The bobbed hairstyles are white now. The once youthful hands are covered with age spots. And many grip canes or walkers.
But these women in their late 80s are as high-spirited as when they graduated from Eastern High School in 1926 wearing white dresses and each carrying a single red rose. They still refer to themselves as girls.
Yesterday, 13 class members got together at Edenwald retirement center in Towson to celebrate their 70th high school reunion -- a long way from Broadway and North Avenue where the all-girls city school originally was.
In their yearbook, the women look like Clara Bow, the famous actress of their generation. Now, these hale octogenarians meet annually to remember and laugh about shared experiences.
"We exclaim how each other have changed," said Margaret Bristow, who lives at the Charlestown retirement complex in Catonsville -- though they look remarkably the same as they did in photos taken several years ago.
The women also catch up on who has died or who is sick, reminders of their age.
During yesterday's shrimp- and chicken-salad luncheon, the conversation easily moved forward and backward in time, although a spotty memory was not unusual.
"We're lucky to remember our names," joked Mildred Evans of Towson.
Elizabeth Hartje, organizer of the event, who lives at Charlestown, resolved to carry on the high school reunions after it was announced that the group's 50th reunion in 1976 would be its last.
That milestone event had been a memorable affair at the Baltimore Hilton Inn, attended by 140 members of the 325-student class. Each participant received an engraved gold locket, a prized possession that many wore yesterday.
Since that event, Hartje, a former school principal, has been a moving force in keeping the women together. They've been meeting annually since 1981.
The women, who mostly were teachers and homemakers, attribute their longevity to active lifestyles, including exercise and hefty doses of humor.
"We know how to fix everything," chuckled Marie Larsen of Towson, a former art teacher at what was then called Maryland State Normal School, now Towson State University.
She said concerns in the 1930s included how to keep respectable young women at the college from wearing bobby sox, and fighting the opposition to having married women as teachers.
While the women enjoyed innocent pastimes such as dancing at Gwynn Oak Park and songfests in their living rooms while growing up, they recall the more difficult times, too.
"I remember scrubbing clothes with a board," said Mildred Evans of Towson, practically wincing at the memory.
And these women in their 80s have some definite thoughts on the role of today's women -- most think women's liberation was a big mistake.
"A lot of women haven't learned how to have it easier," said Helen Civis of Towson, referring to married working women with children. "If they would count up all the extras -- gas and extra things to do -- they would realize they aren't that much ahead."
Gladys Fauldrath of Shrewsbury, Pa., who helped at her husband's hardware-and-paint store but chiefly raised her two daughters, agreed. "I had a full, happy life," she said. "I think women have it worse today."
Pub Date: 5/07/96