Forgotten But Not Lost
Ruth Ann Angus
Reunion. The letter said I would be interested in finding out the details of my 45th high school reunion. I wasn’t.
But something nagged at my mind.
Five of my former classmates were listed along with their e-mail addresses. I kept going back to the letter to stare at those five names. “Who are they?” I asked. “I don’t recall any of them.”
I put the letter aside. I didn’t throw it out. Days passed and I kept shuffling the letter around on my desk. “I really should throw this thing out,” I thought, “I’m not going!”
The reunion is in New Joisey. The Garden State that is not really a garden spot. The class of ’58 graduated from Clifford John Scott High School in East Orange, a town that has definitely seen better times. I know this because I returned there in 2001, forty years after moving away. The street where I lived and the house I grew up in are relatively unchanged and it seemed as if I had stepped back in time. Kind of eerie in comparison to the rest of the town that is barely recognizable in its decay.
More than a year previous, a phone solicitation from Texas came in from someone trying to obtain interesting factual information about moi. Why? To sell me a book listing all my former classmates, where they are and what they are doing. I declined. Why would I want to know?
But now I did.
“My God!” I wrote in my e-mail, “It’s been 45 years since we graced the halls of good old Clifford J. Scott. Amazing! Some of us would just as soon forget those days. But I’ve looked at the names of the committee and, duh, I don’t know any of you! Who are you?”
The three women never replied. The two guys did. It seems I was not forgotten.
“I was in a few of your classes as a quiet underclassman who sat in the back and kept my mouth shut,” one of them replied. He signed it Dave “what’s his name” and attached a photo of himself and another classmate nicknamed “Chops.”
Oh yes, I remembered them! Especially Chops.
Carmine De Gennaro, alias Chops, my nemesis, a sex-crazed adolescent. His obsession centered on the budding protuberances most girls between the ages 14 and 17 develop on their chests. I can still hear the nickname he had for me, which he often loudly called out in the corridors. “Hey, triple A!”
In high school I was five feet tall and weighed 98 pounds “soaking wet” as they say. Nowadays I would be considered anorexic. I wasn’t, but I also wasn’t developed.
It did my heart good to see what he looked like now. “Chops” indeed.
I couldn’t resist a reply. “Tell Carmine I’m a double C now. It just took me a little longer to blossom.”
The e-mail from the other guy was even more interesting.
“We were in Andre Townsley’s French class together as well as several other classes,” he wrote. “I always remember that you had a pretty wicked sense of humor and a great laugh. I went through CJS with one name before one name was fashionable – Archie.”
How could I forget? Of course, Archie, from the comic books. But what did he mean about my “wicked sense of humor?” I thought I was demure and shy in high school! Guess not.
Down memory lane he took me, telling me who lived where and what they were doing and who was no longer with us. Sal Battiato, a Fonzie character, who along with the aforementioned Chops, terrorized me not only all through high school but previously through three years of Catholic grammar school – I think I smacked him a time or two – is now a hair dresser living in North Carolina! Huh! Thought for sure he’d end up in the penitentiary!
Jay O'Neil, who has passed on. Yes, I certainly remember him. We had a good friendship back then. His Mom knew my Mom. Yes, I remember. He became a father before graduating high school. Too much, too soon.
Archie mentioned a few gals who also live in California and yes, indeed I do remember them, Mary Reese, Cathy Dwyer, and Joan Attalla.
Instead I had Archie send me a copy of the 40th Reunion Program and loved looking at the photos and trying to match names with faces.
Now here it is, 50 years since graduation and another reunion is upon us. Am I going? No. But my reasons aren't quite the same. This past year I battled with breast cancer and am just not in the position to be able to do a trip east. Besides I've developed a "thing" about flying what with the screwy stuff going on with the airlines.
I was saddened to see the names listed for classmates who have passed away. As I read their names I see their faces. Since cancer, I daily check the obituaries to make sure my name is not there. Seems to me we all should have been able to reach the time of our 50th reunion.
Good greetings to you Class of 1958! May you enjoy reminiscing those grand old days. Kiss the New Jersey ground from which we sprang and salute our teachers, long gone now, who tried their level best to make us what we are today. I will be with you in spirit!