NORTHBRIDGE, Mass. – “The floor still sounds the same.” “This isn’t the cafeteria we used.’’ “Those old shades are still there.” “That’s where the wood and metal shops were.’’ “We didn’t have computer labs.’’ “If anyone put me in this building and told me to find something, I’d be lost.’’
Those were some of the remarks heard yesterday as members of Northbridge High School Class of 1961 toured the halls they walked from 1958 to 1961, their feet among the thousands responsible for the wear on the building’s wooden floors.
Fifty years ago, those students moved on – to college, work, to the military, to marriage, to children, to life.
This weekend they returned, not just to their hometown, but to their school – now Northbridge Middle and Junior High School – which changed enormously over the years, but also stayed the same.
Built in 1902, class member Frank Strom said he believes it’s the oldest school, east of the Mississippi, still in use as a school in the United States.
Jack Crawford, class and reunion committee member, said planning for the reunion began two years ago. “We hoped to be able to give something back to the community,’’ Crawford said, so class members were asked for donations.
That hope exceeded all expectations. Everyone was generous, Crawford said.
As a result, the class donated $1,000 to Northbridge High School for science and technology education, $1,300 to the Northbridge Food Pantry and $1,000 to Alternatives Unlimited Inc.
Northbridge High School seniors, members of the National Honor Society, led former students on a tour through the old and new parts of the building, a tour that brought back memories.
About 60 of the 96 who graduated in 1961 attended the reunion dinner at Pleasant Valley Country Club on Saturday night, toured their old alma mater on Sunday morning, had brunch in the Alternatives courtyard alongside the Mumford River on Douglas Street, and toured the renovated Whitin Mill, where Alternatives’ is located.
A table was set up at the dinner on Saturday in memory of 35 class members who died, Crawford said, and another for Dick Rand, a class member from Upton, who died in Vietnam in 1966. Upton students attended Northbridge High School until 1961 when the Mendon-Upton Regional High School opened.
Those Upton students, who spent most of their high school years in Northbridge, were invited to the reunion.
Many shared their fondest Northbridge High School memories:
Jeffrey Allard - “We were playing Milford in basketball when a player from Nortbridge got fouled attempting a lay-up and got hurt as time expired. We were in the locker room when a referee came in and said someone has to shoot two foul shots. Someone said ‘let Allard shoot them,’ as I was a senior and hadn’t scored any points yet. I missed the first one, but buried the second. I finished the season with 1 point. My average points per game were .05. I have not been inducted into the Northbridge High School Hall of Fame (yet).
Louise Bardon Deane – “Probably the experiment that went wrong in chemistry. Ellie Wiersma and I got splashed with acid – Ellie getting the worst of it.
Craig E. Barnes – Playing in the percussion section of Chet Cunningham’s Northbridge High School band.
J. Harold (Harry) Baszner – Beating Uxbridge High School to win the league track and field championship in 1961.
Alfred Boileau – Junior year, when I got my letter in track.
Joan Courtemarche Raymond – Graduation party at Byron Dean’s house. Enjoying all our classmates.
John H. Crawford – Winning the Central Mass. Conference half-mile race and being part of the 1961 NHS undefeated track team – a life lesson in reaching goals.
Louis Dykstra – Graduation week itself; a picnic at Wallum Lake, the gradeuation ceremony with the song, “Tenting Tonight.” I thought about those years later when I was in the Army. Also the all-night party at gnes Deane’s place.
Beverly Farrand Paille Labrecque – I walked into the boy’s locker room to sign up for the Northbridge football team.
Charles Garabedian – Learning the commandment: “Do not throw a pie from a moving car.”
Kathleen Guertin Kozak – The day we decorated, during a blizzard, for the senior ball.
Leslie Hoekstra – It was all good – “the great silverware caper.”
David G. Kostka – Two are equally memorable: Winning first prize in the 1961 Northbridge High School science fair and being given the privilege to serve as NHS senior class president.
Linda Lemieux Bouley – I loved the proms – Austin Lynch (junior prom) and Ed Driscoll (senior prom) were my dates. I especially loved being on the decorating committee and always looked forward to the grand march as the evening’s highlight. Senior year my grandfather, Archie Fournier, who was a wood pattern maker at The Shop, created a template for the huge three-dimensional stars that floated over the dance floor – we all worked many hours putting them together.
Marcia Magowan Barnes – Being in our senior play.
Paul Prentiss – Game winning, extra-inning triple against Clinton High School. Gerry Shugrue led off the bottom of the 8th with a walk, he scored the winning run ahead of my triple; and when I got to the gench to pick up my glove, Coach Smith said only, “You missed a bunt sign.” Ah, fame is fleeting.
Melanie Reilly Lortie – I’ve had some good and not so good experiences from my NHS days and a lot I can’t remember, too much clutter in my brain. But one experience that sticks out is when I tried out and was selected as an NHS cheerleader – those were some fun times.
Frank Strom – Surviving driver ed with those ridiculous 3-point turns on Prospect Street in that Ford Falcon with John Doldoorian.
Philip Vandersea – 1959-1960 NHS football team victory over previously undefeated Hudson High School.
Ellie Wiersma Spangler – The dances on Friday nights.
Deb Gauthier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.