ON A WARM, muggy June afternoon in Washington 20 years ago, 423 of us marched out of the Calvin Coolidge High School stadium in Northwest, ready to take on the world. Or at least maybe college.
We were children of the '50s, graduating into the soon-to-be-turbulent '60s.
The newspapers of that day offered a hint of the promise and the problems to come. John F. Kennedy was within weeks of capturing the Democratic presidential nomination.
We considered ourselves pioneers in the relatively smooth integration of the D.C. public schools. But in June 1960, the houses for sale in several of our neighborhoods -- Riggs Park, Takoma Park and Brightwood -- were in the classifieds under the column heading: "Colored."
We would only occasionally find ourselfes on the cutting edge of the sweeping social changes to come. Most of us were out of college before the Berkeley revolution. During the peak of the Vietnam antiwar protests, many of us were starting careers and families. At the time of the '68 riots in Washington, many of us were still here and buying homes in the suburbs. We came of age politically on the New Frontier. We were Kennedy's children, but few of us turned out to be children of the '60s.
Coolidge, at 5th and Tuckerman, was one of three high schools in Northwest Washington with a predominantly white enrollment, but it was less wealthy than Wilson and less WASP than Western.
Our class was 10 percent black, but within three years the school was nearly 90 percent black. Contrary to what we believed then, we were not so much in the forefront of integration as in the midst of the white middle-class exodus from the city.
We covered an economic spectrum from row house to Shepherd Park mansion and an ethnic melange from Greeks to Anglo-Saxon Protestants. More than half the class was Jewish, and they set the intellectual pace and social tone. h
"No matter what economic level you were," said Stan Levenson, now a doctor at Georgetown, "the things that were handed down to you were the same."
"We were driven by our parents," said Stan Gildenhorn, now a lawyer and Democratic party chairman in Montgomery County.
"We were middle class, but not Middle America," said Bernard Neustadt, the salutatorian and now a chemist, upon hearing that the high school quarterback had become a Marxist political scientist.
We met in a bar at 18th and Columbia Road, not far from where he had gone to elementary school when the Adams-Morgan neighborhood was still white middle class and working class. By the time he returned in the early '70s, it was part Spanish, part black and part funky bohemian.
"It wasn't 'American Grafitti,' Danny Hughes recalled of Collidge. "It promoted achievement for its own sake. Friendship wasn't based on who you were but on your grade-point average."
From college, Hughes went into the Air Force, hoping to become a pilot. He washed out when he realized he would be flying bombers or fighters over North Vietnam and became a public information officer.
"That's how I ended up as a writer."
Like other aspiring novelists he headed to Paris, first in 1968 and again in 1971, living in the Latin Quarter on the G.I. bill.
He doubts now whether any of this will make it into a novel. He writes a newsletter for the National Park Service and hopes his neighborhood will not become so chic, so expensive and so full of condominiums that he will be forced to move to the suburbs.
"The Vietnam war largely passed us by," said Marc Wagshal, a lawyer and the son of the owners of the delicatessen in Spring Valley.
Many joined the reserves or missed the service entirely, either through educational, parental and occupational deferments or because the Washington draft boards could often meet their quotas with men not going to college. Only a dozen went to the war.
One of those, a young doctor named Richard Aaron, was killed there. He was one of 17 doctors lost in the war. The death of that warm, humorour and engaging young man, whose promise could be read in the scholarships and awards already won, became a reminder of those of us removed from the war of the waste and futility of that encounter.
From our class emerged 19 doctors, dentists and veterinarians, 18 lawyers and 13 PhDs. Of those, all but two are Jewish, all but three men. Between us we have published 13 books, none Hollywood blockbusters, and hold five patents. There are the owners of two restaurants, two liquor stores, a delicatessen, a moving company, two contracting firms, a dry cleaner, a beauty shop, a gas station, an amusement park and one of Washington's best known clothing stores, Britches. A few of those are family businesses. Most are self-started enterprises. Several reflect the stunning growth of wealth in Washington since the mid-1960s.
None others in our class are dead.
After the service and junior college, Marvin Stocker joined the D.C. police force. On March 24, 1966, the roockie policeman was on duty at the 12th Precinct house when word flashed of a police chase. Stocker jumped into the passenger seat of a police cruiser, replacing the regularly assigned officer who was inside making a report.The car took off after two men who had robbed Lord & Taylor's and then fled through Rock Creek Park.
