Now an insurance agent with King Loss & Co. and living in Fallston, she credits her mentoring by guidance counselor Bruce Seward and her experience in a career students program in her senior year with giving her a leg up in the business world.

Tim Crotty, Class of 1970, said the school was big from the start.

"We had 800 in our class alone," he said.

When he entered the school in 1967, he said, he discovered it was the only school in the county with a "conversation center."

"You could go to study hall and were allowed to talk. You could carry on a conversation while studying. That was unique in Baltimore County," he said.

Crotty said there was no going home right away after school. He was a member of the Gators football, wrestling and track teams. Crotty credits his football coach, Albert B. Miller Jr., with being the "greatest football coach ever."

What position did Crotty play?

"Any one the coach told me to play."

Crotty credited his high school years with launching him into a teaching position at the Maryland School for the Blind. "Perry Hall pushed me to become a teacher," he said.

Mark Owings, Class of 1981, remembered talent shows featuring student rock bands, pep rallies, wood and auto shop classes, square dancing, and a student campaign to put a stop to one-way stairwells.

"Everybody talked about what concerts they went to. Rush at the Capitol Center in 1980 — everyone was talking about that one," he said.

Marks, the first Perry Hall alumnus elected to the Baltimore County Council, was a walker then and still lives close to the school. He was in the Class Senate, and a member of the cross country team and the "It's Academic" team.

"We had a Homecoming Parade right down Ebenezer Road, award-winning sports teams, a nationally renowned marching band and an infectious sense of pride," he said.

Marks currently serves on the 50th Anniversary Committee and co-chairs its Time-Capsule Committee.

Roberts, the school's sixth principal — the first was Maynard Keadle — said one of the most anticipated events will be the creation of a video history of the school by a research class that was organized two years ago. Plans are to screen the video at a cocktail party with at least 800 guests on March 15, 2014, at the Towson Sheraton.

He said the school is unique in the special place it holds within the generations it has served, adding that some of the Class of 2013 are grandchildren of the Class of 1965.

"Without a doubt, this school is the heart of the community. Not just geographically, but figuratively. People have a special feel about it. ... Our teachers tend not to leave," the principal said.

How does the administration help students at Perry Hall High avoid feeling like a face in the crowd?

"They see us, not just in the hallways, but at sporting events, ceremonies, field trips, in the classrooms," he said. "They know they can come down to the office and talk to us."

Steve Arnold, the assistant principal in charge of the 50th celebration, said his main job now is getting the word out to thousands of alumni.

Oct. 18 is shaping up as a big day, a traditional homecoming with, of course, a big parade.

"The (football) game will be sold out, but there will be tents with tailgating. Maybe we'll group decades together for special parties," he said. "We want to invite people to be part of the tradition."

School history has had colorful moments, including John Waters filming parts of the original "Hairspray" movie there in 1987. The school also shows up in a DVD extra for "Heavy Metal Parking Lot," a documentary short about Judas Priest fans. According to Wikipedia, the "star" of the 1986 movie is a Perry Hall graduate who goes by the moniker Zebraman.

Noteworthy alumni of the school, in addition to Marks, include Reggie Aqui, a CNN anchor; Alfred W. Redmer Jr., former state delegate and Maryland insurance commissioner; Chuck Porter, a former pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers; James F. Ports Jr., state delegate; and Tonja Walker, the 1980 Miss Maryland who went on to act in TV series including "Capitol," "General Hospital" and "One Life to Live."

Unfortunately, a recent event is also one that links the school to gun violence.

Google "Perry Hall High School" and you are inevitably offered "shooting." On the first day of school last fall, Robert W. Gladden Jr., 15, brought a shotgun to school and opened fire in the cafeteria, seriously wounding fellow student Daniel Borowy, 17, before Gladden was tackled and subdued. Gladden, charged as an adult, pleaded guilty to attempted murder on Feb. 19.

(Information on Gladden's trial is in our News section and on explorebaltimorecounty.com.)

As that incident recedes into history, other things are on the minds of those within the orbit of the big school on Ebenezer Road as it prepares to celebrate its first half century and embark on its next journey.