My 50th High School Reunion, Part I: Expectations


This weekend, Woody and I will be heading south for my 50th high school reunion.


Thanks to, for the image.


I am a proud graduate of East Orange High School (New Jersey), which  also claims Bette Davis, Dionne Warwick, and (I just learned, researching this post) Janis Ian.  I also learned Janis Ian is three years younger than I.  Was she a freshman when I was a senior?

More importantly, should that have been “… three years younger than me?”  I was taught to “fill out the phrase;” this is one of those “I am” cases.  I could rewrite it as, “I am three years older than Janis Ian.” That would solve the dilemma.  But no. I’ll leave it as it is and get back to my high school reunion.

Expectation #1:  I’ll try to find out if Janis Ian was walking the halls the same year I was.


Thanks to for the image.


It’s probably traditional to get a hair cut or buy a new outfit for the occasion.  I’ll not do either.  I’m not sure why.  Could be that inner-Scot again keeping me frugal.  There’s also my word for the year:  enough. So, I’ll  just pack a few things in an overnight case, and head out.  And I’m really excited.

I remember a few of my classmates very fondly.  And I am very eager to let them know that.

I remember tough teachers, high standards, lots of extra-curricular opportunities, and the fact that no one EVER teased me about my stutter.  And I’m curious how that can be.

EXPECTATION #2: I’ll get reacquainted with some very nice people.

The high school I attended was in a building built in 1911.


Some time in the 1960s, an addition was built, which housed my science and chemistry classrooms. Mr Van Gilder taught science. His blackboard sketch of the four chambers of the heart —  Two of them connected to the lungs, the other two dealing with the rest of the body — remains fixed in my brain.   Why is that?

I don’t recall my chemistry teacher except that he was opposed to the newly introduced fluoride in the water supply.  And he gave me 200% for a paper I did on air pollution.  I still have that paper.


EXPECTATION #3:  We’ll sit around and reminisce about the teachers we recall, fondly.

That’s three more expectations than I had when I set out to write this post.


How about you.  What would your expectations be for such a weekend?  


Thanks to for the image.


13 Responses

  1. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    Fabulous! I predict your points 2 and 3 will happen at your reunion as it did at mine.

    An oddity: I imagined sitting at a table with my college-prep classmates. (Remember “track” classes?) Instead the 4-5 students I had known since first grade gathered at my table, fine by me.

    You are right to use “younger than I” so “am” would follow. Just saying . . .

    I expect a sequel to this. Right?

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thank Marian. And yes, of course. Part II will begin to buzz sometime Sunday afternoon I imagine. (Expectation #4)


  2. Ian Mathie
    | Reply

    I’ve never been back since I left school, except once when I landed an RAF plane on their playing fields as a demonstration for the cadet corps. But that was over 50 years ago. Cant think of a reason for going back now and don’t need a reunion to keep touch with those who have remained friends over the years.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Over the years, I too never imagined I’d want to go back. My social world in those years revolved around my church friends, not my school ones (with a few exceptions). But something happened over the past few years, Ian. It’s called Facebook. Suddenly these are real people — as real as they can be through a computer monitor. I’m curious to learn if they’ll even remember me — or how. Maybe it’s merely another way of learning about myself, my adolescent high school aged self. Perhaps that’s the pull. I’ll know more in a week. Stay tuned.

      • Ian Mathie
        | Reply

        Curiously enough I’ve only found two people I knew at school on Facebook, and one I’ve been in regular contact with over the years anyway. For the other, I only found a Facebook link after I discovered and read his book about chimpanzees.
        Clearly the rest of my schoolmates were boring or unadventurous, but then living alone in the African bush is possibly not the best way to hang onto school friends.

  3. Merril Smith
    | Reply

    I hope you have a wonderful time, Janet.
    I haven’t been to any of my high school reunions. If I did go, I’d definitely get a hair cut and new outfit. 🙂 I’m with Marian, and I also will expect a follow up post.

    I’ve heard some great interviews with Janis Ian–they also lived in S. Jersey for a while. Several years ago, we saw her in a concert in a small coffee house. It was the best concert I’ve ever been to. We have a signed poster of her from that day.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I think learning about Janis Ian has already started this weekend off on a high. (Though I learned this morning that Woody has never heard of her. He’s a Bach fan; never much into popular stuff.) My list of “things I must do before I go” beckons. Btw, I’m noticing I’m starting to think of things in a more poetic manner. Perhaps I’ll take a stab at a poem soon.

  4. Sharon Lippincott
    | Reply

    One thing that struck me at my fiftieth was the way people who wouldn’t give me the time of day back then were acting like we’d were best friends. Huh? That definitely did make the occasion more fun, but it felt sort of strange. It was like meeting strangers at any event, except that weekend I had the chance to turn loose resentment and realize we’d all been who we were, the best teens we knew how to be.

    The people I most wanted to see didn’t show up.

    The town’s appearance has changed almost as much as my classmates. Disturbing! The school we attended has been completely rebuilt, except for the auditorium and music rooms I most loved. They are shabby! But we could not walk our old halls. The place feels like a college campus now, not LAHS High.

    I especially enjoyed a visit with the toddler who lived next door on Walnut Street. She was a flower girl at our wedding and still lives in the family home. She took us hiking in “my” canyon. Which has also drastically changed with fire prevention measures.

    Another highlight was more or less sprinting up to what we called the Ceremonial Cave in Bandelier National Monument and climbing up two steep ladders to stand in that magnificent cliffside bubble. I had to climb like a monkey to avoid third degree burns from the hot rails. I made it. Up and back. Round trip back to the Visitor Center in 40 minutes. No small achievement, even when I was a kid, and especially at 7000 feet for a sea level resident. Every fiber of muscle in my body was sore the next day.

    I’m glad I went to my 50th, and glad I did not buy a new outfit — why should I? Nobody there had seen any of my clothes. But I won’t be going back to others if they should happen. I did not feel connected at all. Facebook rocks.

  5. Janet Givens
    | Reply

    I know what you mean. In researching East Orange High School for this post, I learned the building was torn down in the early 2000s to make way for a “Cycile Tyson School of Performing Arts.” AND, I learned that the ranking for the current EOHS is really, REALLY bad. Sad. I had such a great basic education there. My guidance counselors didn’t steer me well, but that’s my only complaint. I was very naive about how to choose a college. C’est la vie. (And so it goes).

    I enjoyed hearing about your school, Sharon. I’m glad you went back.

  6. Pamela
    | Reply

    What a surprise when I read that your high school reunion is in East Orange NJ. Both of my parents graduated from East Orange High School! (Many years before you.) They both lived in East Orange NJ and met in high school. Married as soon as my dad returned from his service in WWII. A small world. They have/had great memories of their time at EO HS. 🙂

    • Janet
      | Reply

      I’m delighted to learn that, Pamela. Turns out my husband’s father was also an EOHS grad. I’m thinking late 1920s, but I’m not sure. He grew up on North Munn Ave. I love “small world” stories.

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