One of the robbers took seige in a house at Fifth and Hamilton, barely a mile south of Coolidge. Stocker joined two detectives moving toward the house. There was a volley of shots, Stocker cried out, "Man, I'm hit," and died in the arms of a detective.He was 23, the father of a 16-month-old daughter.
It was later disclosed that Stocker's killer should have been in jail all along. His appeal on another charge had been denied, but the U.S. attorney's office in a "breakdown of communications" had failed to pick him up.
Nearly 300 of our classmates, including those who have lived elsewhere in intervening years, are now within 30 miles of where they grew up. They are mostly in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. I found only one raising a family in the city and sending children to the D.C. public schools. rBut serveral are now talking of returning to the city.
Of the high-school sweethearts who married, all but one couple are still together. More than 20 others have been divorced. Sixteen have never married.
Our experiences in an integrated school misled us, black and white alike, about the depth of the race issue, especially in Washington. Memories, blurred by time and nostalgia, are of blacks and whites together at social events, at parties, in sports but not in the honors academic track which then existed in high schools. It did not lead us into more integrated adult lives. If anything, many of our lives are now less so.
In the fall of 1954, after the Supreme Court decision, Harold Draughn moved from a segregated black elementary school to an integrated junior high.
"I lived in an integrated neighborhood and went from one school to the next. It really wasn't any great transition."
Draughn, now manager of the Central Avenue Post Office, recalls high school as being "like a middle of an hourglass," a fleeting moment of integration and calm in the city's public schools.
"We always partied together -- Ed Greenberg, Norman Cohen and Alan Wise. We all lived in the same neighborhood [Riggs Park]. We played ball together. We got along together.
"A lot of people say to me, 'You never experienced what we experienced. You don't really know how bad things were.' Maybe I don't."
After high school, there was a football scholarship to Pitt and then a knee injury bad enough to end his athletic career but not to keep him out of the Army during the Veitnam buildup. He remembers the bus caravan from downtown draft board to the Baltimore induction center. His bus was filled with young men form Riggs Park, almost all of them black.
"All the guys you went to school with weren't there. That when I first started realizing that things were totally different than what I had been exposed to."
Jerome Powell and Mel Levinson formed a group called the Collegians. Powell sang and Levinson played the sax. Levinson is now in the lamp business and living in Potomac. For Powell, music has remained his life. He has been with Gene Donati's band since 1973 singing at Chip Carter's birthday party and at fund-raisers for the president.
"My biggest thing is to get into the recording business," Powell said. It's a matter of being in the right place at the right time, but I am determined to make it."
Jackie Wilson ("Lonely Ear Drops") remains his idol, and as he remarked:
"Fame and fortune was my goal. I didn't realize it would take this long -- all those sleepless nights. As I got older I accepted it.That's what I want to do."
He remembers the late 1950s and early '60s as "good years," even though some color barriers remained. He explains the contradiction with the recollection that "we go along" in school and that for kids like himself "there where jobs to fall back on."
There were also, in 1960, different aspirations for men and women.
"We were on a program," said phylis getz eisen, now a public-interest lobbyist. "It included college, but something safe like education. Then we were supposed to get married, move to the suburbs and have children."
In her case, the program did not go according to plan. She never felt comfortable or happy as a suburban housewife. Now separated and raising three daughters, she is running the immigration programs for the Zero Population Growth office.
She says the television comedies about the fun of single parenting are nonsense, that it is grueling work, especially when combined with a job that requires a lot of traveling.
But she asserts with no hesitation: "I have never been happier in my life."
"My life," said Linda Newman Freedman, "turned out to be what I expected. It is lovely."
She has a master's in social work, was a therapist at several hospitals and clinics, married a local boy who became a lawyer and is raising two children in Potomac.
"We are in between," she said. "I am not sure what I am going to do the next 10 years. Women older than us would be involved in organizations. Women 10 years younger than us would have gone to medical school and become doctors."
"I pretty much aimed for what I wanted," said Francine Gordon Levinson, "and I got it." We were talking after the opening of the First Women's Bank of Maryland, of which she is a director. She was invited to be on the board because of the contacts she has built up over years of fund-raising. At one recent Israel Bonds dinner, she helped raise $36 million.
