Our 55th reunion was a most enjoyable weekend in and around Rutherford. The weather was perfect. 29 of us attended, 54 people in all, including spouses who have become honorary members of RHS 58.
Friday Night Get-together
The Friday night get-together has been a hit since before the good old days when we met at Lynn and Bob Van Etten's house. This year we met at the Elks Club. The doors opened at 6pm and before 6:15 a crowd had gathered just inside the entrance, where all you could hear was the din of happy and excited people.
Always the big moment of reunion weekends, we were thrilled to see one another -- to catch up on personal news, to reminisce about school days and earlier reunions, to hear the latest about classmates unable to attend.
The big surprise of the evening was the couple who walked in, setting off quiet speculation across the room about which one was the classmate. She looked familiar. He didn't. To our amazement, it was Bill Amberg and his wife Mary Estelle. Bill was with us through Pierrepont School and the first three years at RHS. At the end of our junior year, Bill's family moved to Summit. This was a reunion in the truest sense of the word.
Joyce and Jim Delaney and Peggy Clausen Marter had made arrangements with the Elks Club, which included an open bar and finger food. Highly animated conversation went on for a couple of hours before we retired to the Marriott Courtyard where we had a bank of rooms at a terrific discount negotiated by Bob Rood and Cindy Zimmerman Turncliff.
Saturday Morning Meadowlands Pontoon Boat Tour
33 of us boarded 3 pontoon boats at the Old Barge docks on the Hackensack River in Carlstadt (at the end of Paterson Plank Road near the stadium in East Rutherford). A well-informed guide accompanied each boat. In a two-hour tour of the pristine canals carved into the meadowlands we were shown new and old growth, and a glorious selection of birds. For us it was an eye-opening experience.
The water, which was fresh river water when we were kids, is now brackish. 'Punks', which grew everywhere when we were in school, are fresh water plants. The brackish water has exterminated them. In their place is a new and different, and absolutely beautiful 'wild' plant that gives the wavy impression of a field of grain. A less invasive grass is being planted by conservation volunteers.
The pontoon boats ventured underneath two railroad bridges with clearances about two feet above our pontoons, necessitating our lying down on the seats. Dave Goodhart told us that these two bridges were replicated in miniature by the Lionel Company and were offered for sale as model train accessories.
Everyone on the boats expressed gratitude to Lee Brown whose idea it was to include the pontoon boat tour in the weekend program.
For those who may have the opportunity to enjoy the Meadowlands Pontoon Boat Tour in the future, the url is www.njmeadowlands.gov/environment/tours.html. Enjoy!
After the pontoon boat tour almost the entire 'class' went to Rutt's Hutt for a late lunch. Rutt's hasn't changed one iota since 1950. We filled a back room, the waitress -- sassy and pleasant -- started taking orders, and before long we were awash in the famous secret-recipe relish. There was still too much to talk about and too little time. After a couple of beers and a lot of laughs we headed back to the Marriott to get ourselves ready for the main event of the weekend...
The Saturday Night Dinner/Dance
The dinner/dance was held at Lassoni's Restaurant on Ridge Road just over the North Arlington line from Lyndhurst. The restaurant was Bob Rood's idea and we have Mal Burroughs to thank for making all the arrangements. The room was a perfect size, there was just enough room for the dinner tables surrounding a small but adequate dance floor. The food was outstanding. Music was played 'live' by a musician who entertained courtesy of Mal. Lee gave us the statistics: of 126 graduates, 32 are deceased and 14 are missing. Of the remaining 80, 36% were in attendance.
Joyce and Jim, Ingrid, Carolyn and Harry organized a way to honor those who (in Carolyn's words) 'have been gathered'. Names were read followed by moments of silence, and then individual remembrances of a few 'best friends' were offered. It was wonderful to have them brought back into our lives, and to learn things about them that we never knew.
Peter Wise, a recent 'honorary' member of our graduating class (he left Rutherford while attending Lincoln School) delivered his observation along with supporting evidence that we should be labeled 'the lucky generation'.
Bill Amberg told us the story of his 56-year search for our class. He said naturally he felt more a part of our class than the one he graduated with in Summit. He added that until he found us through our website, and was able to rejoin us at this reunion, losing touch with us was the biggest regret of his life.
Lee talked briefly about the pleasure of getting to know classmates he didn't really know while we were in school. In a way we knew everyone in our class, but there have been so many delightful surprises at reunions over the years -- learning about the character, and sometimes the accomplishments, of people he thought he knew. Lee asked everyone to take the opportunity, when it presents itself, to get to know in depth a classmate you didn't really know in high school.
In an email to the class, Lee had promised a Saturday night surprise 'that will knock your socks off'. He played a recording of the oldie 'Bummin' and asked who was singing. Most were positive it was Dean Martin. A few argued it was Leon Redbone. The room was shocked to hear it was Frank DeCarlo!
Frank was someone Lee didn't know well in school. However, they have been corresponding by email for the past few months. Frank gave Lee permission to tell a rather tender story about how Harold Schaible helped Frank decide to put his life on a different track. Now a professor of English at a Florida college where classes have begun, Frank was unable to attend the reunion. He was delighted, though, to have his recording played for the crowd.
Next time, we're determined to have Frank sing for us 'live'.
Then the din erupted again, as the room broke out in lively conversation that lasted until our time at Lassoni's was over.
Sunday Brunch at The New Park Tavern
The Park Tavern is now The New Park Tavern. It's had a makeover the likes of which Rutt's Hutt ought to consider. By 10am on Sunday we were back together and the room was abuzz over excellent food arranged (again) by Mal. Dom Palombi joined for this occasion and was warmly welcomed of course. By now there was the palpable weight of knowing we would soon be saying 'so long' until next time.
We interrupted the party to go outside and across the street for the group photo you see at the top of this page.