It felt more like a family gathering than an alumni get-together when our high school class celebrated its 50th year reunion.
“Sin, sex, booze, kicks…We’re the Class of ’66!” The term “Boomer” had not been coined or, at least, it wasn’t applied to us yet.
The reunion was all hugs, kisses, smiles, shared memories, dining, and dancing — and sadly, a shared moment of silence to remember 79 of our classmates — out of a graduating class of 435 — whose life journeys ended all too soon.
Little wonder this class remains so tightly knit. We grew up together during the 1950s and ’60s in a small working-class town about 20 miles north of New York City called Port Chester. In those days it was a melting pot of Italians, Jews, African -Americans, Irish, Polish, Russians, Hispanics, and others.
Our parents were mostly tradesmen, waitresses, laborers, small-business owners, housekeepers, accountants, small-town doctors and veterinarians, and a handful of executives, all working hard to make better lives for themselves and their kids.
Now we are our parents!
As I scanned the crowd that night, however, I didn’t see aging 68-year-olds. I saw kids I walked to school with, played marbles and tag and kickball with, had childhood crushes on, shared one-cent stick pretzels and small three-cent cartons of white milk with.
I played football with many of them, sang in the choir with others, and we all cheered on our forever fighting Port Chester Rams sports teams.
Together we “ducked and covered” in school hallways while the Cold War played itself out. The Cuban Missile Crisis, with the prospect of nuclear annihilation, had us shivering in our shoes, and JFK’s assassination had us in tears. Many of us got involved in the Civil Rights and Women’s Lib movements, and one way or another we all got swept up in the Vietnam War, all of which reaffirms the fact that nothing brings people closer together than shared adversity.
That’s not to say that we lived free of racism, segregation, or income inequality. But this celebratory gathering demonstrated how, as a diverse group of baby boomers, we were able to survive and get beyond all that, something I fear much of America is no longer capable of doing.
Fifty years ago, I was humbled, honored, and proud that my classmates had voted me their senior class president. I feel even more humbled, honored, and proud today than I did all those many years ago.
The Class of ’66 turned out pretty darn well.