After three years of organizing the bank, she is looking for something new.
"I feel a bit of the old and the new," remarked Joan Margolius Cibel.
"In the old days mothers stayed at home with their kids. I want to do something, but until the kids get a little older I should still be at home."
Recently married, she ran a jewerly business out of her home for the first two years after her separation, at the same time she was raising two sons. After that, she managed a restaurant.
"That was like going back into single life. You worked all day and night because the help never showed up."
That was too many hours and too much time away from the children. She returned to doing what she enjoys best, charity work and being with people.
"We've gone through a lot," she said. "Every year something different was going on in my life. Who know what's going to happen?"
Dorothy Aein Canter, the valevictorian, managed to do it all -- marriage and children, a master's and PhD in biochemistry and a career, although she is only now taking on a full-time workload at the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The conversation darts quickly from toxicology testing to car pools to take the boys to their soccer matches and on to politics (she loved J.F.K., interviewed him once on "Youth Wants to Know" but does not think much of Ted Kennedy).
She dismisses with a self-deprecating laugh and a two-word riposte ("wonder woman") the suggestion that she took on the role of "super woman" long before it had become a cliche. "It was expected."
Harry Burchette wanted to play professional baseball but realized soon after high school that even his .500 batting average would not stand up to major-league pitching. Instead, he became a high-school basketball coach and physical education teacher in Montgromery County.
Teaching, he says, can be rewarding and exciting. Coaching was another matter.
"My problem was that I didn't keep up with the times. I'm not used to making explanations to parents or anyone else."
Neither the kids nor their parents could accept the idea that in a 23-team division, not every team can be champion every year, or that with a 12-man squad, seven plays have to sit on the bench.
"A lot of coaches still have the enthusiam," Burchette remarked. "I am turned off by my experiences here. I was forced out. I was spending more time worrying about the parents than about coaching."
He grew up consumed by sports, but now he says, "I hope my kids stay away from it and become students first."
Fred Morhart, whose family once owned the farm land that became the row houses off Van Buren Street, became a history teacher at Taft Junior High in 1966. As he recalled, there were many poor kids in the Northeast Washington school but no problem with discipline.
He remembers the Friday morning after Martin Luther King's assassination, the kids in a state of shock and then the spreading of the word by radio of the looting downtown. The school was closed, and Morhart told his class:
"Keep in mind that you have to live with whatever you do today for the rest of your life."
Some black colleagues escorted him to his car. Driving home, he saw the smoke billowing from the city.
He stayed at Taft another year and a half, even though, as he said, "things were kind of disintegrating . . . Therewas more random destruction." What finally drove him out was a series of fires set in the halls and lockers. Now he teaches in Fairfax County.
Only one of our group ended up in the Peace Corps. There were perhaps two or three dozen in the peace marches. One of our few true '60s people is Ogden White, a Presbyterian minister in the Cleveland suburbs. As a seminarian he was with Martin Luther King in voting rights and open housing marches in Louisville. In 1971, a year after the National Guardsmen shot the students, White took a ministry at Kent, Ohio, and worked with the kids in the antiwar movement.
"I really was a child of the '60s, but I found myself at Kent in 1971 as a moderating influence."
For the last three years he has been with a conservative suburban congregation, and they have been getting used to each other.
Now, he says, "I feel good about my work here.
"Every once in a while, I get nostalgic and feel the need for a good hot social justice issue, but at other times I am glad it is quite. I am now willing to deal more with the near at hand than the far away."
By 1971, Tom Cabarga was finishing a doctoral degree in comparative literature at Chapel Hill, but "I decided to chuck it."
Through his studies he had become acquainted wtih Zen. The war and what he saw around him pushed him further. He and his then-wife headed for San Francisco. He is now assistant manager and bookkeeper at a shop that makes meditation mats, and he lives with nine other Zen communards in an Victorian house on Haight Street. He has spent 15 months at the Zen monastery in the Carmel Valley but even so insists, "I am not real gung-ho or what you would call a good Zen student.
"I know what I am doing, which is certainly an advance for me over 10 years ago."
