SPRING VALLEY, N.Y. -- Sixty years ago, when you add 10 years to my high school Class of 1961, just about all of us were from this then-country village a mere 22 miles from New York City but, oh, so far away from urbanity. We were either raised there or lived close enough that we went to elementary and secondary school in the area. Some went to the South and North Main Street buildings, to the Monsey School, to Brick Church, to New Hempstead. Some went to St. Joe’s, the Roman Catholic school. We formed our early friendships, even the beginning of life’s outlook, in these community schools, just as did the kids from the nearby private Lakeside and Happy Valley schools.
After school, on weekends, in the summer, some of us from one school might mix with others from another place, though that was rare. We might play with each other in Memorial Park, on the big swings or the merry-go-round. We might see each other in the original Spring Valley Theatre, 14 cents for admission. But, all in all, we were South Main Street, or North, or Monsey, or Brick Church or St. Joe’s kids or from, whatever school. The bonds formed in our elementary sub communities of greater Spring Valley, itself a relatively small village, would remain with us as we all gathered in September 1957 in the first Spring Valley Junior High School.
That one year of ninth grade gave us a moment to meet new friends, keep the old, grow in our bodies and minds, hearts and souls as this new, bigger, unified class would soon begin high school in the relatively new building on Route 59, in September 1958. For three years we would all face the toughening that was speech class with the wonderful Mr. Scott, as well as the challenges of our math, English, social studies, art, music, industrial arts, business, phys ed and other instructors.
We would go to football games in chilly weather, warmed by the joint experience. There would be school dances for some, clubs for many and friendships with the transfer students now arriving in what was becoming suburbia. Many of these students had reluctantly left lifelong neighborhoods and their own high school bonding but quickly became part of what was to be fully cast in three years’ time as the Class of 1961, Spring Valley High School.
Now that class, my class, the class of gathered Monsey elementary students, St. Joe’s kids, Brick Church, from wherever, is planning its half-century reunion August 13 at the Marriott in Park Ridge, N.J. (for information, visit www.50thsvhsclass61.com). Now, not all of us want to go back, especially 50 years. Some may say that it was in elementary school where they formed ties, not SVHS. Others may fence-sit, indecisive about the reunion.
I’ll be there, and I hope many of my classmates will come. You will notice that I do not write “former classmates.” We can never be that, just as servicemen and women who are once together in an experience of growth and emotion can never be ex-comrades. The moment -- and it is just a brief one -- that is high school is classic in life, as much of an emotional lighting as were your parents, your heroes, your first car, your first love. How much would any of us give for a chance to hold hands with any of that again, even for just a few hours before life marches on in certainty and not?