It was Shirley Brown King who spied Marlene Carpenter first, picking her from among dozens of alumni who filled the corridors of the old Hoffman-Boston school.

The women, both graduates of the class of 1963, each let out a whoop, locked in an embrace and settled down for some serious reminiscing, until the conversation took a sensitive turn.

"We were playing field hockey," said King, an administrative assistant for a health maintenance organization in the Washington area. "There we were, running around the field with our hockey sticks, when Marlene decides she's going to play golf instead. She swung and hit me smack in the mouth. Knocked my tooth right out."

The story was told much to Carpenter's chagrin, but ended amid peals of laughter and tear-stained cheeks for both women.

So went the afternoon at a gathering of more than 500 former students of the all-black Hoffman-Boston Junior and Senior High School, now the site of an adult education program and a Montessori preschool class.

On Saturday, the walls of the South Queen Street building were bedecked with the old school colors of blue and gold.

It was the first reunion at the school since its closing.

In 1916, Arlington County opened Hoffman-Boston as a grade school for blacks. In the 1940s it became a junior and senior high school; the junior high was discontinued in 1951.

The school closed in 1964 under a court-ordered desegregation plan sending most of the students to Wakefield High School on South Chesterfield Road.

Most of those returning for the reunion came from the metropolitan area, and for many former students who live in South Arlington, the journey back to their school days required only a short walk in their Arlington View neighborhood.

There were some titters as alumni looked with incredulity from the pages of old graduation programs and high school yearbooks diplayed in the hallway to the slighty grayer, somewhat more plump incarnations standing before them.

Some of the former students, such as Ruth Wood Burton, class of 1924, boasted of entire families who had attended the school. Most of Burton's 15 children, she said, are alumni.

Despite the rich oral history related by its alumni, much of the school's past remains sketchy.

"We don't have a lot of history about our school," said Earlene Brevard Dixon, one of the reunion organizers. "That's one of the goals of this reunion. We're trying to bring some of it back."

Pearl Holmes, who started at the school in 1918, and her friend, Emma L. Veney, who entered in 1911, offered some details.

In the old days, they said, it was known as the Jefferson School, a two-room building without running water or indoor toilets. Potbellied stoves provided a little heat in the winter.

The school later was named for Ella Boston and Edward C. Hoffman, principals at the area's all-black elementary and high school, respectively.

As happy as they were to see former classmates, the alumni seemed especially overwhelmed to see their old teachers again.

"I was the one-person business department," said Gwendolyn Griffin, a teacher at the school between 1941 and 1964. "I taught typing, shorthand and beginning data processing."

Mabel Best Sumners, class of 1958, was one of her students. "That was my start back then, those typing and steno classes," said Sumners, who has worked as a secretary for 25 years.

Golden Linkins Lightfoot, a home economics teacher, taught at the school between 1954 and 1964. "We had fashion shows, talked about child development, personal grooming, had beauty clinics, menu planning," Linkins said. "It was a lot of fun, and a whole lot of learning went on."

Bernard Lee, class of 1942, was one of two graduates from the high school's first graduating class.

"It was good and bad back in those days," he said. "We didn't have a gym, so we took the bottom out of a bushel and hung it up when we wanted to play basketball."

Like many of the other graduates, Lee, a retired repairman with Washington Gas Light Co., had mixed feelings about the integration that caused the school's closing. Today, he said, teachers don't take enough time and interest in black students to motivate or discipline them.

"Nowadays, you do something wrong and they just throw you out of school. That's like putting a rabbit in a briar patch," he said. "Back then, if you acted up, they had a strap or a stick on you."

A buffet, replete with mountains of fried chicken and potato salad, followed a program of song, announcements and prayer.

"I may not know who she is any more when I see her," Evelyn Shepard, class of 1955, commented to an alumnus as she bit into a drumstick, "but I sure do recognize her cooking."