Ed Greenberg, our only three-sport letterman, went to college expecting to be a doctor. But caught up in the "naive idealism" of the Kennedy years, he switched to political science and pursued a doctorate at the University of Wisconsin. In that center of activism, he found himself moving further and further left.
"There was a critical moment, somewhere in 1968 or '69, amid all the stuff that was going on. I was getting ready to teach a class. There were all my notes from graduate school, and they made no sense at all. I decided to re-educate myself."
From that process emerged a prolific Marxist political science of the new generation who has written or edited six books and collection of essays and monographs. But at Stanford, where he went to teach, there was a political housecleaning, and he was out of a job. He is now at the University of Colorado and hoping his next books will crack a wider audience.
The combination of intensity and charm that lifted Avrom Bendavid to the heights of junior high school politics still brew more that 20 years later. A career in development economics has taken him to Israel, Thailland, and Holland. He has been not only of his times but occasionally ahead of them. A decade ago he warned that economic development meant forcing social change on his World, a heretical view that forced him out of the profession for a time. With the collapse of Iran's forced him out of the profession for a time. With the collapse of Iran's forced modernization, his heresy quickly became conventional wisdom.
Among the first to marry (a younger classmate, Leah Val) and have children while still in college, he adapted 10 years later to the women's movement. They both use the name Bendavid-Val.
They returned to Washington from their overseas stints and felt like they were coming back to a foreign city. After a restless year in the suburbs, they moved into town and enrolled their children in the public schools. They kept them there even after their oldest son described how someone pulled a pistol in the Wilson High School cafeteria.
The past 20 years, he says, have been a rehearsal for what is coming, perhaps even economic disaster. And he adds, "I am secretly looking forward to playing a part in it.
"We have had a lot of opportunity to obtain wisdom in that 20-year period. We have had an incredible cram course in life."
When the rest of use were partying on Friday nights, rich Hindin was collecting from his gum-ball machines in the neighborhood stores. In 1966, with a $3,000 investment, he and davis pensy, ayounger schoolmate, opened the Georgetown Slack Shop. The first Britches of Georgetowne" opened a year later. They caught the peacock revolution, offered Washington men an alternative between Brooks Brothers and department-store drab and role the crest of a local economic boom to a 14-store, two-city operation.
In 1967, Nick Rebro was supporting a wife and baby in a Takoma Park apartment on $110 a week from a daytime job at a bank and a nighttime job pumping gas. To earn some extra money, he bought a pickup truck and began doing part-time moving. That one truck enterprise has become Matthew Moving, now affiliated with Allied Van Lines. There are 19 trucks, 55 employes in the peak summer season and a warehouse. And instead of the Takoma apartment, the family lives on 2 1/4 acres in Potomac. There's a swimming pool off the living room and a horse in the neighbor's pasture.
Jeff Gildenhorn is the son and grandson of liquor store owners, but, as he says, "I am the only one of my generation still in retailing."
He took over the family store on Connecticut Avenue when his father died. He tripled the business by moving across the street and catching the homebound suburban traffic. He was among the first to realize Washingtonians were trading up from Bourbon to Bordeaux and began promoting wine. The liquor store is now part of a chain of enterprises dominating the 5500 block of Connecticut Avenue.
For Jeff's cousin, Stan Gildenhorn, there are inscribed photos from J.F.K. and Robert Kennedy on the walls of his house in Potomac, along with campaign posters from 1960. That year he was a messenger at Kennedy's national headquarters. After the election, there was a job as an assistant to Larry O'Brien at the Democratic Committee and the White House.
And then there was that warm November afternoon, driving to work in a daze, trying to make sense of the radio bulletins, past the weeping police guards and Secret Service men.
"I don't think I'll ever recover from that. I live with that day every day of my life."
In 1968, he was an organizer of Robert Kennedy's Maryland campaign. There were also a series of losing efforts in the state, from Carlton Sickles to Lanny Davis. His first recent winner was Congressman Mike Barnes.
You ask where he finds the tenacity to keep on plugging after all that.
"One setback is not the entire ballgame. Politics is always changing. It is fascinating to watch the flow."
And even if Ted Kennedy were faring better, he notes, things would not become as they were. "We have to make sure we're not overstating what can be done . . . There won't be a Camelot."