The Greenwich High School class of 1970 is planning a reunion on August 20 and 21, billed as Two Days of Peace and Music. The class of 1970, all about 70 themselves, are unique in many ways.
They were the biggest class as well as the last class to graduate from the “old” high school when it was located on Field Point Road, now home to Town Hall.
The year of their graduation was also the year that Greenwich Avenue switched to a one-way traffic pattern.
This week some of the class of ’70 reunion committee – Patti DeFelice, Jon Asch, Tim Haymon and Kevin O’Connor – had a planning session in the Gisborne room at town hall. Reminiscing of memorable times, they punctuated sentences with gestures toward down the hallway up, or upstairs, depending on where a classroom was or an incident took place.
Some of the memories included senior class pranks over the years including the class of 1968 who brought a Volkswagen Bug up to the third floor.
For their part, the class of 1970 built a replica of the Spirit of St Louis, the single-engine, single-seat, high-wing plane, and hung it from the ceiling of the auditorium. It helped that the Audio-Visual Retrieval Center had keys to every room in the building.
At the time, John Bird had just been appointed headmaster. “He came in when we had the plane hanging and said, ‘You did a really great job, but it should be taken down by the teachers,'” O’Connor said. “It took 24 hours to remove. He was a really nice human being.”
The committee also recalled how the parking lot behind the building was typically full of Volkswagen Bugs. Greenwich Avenue was steps away for ice cream after school, and football and marching band reigned supreme.
It was an era of Oxford shirts and fair isle sweaters, Peter Max and paisley prints. It was also a time when students dressed up for their senior portraits – girls often in pearls, hair styled in bobs that flipped out at the ends, and boys in suits and ties.
“Madras plaid was big,” DeFelice recalled. “But we weren’t even allowed to wear blue jeans.”
While girls couldn’t wear trousers, smoking was allowed outside.
Smokers hung out below the tennis courts, but there was a rule against cheerleaders and athletes smoking.
The committee shared strong memories of individual teachers and coaches who made an impression, including Carmel Signa who taught instrumental music from 1967 through 1992. Under his direction the marching band was legendary and a fixture at football games.
“Everyone liked Mr. Signa,” said DeFelice, who was a baton twirler with the high school band.
“I said to him, ‘I’d like to twirl with the high school. We were champions, and he said, ‘Okay,'” she recalled. “Tim was part of the Stateliners Drum Corps,” she said of Hayman, who was also her prom date all those years ago. “And he got us all to join the band.”
Knowing I was a champion baton twirler, I ask Mr. Signa if I could twirl with the band. He made me audition and included me right on the spot!” she recalled. Timmy and I were also part of the local Stateliners Jr. Drum & Bugle Corps,” she said of Haymon, who was also her prom date all those years ago. Haymon went on to teach Industrial Arts at Western Jr High School for 10 years.
“We had full metal, woodworking and drafting rooms,” he recalled. “Roger (Stenz) was my inspiration. He was very enthusiastic and disciplined. I interned with him to get my teaching degree.”
The committee described a high school anchored not only to Greenwich Avenue, but also to the Havemeyer building, where some of their classes were taught since the high school was bursting at the seems.
“But you had to have a pass,” O’Connor said, of trips to Havemeyer where industrial arts classes were taught.
In fact, they said since the school had such a high enrollment, the district also brought in “portable” classrooms – two on each side of the Field Point Road building.
“We were the largest class with 760 graduates. The school had an enrollment over 3,000,” O’Connor said.
“We were the last class in this building and we didn’t want to leave here,” DeFelice said.
When the school transitioned to the new campus, it meant they could have their own pool. The Field Point Rd building had no pool. The boys swim team was able to use the Boys Club pool.
After students transitioned to Hillside Road, back of the Field Point Rd building was demolished.
Three stories of classrooms came down, as well as the boys gym and lockers, which were in the basement. The portion demolished had been an addition in 1939 to the original building. The auditorium was just beyond and to the left of the main foyer.
The third floor classrooms had Long Island Sound views. Truman Capote, who attended GHS from 1939 to 1942 and contributed to the school’s Green Witch literary magazine, wrote a short story memorializing that view.
The reunion committee questioned the design of building, as well as the choice of the school’s new location on Hillside Road, noting the campus was a swamp where ice was cut in winter.
The Field Point Road location afforded many other perks, starting with the proximity to Greenwich Avenue, handy for a quick bite at Woolworth’s or at Neilsen’s, known for its soda fountain and ice cream.
O’Connor described the class of ’70 as cohesive above all else.
“We had the greasers and hippies – jocks and smart guys, but people didn’t sit apart,” he said.
“Supposedly you make your life long friends in college,” he added. “But my lifelong friends are from high school.”
And, the committee noted that many class of ’70 grads are still in town, including some notable names: Terry Betteridge of Betteridge Jewelers, Eddie Fong, formerly of Star Laundry, Charlie Hubbard of Greenwich Blueprint; Bruce Hudock retired CT State Judge; Chris Jensen, landowner of the former Chancy D’Elia; and Angie Stover of Whidmans’ Bakery.
DeFelice said classmate Jeff Maguire, a class officer, would go on to be a screenwriter whose most famous film was In the Line of Fire, released in 1993, starring Clint Eastwood.
DeFelice recalled that Maguire was in the Drama Club at GHS when he had the idea of a killer planning to assassinate a president and taunting a secret service agent charged protecting him.
With over 50 years having passed since graduation, the reunion committee urged people to RSVP, and would even like to include grads from the class of ’70 from all the private schools including the former Rosemary Hall and St. Mary’s.
In fact, the committee said so far the people who have replied are from out-of-town, so they urge people who live locally to join the group.
“We need some excitement,” Asch said. “Show up and light up.”
“We’ve all aged, so don’t worry about what you look like,” Haymon said. “It’s about how you feel.”
“Seventy is the new 50,” O’Connor added.
The reunion itinerary features two events:
On Saturday, Aug 20 events are at the Hyatt Regency in Old Greenwich. The event starts at the Hyatt Regency in Old Greenwich with cocktails followed by dinner and dancing to live music by the LPS Band from Long Island.
Sunday, Aug 21 features a barbecue catered by Garden Catering, in the clambake area of Greenwich Point. The picnic features hot dogs, sirloin burgers, grilled chicken, veggie burgers, salads and more, as well as beer, soft drinks and water. background entertainment provided by Alum Billie Jean Engborg and husband Pat Duffey. The reunion committee assure all they are a “BAD ASS BOOTS” who are coming all the way from California.
For updates visit the Class of 1970 reunion on Facebook.
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