What made us newsworthy as the Mamaroneck High School Class of 1969? As we get ready for our 40th reunion on October 9-11, the word that comes to mind is “Why?”
This was a class that was always asking, “Why?”
“Why are we in Vietnam?”
“Why is the war escalating?”
Or, “Why is it called the Vietnam War? If no one ever officially declared war, shouldn’t it be the Vietnam Conflict?’
When the answer to “why” was “The Domino Theory,” we questioned that too – and were assigned 500-word reports to find our own answer.
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We questioned the rules and regulations, too. “Why can’t girls wear pants to school?” (Many of us walked a mile or more each day, legs freezing below our mini-skirts.) We were denied the privilege, but we made our point: a year after our graduation, girls won the right to wear jeans to school.
“Why can’t we leave high school grounds for lunch?” This was also denied, but because we questioned, students soon were allowed to leave campus for lunch – as they still do.
Many of us in the Class of ’69 entered college; some drove off to Haight-Ashbury on motorcycles, psychedelic VW buses, or old cars to pursue alternative lifestyles. Others worked to save enough money for travel and adventure through Europe or across the United States. One classmate, who began a trip around the world with her best friend, fell in love with Hawaii – and her future husband. She stayed there, married, raised 3 children, and never left.
Some of us married young, others married late, and several not at all. Many had children in their 20s, others in their late-30s or early 40s, while others had children whether they were married or not. Some of us entered full-time work, while others shirked society and traditional roles, preferring to experiment with our new-found freedom by entering alternative religions or communes, or living in exotic locations, often earning a day-to-day living by creating stained glass, one-of-a-kind candles, leather bags and belts, or other accoutrements popular with hippies and tourists.
What makes us newsworthy in 2009? Well, nothing quite as dramatic as the late-60s. Naturally we’re older and, hopefully, wiser – nothing radical or unique there. We’ve faced the usual issues adults must deal with – raising our children with loving care and, to the best of our ability. As adults, we’ve enjoyed good and bad economies, faced the loss of parents, spouses, siblings, suffered the horror of 9-11, and questioned U.S. involvement in other conflicts abroad; some of us remained to the left, some to the right. Some are successful; others struggle with job loss, divorce, or poor health. Many classmates look exactly the same.
There is no simple answer to what makes us newsworthy in 2009.
Our class had a great 20th reunion, a terrific 30th, and now we look forward to seeing our classmates for our 40th. We continue to share a common bond, our memories of growing up during radically changing times, and how we coped with universal teenage issues. Like most teens, we were just trying to find our way and to learn who we were as we grew up together. We began making statements with our clothes or hair, but at the bottom of it all, we wanted to be liked and accepted, not embarrassed or shunned. We share these memories and experiences as adults, and can laugh about it now with a new perspective.
No, we’re not newsworthy now, but the Class of 1969 was unique because we made a difference.
Barbara Neumann-Beals is a member of the Class of 1969 Reunion Committee.