IT WAS A HIGH SCHOOL REUNION.....
It was a long weekend to say the least... It was also far too short when you count the time invested in the game of life we have all played for the forty years gone by since walking out those doors with the panic bars on them in 1964. An evening enchanted or not, is too short a time to find out what each and everyone of us has been up to, not that we are that entitled to know it all anyway. After all some of us probably didn't even like some of us back then. But we weren't supposed to were we ? ...isn't that partly what youth is for.... most of us were seniors but all of us were still kids.
I think it was at the reunion or perhaps at Lynn & Dave Allen's party the following day that either Lynn or it may of been Alicia Patera who asked me if I was going to write about the reunion on my website.......Like I said it was a long & a short weekend and although I don't drink, my brain was processing a lot of input, factual and emotional ......They already knew the answer though and all I had to do was smile and nod. Actually I wrote about the first Class of '64 reunion in 1974 and I didn't even go to it..... I was playing (We Musicians Call It Work) with my first wife Susan, at a little club in Westhampton Beach called the Long Island Potato when in strolls one Kenny Vitellaro. I had not seen him since we left school. Kenny told me about the upcoming 10 year deal and asked me if was going to go... I told him I doubted it...he seemed disappointed that I wasn't and tried hard to talk me into it. I finally had to tell him...Man I didn't even graduate with you guys... I left in May of '64 and finished up High School in Patchogue. Besides no one would remember me I was a ghost in high school.
I had a day gig back then too.... After ten years of being a pro musician, I had decided to look for something else to do with a little more "security"...HAH ..... So what was I doing with my days in 1974? Freezing my ass off in the winter on the Great South Bay, but getting a hell of a physique from pulling a clam rake. The skinny kid who went to Floyd from '52- '64 could of arm wrestled Arnold back in '74. Clamming had other benefits too... Summers you got a great tan and back then the money was pretty good too. I used to take my clams to market in the trunk of my Bentley. (for the auto-challenged a Bentley is a less ostentatious Rolls -Royce . It was known then as the "thinking mans Rolls" because it was the exact same car with a different shaped radiator grille and $2,000 lower price) But the main benefit for someone like me was the independence and freedom. I made my own hours, answered only to myself or mother nature (GET THE HELL OFF MY BAY) and like I did when I was in Floyd, spent a lot of time outdoors. Out on the boat I always had a surplus of time to think just like I did when I was out in the woods skipping school. It was while out on my clamboat one afternoon I started to reconsider going to the reunion, that idea gave way to writing a song in my head called "High School Reunion". I was pretty much into the folkie scene then. People like Steve Goodman, Arlo Guthrie, John Prine were who I was listening to. "High School Reunion" came out sounding a lot like some of Prine or even Dylan's work...trouble was it was longer than American Pie and I had only included a third of the class and I wanted to do a verse about everyone. Rhyming Guido was fun some other names didn't quite work out too well .... needless to say as someone who became a professional songwriter "High School Reunion" was not a hit..not even with me and was left unfinished... I still can recall the opening chorus though IT WAS A HIGH SCHOOL REUNION, IT WAS GONNA BE SOME FUN, LITTLE DID I REALIZE , WHAT TEN YEARS GONE HAD DONE .....
Changing My Tune
Fast forward thirty years .... This spring I got a call from who else.... Kenny Vitellaro, Actually we have been in pretty close touch since about 1997, when he called me out of the blue one night and asked me if was ever going to visit the Island someday... I said yes I was going to be there the next day! Truth is stranger than fiction and for the last few years I have been going back once or twice a year to work on this Knapps Lived Here book / website. When I do, I usually am his houseguest. Anyway when he called this spring. he was lamenting the fact that no one had done anything about organizing a 40th reunion and that we should have one even if we only had it at the MB Firehouse or a picnic in the park. Once again I had to beg off and say " Kenny ...why are you telling me about this? I'm in Nashville .... I didn't even graduate with you guys. I did however pass on Kenny's sad tale to Marty Van Lith who had become a another recent reunited friend from the past and well as those who were there now know...... the rest is history already.
