Old memories among friends


FALL AND spring, in that order, are the times for high school reunions, particularly for those old-timers whose bones are too brittle for winter's cold and whose get-up-and-go goes in summer's heat.

So, the classes are gathering in the gentle days of autumn to break bread, gossip, compare illnesses and wonder what happened to so-and-so.

The gentlemen of the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute Class of 1942 invited me to their 60th reunion luncheon at Hunt Valley Oct. 2. Poly's Class of 1952 will hold its half-century reunion that weekend.

I had lunch recently with members of the planning committee for the Western High School Class of 1937's 65th reunion, scheduled for next Sunday at the Pikesville Hilton.

Enjoying themselves thoroughly, the five women, all widows, were full of vinegar, and even were a little flirtatious in their early 80s. (The great thing about reunions is that there can be no lying about age.) They told me about dancing - with each other - in the old Western gymnasium during the Depression.

This is just a sampling. There seem to be reunions - or reunions in the planning - everywhere one looks.

From her Virginia home, for example, Virginia Jordan Trigger is tracking down classmates from Baltimore's Northern High School Class of 1973. She and other classmates are planning a 30th-year get-together next fall.

Most classes have something of distinction - a famous graduate, a first or a last event in a school's history. Northern '73 is noted for being one of the largest classes ever to graduate in Baltimore with slightly more than 1,000 students.

Schools like Poly, Western and City College in Baltimore, as well as Catonsville and Sparrows Point highs in Baltimore County, have active alumni associations and impressive lists of graduates.

John N. Harvey, president of the Catonsville Alumni Association, for example, has 23,000 graduates in a database going back to 1905, the year of the first graduation. (Catonsville's centennial is next year.)

It's a quirky business, says Harvey, who graduated in 1968 and still lives in Catonsville. Some classes haven't reunited for years.

The classes of 1941 and '42 have always joined forces, he says, perhaps because war brought them together, perhaps because "many of them intermarried and remained good friends."

Barbara Stricklin, executive director of the Poly Foundation and liaison to the school's alumni association, has been observing (and attending, sometimes as the only woman) reunions for years.

A law of human nature sets in, she says. The further removed from graduation, the more classmates die and the stronger the desire to reunite.

Classes that met every 10 years in the early decades after graduation reduce the interval to five - and then to one. The Poly Class of '42 meets monthly.

Some of the old-time classes start reuniting in bunches. Seven years ago, Poly established a group called Engineers Emeriti, or E2, open to anyone whose class has celebrated its 50th reunion.

The group takes a yearly day trip and holds a luncheon each spring that typically attracts 175 to 200.

Then they dwindle down to a precious few. Nine attended a gathering yesterday of Aberdeen High School's Class of '42. Catonsville's Class of 1931 finally had to abandon reunions.

There were 131 in that long-ago class, says George L. Cavey, 89. "The last time, we could only find 18 to send notices to, so we didn't have a 70th. Most of us are gone or in a nursing home. The 65th was our last."

Career Changers Fair

Here's an about-time example of cooperation between elementary, secondary and higher education meant to ease the acute teacher shortage in Maryland.

At a Career Changers Fair on Sept. 28 at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, people interested in switching careers to teaching can find out how to go about it - traditionally and alternatively.

A raft of state teachers colleges will be there, as will representatives of the state Education Department who will review transcripts and resumes on the spot. There's no cost to park or attend, and people don't have to stay all day. What's not to like?

After-school tutoring

Having found 141 places for the 39,000 Baltimore children eligible to transfer this fall from failing schools to better ones, the city school system has a new obligation under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

It must provide "supplemental services" - that is, after-school tutoring - to the students who didn't transfer. The feds mean this fall, not next year.

This time, city school officials may feel a bit more pressure because third parties have financial interests. Private tutoring services such as Huntington and Baltimore-based Sylvan learning centers are lining up for a piece of the action at the Baltimore schools and 5,000 others nationwide.

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