I was part of the post-war Baby Boom and in the late ’50′s/early ’60′s the Diocese of Brooklyn launched a huge fund-raising campaign to build what I recall were six state-of-the-art Catholic high schools.
I went to Bishop Edmund J. Reilly Girls’ Diocesan High School in Fresh Meadows. It was enormous, with two wings, one housing us and the other the Boys’ High School. We shared the library (clandestine meetings between the stacks often took place since contact between the sexes during school hours was verboten), the gym (which had a sliding wall to allow each group its own “athletic turf”), a massive auditorium and a cafeteria.
One of our “Senior Privileges” was that we were allowed to mingle with the boys at lunchtime, if there was any time to spare within the 21 minutes allotted to buy food and eat it. No wonder I weighed about 100 pounds when I graduated. I had my priorities!
Our group of 711 was the second graduating class. There were many empty classrooms when we arrived in the fall of 1963 and I remember it was fun to watch them fill in as each new group of freshmen arrived.
BRHS only made it for seven years; the ’70′s saw a decline in population and as the economy was struggling so was the Diocese and they could no longer support all the schools. They combined some student bodies, I’m not sure what they did with others, but my high school was sold to St. Francis Prep from Brooklyn, which has a long and storied history. It had outgrown its orginal building and commuting to the heart of Queens was far more appealing to many than taking the subway to Brooklyn. It appears to be thriving in its “new” home, and I am happy about that. However, you may recall that SFP made national news a couple of years ago when a group of students who traveled to Mexico returned with not only Sombreros, but the Swine Flu. It was one of those rare occasions when I was glad it was SFP and not BRHS…I would have hated to see my alma mater as the source of such unwanted publicity. It was fun, however, to see the building with some of the biggest names in broadcasting standing in front!
I was a (minimal) part of the planning committee; being on the left coast made it difficult to always participate in the conference calls we had (the only time I was sure to be in on it was the 9 a.m./6 a.m. on Saturdays; I literally reached over to the bedside phone, dialed in and was happy it wasn’t a video call since I was still snuggled under my covers in my pj’s!)
I did get to the school early the day of the event to check out the set up…you know how as you grow up you remember a place as being realllly big and then you see it as an adult and it isn’t? The opposite happened here. It seemed huge compared to what I recalled.
It was a great night! I saw so many friends I hadn’t seen in so many years! Only a handful looked the same and were easily recognizable. So many of my dark-haired girlfriends were now blonde (“no comment!”) and we were all very different shapes and sizes (again, “no comment!”) than we were 45 years ago. Having been on student council I had more contact with the boys’ half so I saw some of the guys I hadn’t seen in forever and they all seemed to fare better physically than I did. (*sigh*) But I reminded myself that they hadn’t given birth to three 8 to 9 pound babies in four years. Not that that made me feel any better, but it was better than no excuse at all!
I was asked at the last minute to speak on behalf of the girls’ division at the festivities and I’m posting here what I read (I am a far better writer than speaker!) I really wanted to name everyone on the committee but I was so afraid I’d leave someone out I decided to just stick to what I wrote, so my apologies to the rest of the group! (*sad face*)
I realized afterwards that what I wrote is really true not only about my high school buddies, but about all of us who are Baby Boomers… so I thought I’d share it with you.
I am a better writer than speaker, so please bear with me!
Terri De Sole Foran, who is one of the most organized people I have ever met, and was SUCH an enormous force in bringing this wonderful event to fruition, informed me yesterday that Norm Marshall had asked her to speak on behalf of the Girls’ division and this was something she didn’t particularly want to do. She wasn’t comfortable and she wanted to know if I would be willing to do it.
Obviously Terri didn’t remember that I was voted most talkative in the girls’ graduating class of 1967 and I didn’t really need to be asked twice. I haven’t shut up for longer than 30 seconds in 45 years. I even talk in my sleep. Just ask Delia Harding with whom I have traveled and shared hotel rooms…
Well, after Terri called yesterday and I’d agreed, I did start to panic a little. What was I supposed to say to all of you? What memory did I have that could be shared? I’m pretty good with one liners and comebacks but this situation was a little foreign to me…then I started to think about where we were and where we are and I came up with these thoughts:
That warm day in June of 1967 out there on that parking lot none of us really knew where we were going or what we would do…but in the last 45 years we’ve seen and done a lot!
Some of us matriculated, some of us enlisted, some of us got drafted.
Some of us protested and some of us died so we would have that right to do so.
Some of us saw a man walk on the moon and some of us saw Michael Jackson moonwalk.
Some of us married, some of us didn’t.
Some of us married our high school sweethearts and some of us wish we’d had…and some of us wish we hadn’t.
Some of us got divorced, some of us “came out” and some of us just “dropped out.”
Some of us had kids, some of us didn’t.
Some of us got fatter, thinner, taller, greyer, balder…and some of us learned how to hide some of those unwanted by-products of aging.
Some of us learned to truly live our faith and some of us left the Church.
Some of us kept friendships alive for 45 years and some of us lost touch the day after graduation.
Some of us followed our dreams and some of us lived through nightmares.
Some of us made millions and some of us struggled to pay the monthlies.
Some of us are here only in our memories.
The only constant I could come up with is that the foundation for who we are now was formed in this building, not only by the faculty but by our friends.
We came of age in a difficult time and are the better for it…we’ve changed the world whether we realized it at the time or not … and we are a generation that is still a force to be reckoned with, because we were taught what character and caring is all about right here. That, at least for me, is the greatest gift that Reilly has ever given me. That is the “S U M” of what I think this place did for us.
Let’s not wait another 45 years to do this!
I would dearly love you to share your thoughts, comments, etc. on being a Baby Boomer who came of age in the ’60′s!