Class of '32: thin, but large hearts Teacher Schmied gets kisses and hugs amid songs, frolic.


He stood in the middle of the room amid a gaggle of admirers, each leaning over to plant a wet kiss on his cheek.

The brown hair, once slickly parted in the middle, had long since silvered and only a few strands remained. No longer did he wear those round, wire spectacles; a practical pair of bifocals sat firmly on his nose. And, instead of a dark wool jacket and trousers, the gentleman sported a gray and white seersucker suit and spiffy white loafers.

"I'd watch him, all these girls going around kissing him," Evelyn Frankel Shtob teased, as yet another woman rushed up to see the man. "This is so special. He was such a force in all of our lives and here he is, 101 [years-old] and with a young wife. There isn't one of us who doesn't remember O.K. Schmied."

And oh, how the alumni of Forest Park High School, Class of 1932, remembered their beloved teacher, Otto K. Schmied, as they gathered yesterday in a Greenspring Valley restaurant for this 60th reunion:

"I jumped over a hedge in high heels to be in his German class picture and broke my ankle," gushed Estelle Wertheim Bolotin, a chatty 78-year-old from Pikesville. "He was just so wonderful."

"Indirectly, he led to my first job in the Depression," recalled Irving K. Meginnis, a 76-year-old motion picture archivist from Bethesda. "Rockefeller Center [in New York City] needed tour guides, but you had to be multilingual. I spoke German for them and some French and I got one of the three job openings."

"I was 16 years old. It was March or April. I went roller-skating on Garrison Boulevard," volunteered Ruth Roseman Caplan. "I came to a hill but my skates went on. I broke my left collarbone and my right wrist. We were having exams the next week. I went to Mr. Schmied. He said, 'Don't worry about it. Your marks are good enough. You don't have to take the test.' "

But don't get the wrong impression. Otto K. Schmied wasn't a softy. He had high expectations of his students. Then and now.

When the members of the Class of 1932 graduated in ceremonies at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute -- Forest Park's stage was too small -- they numbered 175. Their ranks are much smaller now. About 36 alumni were present yesterday. But when they speak of their alma mater and recall their days in Baltimore's first co-educational high school, their hearts are large.

It was an age when Forest Park students enrolled in either the academic, commercial or technical program, class rings cost $7.50, and the punishment for latecomers was an afternoon of "long division."

Then, Prohibition ruled the day, street cars rode down the streets and couples danced every Sunday afternoon at the Emerson Hotel.

"Will you sign my book?" Mary Mercy Davis asked, holding out a faded green copy of The Forester, the 1932 issue of the yearbook.

Irving Meginnis gladly complied, but not before flipping to the senior class picture of Ms. Davis, an angelic ingenue. "Same smile. Same eyes. Almost the same hair," Mr. Meginnis remarked.

"It's darker now," said Ms. Davis shyly, her light brown hair swept into a French twist, "and thinner."

As the 60th reunion drew to a close, the alumni crowded together for yet another class picture, chided a classmate who insisted on smoking while the photographer readied his camera, and then returned to their seats for a final round of speeches.

"Everybody looks just like they did when they graduated," remarked Howard Seim, a retired aerospace worker who flew from Seattle to attend the reunion.

Max Israelson, the reunion coordinator, reminisced about the day in 1931 when he treated classmates Frank Oppenheimer and Bob Clark and his "beloved teacher," Mr. Schmied, to a round of golf at the Forest Park municipal golf course -- for 8 cents. And then he invited his former home room teacher to play a "little ditty" on his fiddle.

Mr. Schmied tried to scratch out the tune. From the back of the room, Ruth Roseman Caplan sang out, "To you Forest Park, we will always be loyal."

Others joined in, slowly, haltingly. Voices sweet and hoarse struggled to render the lyrics of the school song: "To you Forest Park, we are loyal. To you we will always be true."

Those who couldn't sing hummed along as their classmates struggled to remember.

"Oh, god," whispered Rose Blank Weinstein, "I want to cry."

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