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College reunion weekend prompts memories of the early 1960s

Colleges and UniversitiesFeminismTelevisionWhite HouseNewspaper and MagazineJohn F. Kennedy

Two things prompted me to write this particular column, sharing memories of the early 1960s. One was seeing Caroline Kennedy on "The Late Show with David Letterman" talking about her new book based on the interviews her mother, Jacqueline Kennedy, gave four months after her husband, President John Kennedy, was assassinated. The other trigger was my 46th college reunion Oct. 7-9. Thirty-five out of 117 classmates attended the reunion events — a great turnout.

First, the Kennedy family was very prominent and revered by many at that time. In fact, my Aunt Lena bought every magazine and newspaper with any of the Kennedys on the cover. Lawrence Welk and the Lennon Sisters were also favorites of hers. I have a photo of President Kennedy that I took when he came to the Washington Navy Yard, where I was working for the summer, to christen a ship. I also fondly remember my first visit to the White House. As summer employees with the federal government, we enjoyed periodic briefings by legislators such as Sen. Hubert Humphrey and at the end of the summer we visited the White House and heard President Kennedy speak on the lawn. After his speech, he invited all the "interns" in attendance to tour the White House. Would you believe that was my first visit to the White House and I was born and grew up in Washington.

A college sophomore when Kennedy was assassinated Nov. 22, 1963, I remember hearing the devastating news at school, where we all gathered together to watch the television as events unfolded. One of the saddest times during that period was when my mother, brother, boyfriend and I stood in line on Pennsylvania Avenue for hours and hours to file past President Kennedy's casket at the U.S. Capitol.

Reunion weekend

Now let's get back to the reunion weekend. I am a graduate of the class of 1965 with a Bachelor of Arts in French from Dunbarton College of the Holy Cross, Connecticut Avenue and Van Ness Street, in Washington. It was an all girls, liberal arts college run by the Sisters of the Holy Cross, who gave us a good foundation for our future. The school was active from 1935 to 1973 and is now Howard University Law School. Howard has preserved the chapel, now known as Dunbarton Chapel, where we gather for Mass and breakfast every reunion weekend, which is about every three to five years.

The name Dunbarton came from the Scottish "dun braeton" and the faculty and students celebrated "Scot's Day" each year. It was a wonderful event consisting of dinner, class skits and the most memorable part, was hearing the bagpipers playing as they marched from the entrance of the school to the convocation hall. Each class had its own plaid, which we wore proudly.

Speaking of Scot's Day, a funny story came to mind from back then. We had to bring a gift for the event and one of my "dayhop" friends had forgotten her gift, so I volunteered to ride home with her to get her gift. We decided to leave after gym class because we had a break in classes and thought we would have time to get back before our next class. She was driving on Independence Avenue in the district, when a truck hit the side of her car, as two lanes of cars were turning left. We had to stand out in the median with traffic whizzing by until the police came. It wasn't the accident we were so worried about but that someone would find out that we had our gym suits on under our trench coats! That's what we called raincoats back then.

At our Friday night reunion dinner, a fashion show of early 1960s attire met with laugh after laugh. One of the biggest laughs was when a classmate came out in one of our old gym suits with a trench coat over it. We were not allowed to a wear gym suit in the school halls, therefore we had to wear the trench coat over it. Among the other 1960s' fashions modeled by classmates were bride and bridesmaid dresses, a Jackie Kennedy A-line dress with a pillbox hat and white gloves, a wrap around skirt, the Dunbarton sweatshirt and, of course, the mantilla, the lace head covering for church.

Surprisingly, one of our classmates had kept most of these clothing items. She also brought along a bag of memorabilia from the time we were in college. You may remember The Hot Shoppes restaurant. Of the 70 open at that time, there was one near school on Connecticut Avenue, which was often frequented by students. Our class pack rat pulled out a Hot Shoppes menu from her bag. One of its culinary highlights was a Pappy Parker's fried chicken meal for around $3. Pappy Parker was the Hot Shoppes mascot. I fondly remember the "Mighty Mo" cheeseburger with its secret sauce. She even had an old edition of "Table Talk," a small newspaper available on the tables at Hot Shoppes.

Opening new careers

Back in the day, there weren't many career options for women — basicially nurse, social worker and teacher. When we graduated in 1965, most of us believed that we would be married soon and not need a career. Not too many years later that changed and today, these same women, my classmates, have had or continue to have careers as journalists, foreign-service officers, lawyers, artists, teachers and school principals, stockbrokers, accountants, executive managers, antiques and art appraiser and a host of other professions.

The guest speaker at our National reunion luncheon in Bethesda was Kent Manahan, longtime TV anchorwoman for NJN News in New Jersey, a five-time regional Emmy-winning journalist and a Dunbarton graduate, class of 1966. Kent spoke about the highlights of her career and about Dunbarton. She suggested that the Sisters of the Holy Cross who taught us were precursors of the women's movement and were strong, talented women in their own right. She attributed the traits of self-confidence; strength of character; desire to serve others; and a strong work ethic to the "Dunbarton girls."

The dedication in the beginning of the our 1965 yearbook reads "She was the type of young woman who would never admit that when the emotion is dead, the memory is dead also." It goes on to say "To those young women of the Class of '65 who do not want to lose memories, we give Synthesis, Dunbarton College, Washington, D.C."

Thanks for allowing me to indulge in some reminiscences from those college years. Watch out, because here comes my 50th high school reunion in November.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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