The Class of 1957 had it made. We were too young for Korea, too old for Vietnam, and intergration didn't come to Arlington's Washington-Lee High School until the year after we graduated. Ike was in the White House and such traces of the coming social revolution as were in the air had the heady tang of wine.
We went confidently into the real world, expecting to go on to college and thence into the good life to do good works, others to make a pile of money, a few were ambtitious in the arts and sciences, and there were a lot of hopeful future wives and mothers. If we were good and worked hard, they told us at commencement, we would be rewarded.
Well, more than a third of our class of 650 gathered for the 20th reunion Saturday night at the Ramada Inn in Rosslyn, and by and large it turns out that what we were told was true. If the American Ship of State ran on the rocks in the '60s, nearly all of us made it into the lifeboats. If our dreams have been tarnished or compromised by the realities of this life, very few of them have turned to dust. Man, you talk about a party!
There were just enough sour notes and personal tragedies to remind the rest of us how lucky we were. Mary Kay, as sweet and generous and lively a girl as ever there was, stayed away because she lost both her children to birth defects after years of struggle and agony: those of us at the reunion were composing snapshots of 410 living children.
Jon Merkel, who didn't know how not to smile, was shot down on a reconnaissance flight over Vietnam for Air America (CIA) after the U.S. pullout. As far as we know he was out only Vietnam casualty; they ring the bells for him at sundown every day at Resurrection Lutheran Church.
But Evie Murphy and Toby Schwarzwalder, who were voted most likely to succeed, have. She is (single, like 5 per cent of us) is Massachusetts sevretary of state for Environmental Affairs, responsible for 5,000 employees, a billion-dollar budget, and all the air and farms and factories and wood and waters of the state. He has traveled the wide world over for the Agency for International Development, where he now is a GS 18 administrator.
Yeah, but what about the losers, the ones who were left out of the social whirl, who didn't fit in, whose families weren't affluent, the guys who hung out in the parking lot while the golden girls and boys compared White bucks in the Senior Court?
Well, one of them, a punk who spent most of his time punching out guys under the stands at football games, has his own construction company and travels in Europe and South American when turkeys aren't in season.
Another John Cardwell who developed a nervous twitch looking over his shoulder for cops, is doing well in the carpet business and growing nervous because his daughter Diane is reaching the age where he'll have to worry about whether she's going out with guys like he used to be.
Hank Burchard, who broke in a whole series of Arlington probation officers, wound up writing newspaper stories about their installations as judges.
Some of the figures are astonishing, considering the curious makeup of the student body. Arlington probation officers, wound up writing newspaper stories about their installations as judges.
Some of the figures are astonishing, considering the curious makeup of the student body. Arlington had been a small town, a place where Washingtonians built summer cottages,when we were born on the eve of World War II. The growth of big government brought university professors and busines biggies to the area by the thousands, and their children found themselves in school with the sons and daughters of tradesmen and minor clerks; there were upper-class kids and lower-class kids with relatively few from the great middle.
If a more than one-third sample is valid, this is what became of them.
Almost 80 per cent went on to college: 62 per cent took degrees: 23 per cent won advanced degrees, including dozens of doctorates.
For all the Army brats among us, only 3.6 per cent chose careers in the service (Lee Buther, voted friendliest boy , is an Air Force colonel selected and our best bet for a real Washington-Lee general.
Fifteen per cent are in the civil serivce: lawyers and laborers are paired at 3 per cent each: we have 2 per cent each doctors and nurses, 2 per cent store clerks and 2 per cent self-suppoting artists: 3 per cent each of secretaries and social workers. Ten per cent are teachers, more at the college than the secondary level. A third of the girls became housewives.
Twelve per cent of us were divorced as of Sarurday night, although with all the hugging and kissing that went on that rate may be expected to rise.
