The football and basketball teams were state champs. The student newspaper, the Tattler, won every contest it entered. The curriculum, packed with Chaucer and carbon molecules, was so advanced that it was little wonder 95 percent of the graduates went on to college.

Life Magazine, that pillar of journalistic loftiness, lost a little of its self-control in the face of all this excellence.

The 531 kids in the class of 1959 at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School "constitute one of the five most-likely-to-succeed senior classes in America," Life declared.

Even the graduation speaker had a severe case of upward mobility.

The scheduled pontificator (name forgotten) was held up in an airport someplace. He couldn't keep his promise to come and put 1,000 overdressed aunts to sleep.

So Sen. John F. Kennedy (who was to move on to a rather important new job in less than 18 months) agreed to pinch-hit.

"He hold us to go forth into the world or something," recalled Fifty-Niner Dee Dee Stevenson Thomspon. "But he didn't really have to. We were headed there anyway."

So it was in the spring of 1959 at Tb-cc, then the undisputed pearl of the Montgomery County public schools. And so it was again two Saturday evenings ago at the Bethesda Marriott, as the 'Finer Fifty-Niners' reunited after 20 years.

There was the usual reunion diet of too much alcohol and too many questions that began with the words, "Remember when...?"

But the Fifty-Niners, special then, reassured themselves (and convinced at least one interloper) that they were special now, too.

They all greed that at least some of the reason was the Fonzied (which is the opposite of Frenzied) Fifties.

This was, after all, a bunch of kids who took flight before birth control pills and Vietnam. A gang who listened to Peggy Lee on Victrolas, not disco junk on tape decks. An age group for whom fun was miniature golf, and sin was half a Budweiser.

Said Carl MacCartee, then The Star Quarterback nicknamed Butchie, now an orthopedic surgeon: "We were the last class of the American dream."

Exaggeration? Self-congratulation? Not on the basis of a look around the room. It was a near-blizzard of pinstripes and evening dresses. The teenagers of '59 had become a group of 37 and 38-year-olds who had made it.

"See that guy over there?" asked Sam Jones, an attorney, gesturing at classmate Doug Bowers. "He's the only beard in the room, and he's so straight you could hang the wash on him."

That was hardly surprising, Jones thought, for straightness was the built-in code at B-CC.

"We were mostly from solid, middleclass backgrounds," Jones said. "We didn't have distractions the way kids do now. And we didn't have drugs. The drinking age when we were seniors was 18 in the District and 21 in Maryland, so we always went into the city to drink. That was what passed for a big deal."

According to the reunion program, the class of '59 includes one Montgomery County police detective, one mailman and one phone solicitor.

Seven of its male members took it upon themselves to marry seven of its female members. Fifty-Niners live in at least 29 states, three foreign countries and one sometimes alien protectorate known as the District of Columbia.

And one guy lives at sea.

The reunion committee found his mother, who still lives in Bethesda. She said she'd try to get word of the reunion to her son. But when you're a merchant seaman, Mama explained, some weeks it's Barbados, some weeks it's Philadelphia. Very few weeks is it - or can it be - Bethesda.

But the most significant "stat" in the Fifty-Niner program was that 138 of the 210 B-CCers who showed up for the reunion have white-collar professional careers.

The most visible white collar of all belongs to David Boren. Editor of the Tattler 20 years ago, he rescued himself from the ravages of a newspaper career just in time to choose the ravages of politics.

Now a U.S. Senator from Oklahoma, Boren showed up at the reunion with a huge smile, an Oklahoma pin in his lapel-and a memory of himself a generation ago as "a pretty studious kid. I wasn't a sports star, that's for sure.

"There was just something in the air at B-CC," Boren said. "I think a lot of us knew what we wanted to do even then. I know I did. I used to think about it on the debating team."

Just then, a former classmate butted in to bring Boren back to '79.She fessed up: she was having trouble getting Senate gallery passes. The good, close-up gallery was the one full of kids with Instamatics.

Could Boren help?

"For the class of '59," said Boren, reciting his office phone number, "anything!"