The Eagle’s Cry Nostalgia – 50th High School Reunion for the Class of 71′

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On Saturday, November 12, Bethpage the 50th high school reunion for its classes of 1967-1971. Three members of The Eagle’s Cry editorial team traveled to the reunion–held at the Holiday Inn in Plainview–and interviewed some of the guests, delving into a refreshing bit of nostalgia alongside these alumni. 

The former BHS students shared stories about what the school used to be like, sharing warm and not-so-warm memories of their individualized experiences–moments that they are not soon to forget, and even remembering a few happenings that were soon lost in the daily shuffle of their lives. 

Alum Joanne Napoli greeted our editors as they first arrived armed with her a yearbook. Ms. Napoli showed our staff a picture of the members of The Eagle’s Cry during her time at BHS. Asked about her favorite memory, she immediately said, “Hanging out in the senior courtyard.” Apparently, students were allowed to smoke in the courtyard in those days. Napoli, along with alum Rosalie Rota, shared what a privilege it was to have a designated spot that only the seniors could utilize and enjoy. 

Ms. Napoli also talked about her time being a cheerleader. Even a few years before Title IX was established in 1972, BHS had some involvement in the feminist movement. Napoli remembered that girls’ intramural sports were slowly introduced to the students, though not anywhere close to the level they are today.

Similarly, alum Phillip Lieberman explained how BHS was, “…becoming more progressive,” as the years went on. The editors wondered if Mr. Lieberman would be amazed by the progress made since he graduated.

However, alumni George Bowne, Ray Axmacher, and Keith Rolleston shared with our editors some aspects of BHS that they felt needed improvement in those days. Bowne noted, “It would be better if school taught life skills.” Axmacher and Rolleston agreed with their friend that while BHS has a wonderful curriculum, they wished they had learned life skills such as: “balancing a checkbook, paying bills, renting an apartment, or putting away $150 from each paycheck.” 

Our editors agreed that the curriculum at Bethpage should encompass some more life-skill-based teaching and learning as part of the required curriculum, rather than solely the classic school book information. It was surprising to hear that, even back then, BHS didn’t teach life skills–because it’s such a cliche today for parents to reference back to learning such skills in school.

Many of the alumni with whom our newspaper’s staff spoke shared some key pieces of advice for any current high school students. Keith Rolleston and Patricia Broncato both stressed, “Enjoy it. Life goes really fast!”

Additionally, alum Debbie Gatta-Riccardi said, “It’s important to keep that connection [with the people in your class].”

Lastly, Marilyn Chewens ended our conversation by emphasizing, “Do good in school!”

Alumni such as Bowne, Patricia Broncato, and former The Eagle’s Cry writer Roberta Halpern, revealed certain aspects of school life that vastly differ from ours today. According to Bownes and Broncato, students were forced to “…dress up for assemblies,” because “…the dress code was much stricter.”

However, Roberta Halpern stated that, “The dress code became less strict,” once her class made it to freshman year. Also, many mentioned the fact that it was a very political time period to be in high school, since it was around the time of the Vietnam War, and protests were part of every young person’s world view. Mr. Lieberman revealed that he was not drafted since he “hit a high number.” This refers to a lottery at the time that went by your birthday. It was drawn on television. If you were a boy of 18 and your birthday got a low number, you could be drafted and go off to fight in the Vietnam War, no matter what you believed. 

Overall, the conversations The Eagle’s Cry had with the alumni were productive because we discovered so many different memories and ways of life that these students experienced during their time at BHS. Thank you to Louise Grinsell and Superintendent David Schneider for setting The Eagle’s Cry up with this wonderful opportunity.