Down Memory Lane: PS 173’s Class Of ’66 To Reconvene
By Diana Marquise Raab
Though high school or college reunions happen all the time, elementary school reunions are more of an anomaly. But the 1966 graduating class from PS 173 in Fresh Meadows strives to be different.
This September the class will have a reunion to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their sixth grade graduation. Debra Davidson, 51, has made it her mission to bring her old classmates together. She has strong connections with the school and the community as her father, Sidney Davidson, owned the deli up the street from the school, where you could get a hot dog and soft drink for a mere 70 cents, one-third the price of today’s Starbuck’s coffee.
Why Have The Reunion?
“I attended my high school reunion back in 1988,” Davidson said. “It was poorly organized and the turnout was very disappointing. The people I had the most fun seeing were those whom I’d actually known from childhood days at PS 173. The memories we shared were wonderful.”
Davidson set up a Web site for her classmates and contacted as many people as possible. She has found more than 125 out of the 190 in the 1966 graduating class mainly by using her “Internet sleuthing system,” which includes such Web sites as zabasearch.com, google.com, classmates.com and switchboard.com. The site has a guest book with ‘then’ and ‘now’ photos and also provides a short biographical note.
Unfortunately, during her research, Davidson learned that at least 9 people from the class have died. She has dedicated an “In Memoriam Page” on the Web site to honor those friends who died much too young.
“I’m terribly sentimental,” said Davidson. “I’m also fascinated by how experiences in our early years shape the adults we’ve become. This also happens to be a part of what I do for a living. As a Market Researcher and Consumer Insights Analyst, I’ve spent much of my career slicing, dicing and thinking about the behaviors of Baby Boomers.”
Where Are They Now?
According to Davidson, the majority of her classmates remained in the tri-state area. Among them are many accomplished professionals in a variety of fields, including law, medicine, accounting, liberal arts, real estate, fine arts and stay-at-home moms.
Many of the students have interesting stories to tell. For example, at Queens College Steven Hassan was recruited by the Unification Church, led by Sun Myung Moon. He became a Moonie and was later de-programmed by his parents. This event led him to become a cult counselor and international mind control expert to help loved ones rescue mind control victims. Hassan has appeared frequently on television, and is in the most recent issue of Oprah Magazine. He and has written two books, Releasing The Bonds and Combating Cult Mind Control.
Another classmate, Tom Waldinger is a dermatologist who has written a book called, Wisdom of Life Through My Patients, which is a collection of thoughts about the meaning of life as written by Waldinger’s patients.
Marla Roberts, a summer camp and program advisor, and one of the class’ most popular girls, said on the Web site, “I was amazed that I could look at my old class photos and remember every single person’s name. What a fabulous idea to have this reunion - I am truly looking forward to seeing all of you again.”
A Shared History
“Our parents’ generation,” said Davidson, “as a whole, didn’t spend much time reliving the hard times they’d encountered as children.”
The class of 1966 led a completely different life. They were born in the booming 1950s when everything seemed possible. The first nine years of their lives were spent in a nation filled with optimism, growth, and improving economic conditions for their parents and families.
When they were in first grade, they witnessed the election of John F. Kennedy to Presidency and watched John Glenn orbit the earth. In third grade, their principal S. David Wexler announced President Kennedy’s assassination.
This same class lived with the 1964-65 World’s Fair within three miles of school, and survived the congestion on the Long Island Expressway as people from all over the world flocked to the fair at the Flushing Meadows Park.
So much more happened in Queens during their elementary school years. While being taught Current Events, they learned that Newark, Watts and Detroit were ablaze, that someone named Malcolm X was murdered, and that Alice Crimmins might have murdered her own babies.
“Overall,” said Davidson, “our days spent in the classrooms and in the schoolyard of PS 173 were happy ones, carefree times for most of us.” One of the highlights was the annual Maypole celebration in the schoolyard and a maypole decorated with colorful ribbons streaming from the top, which the class held onto to do a dance.
“Somehow at the end, when the skipping was over, and the music stopped, there was a beautifully multi-colored braided pole,” said Eric Hellerman, a classmate and now a lawyer specializing in First Amendment and Media Defense Law. “Amazingly, I don’t recall a kid ever being strangled, clothes lined or hogtied while engaged in this ritual.”
The same graduating class were heavily influenced by the music of their times. They shared in the excitement of the first appearance of The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show (1964), and the songs of Jimi Hendrix, The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones.
“Reconnecting with former classmates online and exchanging information about our past and present lives has been invaluable,” said Mark Worksman, an alumnus who is now a consultant in the bicycle Industry. “There’s an unconditional love between the classmates, a bond that feels stronger than ones created later in life.”
Davidson says that many of her PS173 friends remember her father, Sidney, who owned the kosher deli at 68-26 Fresh Meadow Lane, one block south of the school. His deli was near Manny’s Candy Store, the corner store that featured candy, ice cream, magazines and comics, and was another favorite stop. You could sip milkshakes while swinging on the counter’s barstools or load up on candy from the racks near the front of the store.
Anticipation Is High
“Being together for an evening of celebration of our memories is bound to be a blast.” Davidson said. More than 65 classmates have indicated their intentions to attend the September reunion. Those graduates who’ve not made it to the Web site and who graduated from PS 173 in 1966, or know someone who has, can contact Debra Davidson at DebraLDavidson@aol.com.
Diana Marquise Raab is a writer living in Santa Barbara, Calif., and was also in the 1966 graduating class. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.