"When our high school days are over; We will very often sing; Of the many happy hours; Seton High, to us did bring."
The last day we sang that song together, was June 21st, 1963. We stood on the stage at the IBM Country Club Fieldhouse in Endicott, New York... diplomas in hand... and clueless, as to what lay ahead. We had a reunion in 1983 and, Man, were we full of ourselves! At 38, we were in our prime. I remember a lot of alcohol at that gathering. Then, again, in 1995 (I think), we had a "multi-year" get-together. It was nice, but diluted. Two weeks ago, however, on August 30th, 2008... time stood still. We gathered in Endicott for our 45th reunion - around a clever theme: "The Class of 63' Turns 63!" There is not much that can prepare you for something like this. Suffice it to say, that we looked different than we did at 17! The good news? We looked pretty good!
Most of us had been together since First Grade. Half from St. Ambrose Elementary in Endicott - and the other half joining us from St. James and other feeder schools in Binghamton and Johnson City. We knew one another from our common love of basketball and the ensuing friendly rivalries in the Catholic Schools League. "It was a time," I like to say, "when short, slow, white guys ruled the game." (Except for Joe, third from left , above, who was neither short, nor slow) As you can see from the photos, we were not a very diverse group, those days in Upstate New York... most all of us were from Western and Eastern European descent.
I can't begin to tell you how important these people were in my life. Up until the age of 8, I lived an idyllic family life. The next 10 years, however, were bleak... sometimes nightmarish... culminating with my mother taking her own life, the year after we graduated. Only a small handful knew any of this, but it didn't matter. When I was at school - life was good! The nuns taught us The Golden Rule and for the most part, we lived it out. They were strict... sometimes ridiculous... yet they kept us on the right path. One that stands out is Sister Anthony Louise (aka, "Tony Lou," ). She knew some of my situation and provided encouragement for me, where she could. I took to heart, one of her mantras: "To be successful, you need to be able to write a decent paragraph... and to be able to communicate your thoughts effectively to others." (In recent emails with her, now Sister Maria Cincotta, she said they were under orders to be quite strict. Looking back, she wishes they'd been able to be warmer and more approachable. Ahh, if we could all have "do-overs!") The coaches, although flawed like all of us, were men we could look up to. I can still hear the voices of Mr. Matola, Dinga, and Tarricone, echo off the old gym walls. Thank God for Mr. Deus, who saved me from "mathematical self-destruction." "Kurly Joe" got me through Physics and Mr. Noreika, through Chemistry. The priests were good fellows, also. Nothing like the bum raps many earned in those days. Father Kennedy, Van Amburgh, and Wieczorek... and Father Murphy, from St. James, had our best interests at heart. Father Zeder (a distant cousin), although aloof (as Principals are want to be) had his good days. How about Sister Gabrielle (aka "Gabby"), the Librarian, and her comical instructions to "Make sure the boys put magazines on their laps... if a girl might just sit there!?!?" And then there was Victor, the Custodian, who actually provided the key... that let us in the gym to play basketball... long after the lights were out.
Seventy strong graduated. Six in our extended group have passed away (that we know about): Jeanne Fotorny, Stanley Jackowski, Bill Kovac, Terry Turnock, Mickey White, and Janet Willard. The rest of us are: Mike "Big A" Almy, John Baker, Dave "Murray" Benson, Margie Blazey, Hugh Boyle, Linda Bystricky, Mary Jane "MJ" Cahill, Carol Ann Caforio, Jeanne Callaghan, Charlene "Char" Callahan, Connie Charsky, Bill Conaty, Patty "Cos" Cosentino, Jim "Cib" Cibulsky, Larry "Cousy" Davis, Gloria Dellos, Eileen Dunphy, Sharon Dwyer, Kathy "Dinky" Dolan, Elizabeth "Betty/Emma" Eck, Charlie "Finn" Fisher, Maria Giammichele, Paul Giolma, Kathy "Glees" Glezen, Barb Graham, Cathy Hancock, Peggy Griffin, Tom "Loin Cloth" Haines, George Hanley, Bob Henkiel, Margie Hradisky, Marilyn Horak, Mary Eileen "Sue" Jones, Rodney Julian, Kathy "Kopper" Kopcik, Rosalind "Roz" Kocik, John "Hair" Kovach, Carol Kraycovic, Linda "Myrtle" Kurkoski, Stephanie "Steph" Laddick, Sue Langevin, Margaret McKeon, Kathleen "Katie" McManus, Kenna Lou "JR" Mills, Patti Needham, Maryann "Mambo/Morning" Pastorack, Roberta "Bobbie" Pendered, Eileen Roehm, Mike Ryan, Dona Salamida, Joe "Roz" Rozmer, Sheila Scanlin, Fred Sebesta, Carol Smith, John "Smitty" Smith, Kathy Seliga, Ellen Svatek, Sandra "Sandy" Thayne, Joe "Pickle" Tiderencel, Angela "Angie" Tierno, Joyce Vaughan, John "Booker T" Watts, David "Crockett" White, Carl Williams, Sally Wilson, and Yours Truly - Frank "Zeke/Yatch" Zedar... the good looking fellow in the photo above:-)
The reunion was truly wonderful. To see them again was heart warming. Hugh had the best line of the night when he said, "I feel like we're at a masquerade party... and we've all come as our parents!" How true that was! It's been two weeks now and I wanted to wait to write this. I wanted to settle down a bit from the emotion of that experience. You know what the most frustrating thing was? I didn't get to spend time with everyone! There were those there that I was extremely close to... shared some amazing times and experiences with... and I didn't get to say more than a quick "hello." I still feel this tug to close the loop. Heck, I didn't even get to talk to my girlfriend, Kathy. We were together Junior and Senior years... we both had miserable home situations... and we had each other's back. I was looking forward to her telling my fiance some stories, but it didn't happen.
You know what was really unique about our class? There were no jerks... none. To be sure, we had our cliques and we were not immune from human nature. Yet we stuck by each other. No one took themselves to be "too cool" for the rest. As I look through my yearbook photos, I have at least one good memory from each and every "kid" in my class. No one will ever know the special spot I have in my heart for Stanley ( You can go to the bottom of the blog page, to "Older Posts" and check out Friday, May 25th, 2007, "High School Graduation and Memories of Stanley Jackowski"). He called me when I got home from Viet Nam and we met at Waples. The conversation we had was life-changing. Brain cancer took him much too early. I've lived a full life... and I sure don't live in the past... yet at 63 I still often find my mind wandering to those days... and to those special people. It was a kinder, gentler time - and I miss it. Thank you, Betty, Kopper, and Sandy, for organizing this great party. As I was driving away, I felt good knowing we'll do it again in five years... (When my classmates read this... PLEASE add your thoughts at the bottom of this Blog Post. Did I leave someone out? Do you have a special memory that you'd like to share? Instructions to leave a comment:
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Thank you, everyone:-) Frank