The last time they were together, in 1935, Franklin and Eleanor occupied the White House, Hitler was a distant rumble and the Great Depression had fallen on the land.
But at Hyattsville High School, in those days, concerns were less cosmic and more personal.
Would the school's best baritone, George Greer, topple Bing Crosby with his own version of "Thanks"?
Would Lavinia Haydon overcome her fierce hatred of "that smart aleck," George Franklin?
Would best friends Carol Hardy and Evelyn Byrd catch pneumonia from walking home barefoot in the snow after hot-footing it at the school dance?
"Oh, we were innocent then," said St. Petersburg, Fla., resident Georgia Groves Lane last Friday night, as she and about 55 other members of the Hyattsville class of '35 gathered at the University of Maryland for their first reunion in 50 years.
They squinted at each others' name tags and hugged old friends, laughed about the teachers they had dreaded and the principals they'll never forget. They marveled at what seemed in retrospect a sweet, simple teen-age time.
Lane, who had been voted the prettiest girl in the class and who went on to become Miss Maryland 1937, recalled: "We didn't have the atomic bomb. We didn't have this pressure. We didn't have drugs. Why, we didn't even smoke. Stanley Bowers used to go out behind a tree and we'd look out the window and say, 'That tree's on fire.' "
They are 67 or 68 now, and many are grandparents and great-grandparents. While most live in this area, some have scattered from New Hampshire to California. They have witnessed the civil rights movement, the equal rights movement, the space age, the computer age, and the arms race. They say that nothing surprises them now.
"Has any generation seen more change than ours?" asked Debby Keister Emory, a retired commodity industry analyst who lives in Silver Spring.
"We seem to have lasted," said master of ceremonies Richard Belland, a Silver Spring resident who is semiretired as a free-lance artist. "This class went through high school during the Depression and then we were hit by World War II, but we're survivors, we're hale and hearty."
Belland, by virtue of his sharp pen and wit, was known as the class character.
"I was always in trouble because of my caricatures," he said.
A favorite target was the principal, J. A. Miller, a stern taskmaster with a five o'clock shadow and strict ideas about the appearance and behavior of his charges.
"Professor Miller had a fetish about shoeshines," said Frank Wilson of Riverdale, a retired salesman and one of the reunion organizers.
"One time I was walking down the hall and somebody threw a football at me," Belland remembered. "Well, what was I supposed to do? I caught it. Professor Miller came along and thought I was playing football in school.
"He kicked me in the seat and drove me 20 feet down the hall. I was sprawled all over the place. Then, a teacher could do that, no questions. Nowadays, a kid'll lay on the floor and call an ambulance.
"But you know, we were pretty well-disciplined then. We didn't know any better."
For fun, they went to see Ginger Rogers movies. They gathered around the piano at the home of the Haydon girls, June and Lavinia, and sang "Little Brown Jug" and "Stormy Weather" and "You Made Me Love You." They played "Detective," a game involving lights out, a feigned murder and the collection of clues. They waltzed and they jitterbugged.
George Greer, the baritone, starred in his own radio show on Washington station WOL and, by senior year, was crooning with a 10-piece orchestra. Later he owned a restaurant; today he lives in College Park and has a liquor store.
Lavinia Haydon had a change of heart about George Franklin, decided he was a nice fellow after all, and married him. "Around the house in Urbanna, Va. , we dance yet," she said.
The class of 1935 includes William Baldwin, manager of the Washingtonian Country Club's golf and pro shop; Harry Black, who has retired from the D.C. police force; Audrey Walker Harrison, controller and vice president of Davis Memorial Goodwill Industries; Jeannette Padgett Switzer, retired assistant vice president of Perpetual American Savings and Loan Association; Edith Meredith Bagot, formerly a librarian with Prince George's County; Debby Keister Emory, a retired commodity industry analyst with the U.S. International Trade Commission -- and others who have been teachers, secretaries, printers, editors, engineers, bricklayers, housewives and nurses.
Seventeen of their classmates have died; 17 others could not be located. Most of those who came to the reunion are retired.
"There are no real wealthy, illustrious types among us, no multimillionaires," said Francis (Frank) Wilson, a part-time purchasing agent who lives in Riverdale. "But we all turned out to be real nice people."
And some of them, even a half-century later, apply lessons they learned at Hyattsville High.
"We had a Professor K. J. Morris who always said a particular thing," recalled Carol Hardy, a retired legal secretary from Silver Spring. "His motto was: 'It can be done and you can do it.' I'm a big golfer, and to this day I'll find myself standing over a putt, saying to myself, 'It can be done and you can do it.' "