We are rising 40 now, and should be in the mid-life crisis, but it doesn't show. Since we are not empty-headed plastic people it may mean that we already have examined who we are and whither we are tending, and have either learned to live with it or already have taken steps.
Abrupt career changes are supposed to mark the passage point, and we have a few. Lance Parker, a thundering big fellow who has been administering hospitals in Tennessee, takes off today to the Middle East to drill for oil.
Sheila Shinn. Miss Goody Two shoew (choir. Madrigals. Latin Honor Society, master's degree in micropaleontology, research carto grapher for the U.S. Ceorlogical Survey), moon dancer at Washington clubs under the name of Nura.
She favored us with a spur-of-the-moment perfomance that brought down the house and almost put class vice president George Scheele. M.D. into cardiac arrest. George, a bachelor, spends his days quietly researchin ght emysteries of the pancreas, and when she slithered over and enveloped him in her shawl it smoked his mustaches. There should be some great pictures of her dance, but Jack bauer got so gumbly and sweaty his strobe light shorted out.
Those who missed it are to be pitied. Sheila answereed once and for all the question of whether anyone could dominate a cance floor like fearless Freddie James, the haltback who could spend the afternoon dancing past would be tacklers and the whole night jitterbugging up a storm at the sock hop.
Freddie rrns a dance studio and struts himself half to death at the county Fourth of July parade every year. He told an aging classmate not to be put off by the Hustle and similar modern dancing "Just toddle on down to the discotheque and dance. Man, it ain't nothing but jitterbugging under a defferent name."
Social divisons, a still painful memory for many of the bulk of us who had sat quietly in corners while the A1 Richmonds (president) and Donna Bransfords (cheerleader) glittered, had faded almost to vanishing.
"I feel like I have a lot more in common with these people than I ever did when we were in school, Bill Roberts said "i almost didn't come, but this feels like I've come home to one big, great goddam family."
Ben Campbell, our one and only doctor of divinity, stood in the center of the crepe-hung ballroom stroking his beard and pondering the same question.
"I didn't come back here hoping to find something I had lost," he said. "I left Arlington a long time ago, left a lot of reglationships that had been important. I came expecting this to be sad,expectingthat all that would be gone. But it isn't. There may be more closeness here than among my wife's class of two dozen down in Rome. Ga."
His train of thought was derailed by a former girl person who rushed up and kissed his and then began to apologize. =Not to worry, my dear," Campbell said. "I'm an Episcopalian priest. We do sex."
He resumed. "To tell the truth, the only reason I came was to look down at all those girls who were taller than me (Ben was a chubby cheeked shrimp who grew almost a foot after graduation).
The sense of community in the room was no mystery to Pat Grafton. who had flown in from paris, where he said he runs a chain fo ice cream stores "and several othe dodges." Gratton, a bachelor and tall and slender as in his track-star days, "wouldn't have missed it for the world," he said.
You know what WL was to me? It was my 14th school in 10 years. I was an Army brat and it was the ifrst place I had ever stayed for a full round of the seasons. THis is my hometown; these people are my family, and I'm just delighted to discover they're every bit as nice as I remembered."
Friends, there just isn't any end to the good news for to the party, which continues even now).
THere was paul Champion. All he ever wanted to do was play his banjo and fish for bass; well, he's down in Orlando, oickin and fishing.
Claudia Burton, noly girl in the Sciente Honor Society, (secretary, alas), was fiercely determined to make her own way in a man's world (one of her would-be boufriends, frustrated at trying to keep up with her intellectually, challenged her to wrestle: she pinned him twice in two minutes). Claudia is a doctor of laws and a professor of law at Willamette University.
John Carr (voted most talented boy) and Gay Glading (cheerleader) wanted to be artists, wild and free. They are artists wild and free, he acting in Los Angeles and she painting in Washington.
We all missed LaNelle Peferson. She was going to come, but an early snow trapped 4>000 cows in summer pasture on her tanch in Casper. WYo, and she had to ride to the roundup.*