Tag Archives: high school reunions

Not Just Another High School Reunion Story

High school reunions are like medical operations.   Everyone has them, but no one wants to hear about yours.

Still, a 50th reunion is special.  50 is the new, well, 50.  So when Staples’ Class of 1960 gathers this weekend, it’s worth noting.

And the story of how that class — raised at a time when transistor radios were considered amazing — used 21st century technology to find long-lost classmates, and get nearly half of them to come, is both instructive and inspiring.

For their previous gathering 10 years ago, they hired a professional planner.  But once he hit the 75 attendees he’d promised, he stopped working.

This time the graduates vowed to do it themselves — and better, and for less money.

From right: Bev Cens, Joann Hornsleth and an unidentified girl pose at Bev's house. The shot was taken by someone doing advertising for Bigelow Tea. Note the Staples book covers at bottom.

They gave themselves a year’s lead time.  They learned that even though online “white pages” might give hundreds of results, filtering by age made searching much easier.

They called relentlessly.  A Westport family named Shornick was not related to James from 1960.  But the local Shornicks remembered that someone — okay, me — once asked if they knew my former classmate Cathy.  They told organizer Linda Gramatky Smith that story; she found Cathy Shornick in Washington state, and Cathy led Linda to her brother James.

Few people have heard of the search engine Pipl.com.  But Alan Konigsberg uses it in his law practice, and the site provided plenty of good matches.

Committee members pored through old directories, and called current Westporters to ask about neighbors who moved away years ago.  “I must sound really trustworthy,” Linda says.  “Everyone gave me lots of information.”

Steve Mechlin seemed impossible to find.  But one day Skip Shaeffer looked at the “Class Wills” section of the 1960 yearbook.  There he saw Steve’s last name, spelled “Maechtlen.”  Sure enough, the Steve Maecthlen who now lives in Albuquerque was the same one.  He was delighted to be found.

Similarly, a classmate’s last name was spelled both “Cowishaur” and “Cowishaw.”  In his “Class Will,” he left something to someone with a famous Westport name.  When a committee member called the Westporter, he talked about Jim “Cowlishaw.”

The organizer heard the pronunciation, searched online — and found Jim Cowlishaw in Nebraska.  His wife answered the phone and said, “He always wondered why no one ever told him about a reunion.”

“I must have found 20 names misspelled in the yearbook,” Linda says.  “I’m appalled.  Come on – these were our classmates!”

Junior high friends Anne Sharnoff, Jane Smith, Sherri Yellen and Jennette Currie in 1956.

The more they dug, and the more old photos they looked at, the more the Class of ’60 remembered friends who had not gone to Staples.

“The people you hold dear are the ones you played ball with, or went to your first parties with,” Linda says.  “They might have gone to prep school or moved away, but we wanted them.”

The committee found many non-graduates.  They’ll be part of the 175 reunion-goers (including spouses) this weekend.

Three former faculty members will join them:  English instructor (and founder of Staples Players, during their years there) Craig Matheson; social studies teacher Gordon Hall, and physics instructor Nick Georgis.

(Members of the Class of ’60 are now 67 and 68 years old.  You do the math…)

Barbara Picorello Wanamaker (Staples '60) and husband Charlie today.

Tomorrow (Friday) night they’ll meet at Arcudi’s — owned by classmate Joe.  They were originally scheduled for Cobb’s Mill Inn — owned by another classmate, George Guidera — but it closed in July.

(In addition to being restaurateurs, Joe and George share another distinction:  both were first selectmen, of Westport and Weston respectively.)

On Saturday morning returnees will tour the new Staples (deja vu — they entered Staples as sophomores in 1958, the same year the new North Avenue campus opened.)

Tomorrow night there’s dinner at the Norwalk Inn — complete with ’50s music — while Sunday morning features breakfast by the Compo cannons.

So once they found (nearly) everyone, how did the Class of 1960 pass along all the info on their reunion — and provide private email links so everyone could communicate with everyone else?

They set up one of the best reunion websites I’ve ever seen, for any class.

Who knows what they’ll think of for their 75th.

Reunion Reflections

Summer is the time for high school reunions.  Staples’ class of 1975 gathered last month.  This week it’s the 1980s; next weekend it’s ’70’s turn.

Inspired by his weekend last month, Jeff Ford — still a Westporter, as well as a Staples parent and “06880” reader — sent along these thoughts:

My senior year quote in the Staples yearbook began with a quote from Charles Dickens: 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…

Inspired by reading A Tale of Two Cities in 10th grade, I thought at the time (and still think) Dickens captured our high school experience perfectly.

Fast forward to the present.  As I reflect on the 35 years that have passed since I graduated from Staples, and the wonderful experience I had catching up with fellow members of the  Class of 1975 during our recent reunion, another Dickens quote (from David Copperfield) describes how most of my Staples classmates and I have strived to live our lives since we graduated: 

Whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well; whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to completely; in great aims and in small, I have always been thoroughly in earnest.

Talking with classmates during gatherings at Longshore, Staples, Bobby Q’s, Compo, Dunville’s, The Duck and elsewhere, we were inspired by the success our classmates have enjoyed — from enriching their minds to enriching the minds of others; from getting married and raising families to having loving relationships with their partners; from serving our country to performing on Broadway, television, radio and the big screen; from having successful careers working for a wide variety of institutions to creating businesses and public service organizations; from counseling others  and helping others become empowered to helping protect the rights of others; from staying in Westport to traveling and living all over the world; from creating public policy to creating wondrous art, music, theater, literature and knowledge.

Staples' Class of 1975 gathered for Sunday morning brunch at the Compo marina -- looking none the worse for wear.

A common theme that transcended many of our discussions was love of family and friends.  We spoke of our relationships with our spouses, partners, children, parents and others closest to us.  We spoke of friendships and fond memories from Staples, as well as junior high school and elementary school.  We spoke of what it was like to spend our entire childhood in Westport and what it was like moving to Westport while in high school.  We spoke of both our enduring and failed relationships and of loved ones who have passed on.  We spoke of our children’s successes and challenges.  We spoke of our parents who are still living life to the fullest, those who are slowing down and those who are no longer with us.

In contrast with our high school days, rather than spending most of our time with our closest friends and cliques, over the course of our reunion weekend many of us engaged a broad spectrum of our classmates.

In contrast with Hollywood portrayals of high school reunions, we remained non-judgmental regarding the lives and appearances of our classmates.  When we didn’t recognize or remember each other, we warmly laughed off how many of us have changed in appearance over the years, how full our lives have been and how large our graduating class was.  When we truly didn’t know each other at all, we simply introduced ourselves.

Over the course of our 3-day reunion weekend we talked, laughed, sang, danced, reminisced, rekindled old friendships, established new friendships and had fun.  While, like our high school years, our lives since graduation have been filled with the best and worst of times, our reunion weekend was simply the best of times.