I'm sure if you asked the almost sixty Floyd Kids that showed up from as far away as California about it, you would get that many different impressions and opinions. But I bet they would all be VERY POSITIVE.... Something about ageing I think makes you appreciate the little things. As an inside observer of what it took from Marty, Anita, Camille, and all the rest who did the actual work that made it happen, I can only say it tired my old bones just hearing about it. Of those I spoke with who have been to all four reunions, all said this one was the best. (BTW THE CLASS OF '64 IS THE ONLY FLOYD CLASS TO HAVE HELD FOUR IN A ROW...TAKE A BOW KIDS) Speaking for myself, I had a heck of a good time and really enjoyed seeing our teachers there...after all it was about them too. My only regret was I would of liked to have had a wee bit more time to spend with everyone...heck even those we may not of spoke two words to for the four or more years we were together (for some of us it was all twelve) must of had more to say than Hello How Are You Doing. If we only had the time....
Would you believe that today (Sept 10th) just before I started writing this, two relevant envelopes arrived in the mailbox. One was the class photo from Marty and Anita, and the second one was a letter from Don Collins, who I got to spend a little quality time with that evening. I had sent him the photo of his 1952 Basketball Team that he had never seen before the slide show that night. Along with it I sent him a piece from the Floyd part of my website to which he commented: " Thank you for the photos and articles re: the early days of Wm. Floyd (sounds like a history lesson there) Of particular interest was the description of the Ostroski hunt for the fleeing terrorists"
Now can't you just hear Mr. Collins saying that? You certainly could if you had his class. He went on in great detail about the team members in the photo including their individual athletic achievements and as he closed he said .....
Anita Cohen and Marty Van Lith have compiled a boatload of photos (well over 100) from the big night and uploaded them to a websight
Lynn Mansfield Allen
Lynn composed two poems for the occasions
BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE !
A REUNION PLUS ......
About a week or two before I left Nashville for this trip I got an email that started out
Dear William Floyd Alumnus: I was just fooling around on the internet this afternoon and came upon your sight. My name is Bill Proefriedt. My very first teaching job was in Mastic in 1957 .....
HOLY HALLOWED HALLS OF IVY! THOUGHT I
IT'S MISTER P.... MY EIGHTH PERIOD, SEVENTH GRADE ENGLISH TEACHER !!! THE ONLY GUY WHO NOTICED I WAS ABSENT FAR TOO MUCH AND ASKED GUIDO MICHELINI ONE DAY : "WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH JOSEPH.......HE'S NOT BEEN HERE FOR WEEKS, IS HE HOSPITALIZED OR SOMETHING?"
Well it was a great E mail followed by even more e mail exchanges and we really caught up with each other. No his "Floyd Experience" didn't make him change horses. Mr. P stayed in teaching and went on to be a college professor. When he heard I was heading up to the Island for this reunion, suggested we meet if only for coffee. He also said he would not mind seeing Mastic again especially the places described on my website.
So a few days after the reunion we met for lunch at the Windmill Diner on William Floyd Parkway and then started off on our little tour. I suggested we start out by going past "the scene of the crime" at the end of Lawrence Road and lo when we arrived there was a front door wide open! It's an omen says I... Mr. P was reluctant but said "Do you really think we should go inside?" I was already heading for the door and this time the scholastic world for me was in reverse... I was usually heading out the door.
We walked right in, but there was no one around. At least in the main office which is now all glass and looks like a typical Motor Vehicle Office.
We started to explore, most of the lights were off and when we got into the gym which was a JAW DROPPER in itself, a strong voice in the subdued light called out ,
"CAN I HELP YOU GENTLEMEN ?"
I took the lead and said. " I sure hope you can sir!" ( Mr. P was still quite cautious...) As I got closer to the voice coming from the rear of the gym I said, "WOW ARE YOU WOODY HAWKINS SON? " He wasn't and his name escapes me, but he had Woody's Job "Head Custodian" for two more days and was retiring after many years there and wanted to leave on smooth terms. We explained who we were, what we came for etc and I guess Woody's name and a few others that I dropped (Like Jackie Intonato Eglevsky) assured him that we meant no harm. He said feel free to walk around but please check in with the main office first.
And so we reported to the office ..... And they proceeded to roll out the red carpet for us, took us to meet the brand new principal and his assistant and we just had a great time and I took lots of photos of the parts that were there when we were. Mr P & I both could not get over how the halls have seemed to shrunk..... perhaps it was the low lighting.....no THEY SHRUNK ...Honest
The building however has EXPANDED ... It's been added onto on three directions and I would say It's probably four times bigger,,,,, but lets take a photo tour of parts that mattered cause: