufman). It continued with a lobster dinner last night at the Westport Woman’s Club (and a moving memorial to the 65 classmates who have died). It ended this afternoon at the beach.

Jon Gailmor, Steve Emmett and Rob Carlson reprised the famed Triumvirate group at the VFW. Gailmor replaced the late Chris Avery.

Jon Gailmor, Steve Emmett and Rob Carlson reprised the famed Triumvirate group at the VFW. Gailmor replaced the late Chris Avery.

There were many highlights for me, as I mingled with so many heroes and heroines from my youth. But the coolest came as I was leaving.

Each class member received a goody bag. In every one was a stone — collected, over a long time, from Compo Beach. They were stamped “Staples High 50th reunion, Class of 1966.”

Class of 66

And wrapped around them were these words:

Each stone carries memories created by the gentle and loving spirit of Compo Beach — our playground, our retreat, the safe haven of our youth. Compo loves us unconditionally. It is the beautiful link that will — like each stone and echoes of friendships — last forever.

While they were growing up, the members of the Class of 1966 — like most teenagers — probably did not realize the gifts they were gaining from their school, and town. I did not realize it several years later, and kids today don’t either.

The passage of time does something powerful and good. But it takes a special group of people to actually stop, think about and honor that time.

Well done, Class of ’66. Very, very classy indeed.

13 responses to “It Really Is The “Class” Of ’66

  1. Nancy Hunter

    The Compo stone is a very nice idea… Isn’t the Class of ’71 reunion coming up?

  2. Great party
    Great pals
    It was good to see everyone!

  3. Madeleine Banquer Crouzet

    Was not able to attend this reunion but very glad to hear that it was a success. I’m proud to have been part of this class! I always keep up with Westport news through 06880. Thanks Dan.

  4. We’re making you an honorary member of the Staples Class of 1966 — thanks for hanging out with us ‘old folks’ and celebrating the history we all experienced at Staples and growing up in Westport.

  5. Lynne Betts Baker

    Thk you Dan for the kind words. We were honored to have you join us. Too cool.

  6. Hanne Jeppesen

    I have written before on this blog, I check in on occasion. I lived in Westport from Dec. 1966 to Oct 1968 as an au pair from Denmark. From 1969 to late 1971 I lived in New York City, but visited Westport often on week ends and vacations. My girl friend and I met Steve Emmett and some friends at Compo beach in 1967 I believe. He was such a nice guy, very out going, invited us to his house right away. When a few week later I moved from one au pair family to another he helped me moved, although I barely knew him. I was in awe of the openness and friendliness of Americans. I love reading this blog, although I left the East Coast years ago (1976) and now live in California I find news about old and dear friends here, like Steve Emmett, and a couple of others Alan Sterling (the oyster man) and Jeff Simon, saw a photo posted that he (I believe) had taken not too long ago. Brings back wonderful memories of my youth and makes me feel young again.

  7. John Coniglio

    Dan: Thank you so much for your eloquent post about our class. We have some wonderful core people like Ann Sheffer who have always held us together and people willing to organize events so we can stay together. I’m very proud of our accomplishments and you did a great job expressing that! Much appreciated. John

    Sent from my iPad John P Coniglio

    >

  8. You and the reunion committee need to take off your rose colored glasses. Some of us helped a homeless classmate several years ago in CA and also aided another classmate in poverty in TN. Drop the Westport pretentiousness that the class was special . . . it was filled with a vast array of cliques who were hardly harmonious. Omitted from your reunion article was the Dale Hopkins Memorial Golf Tournament, held at Longshore on Saturday, which honored the best of the best of our class: a Vietnam hero with two Purple Hearts. He was legitimately “amazing.”

    • Wow. I didn’t see that coming.

      • Nancy Hunter

        That’s the thing.
        Westport has taken on a singular operetta of its own.
        Have you ever had to explain Westport on your travels?
        It’s a mix of name-dropping, $ embarrassment, natural beauty, proximity to NYC… but mostly awkwardness, especially when meeting “fellow” Americans. Take off the glasses.

  9. Thanks Dan, great piece. I found some linkages. I was born in 1966, when all this was happening, and after graduating from Staples in 1984 I went off to UVM and met Jon Gailmor when we (as part of my dorm hall governing board) contracted/hired/booked Jon to play a few gigs in our small dorm social room. This was beneath his usual standard, I am certain. But he was kind, very into playing for a bunch of kids, and shared his guitar with us (and we brought more) – we ended up with a couple of amazing jam sessions. I was 18. That was fun. Your piece made me remember this. Thanks.

    John