I guess we’re really gonna do it.
After former high school classmate Jim Bishop and I exchanged emails last week, I checked the roster. Although the message informed me of the death of one of our classmates, there are quite a few of us still alive. Only two have maintained a residence in Palo Alto. And one of them has made a reservation in May 2019, for an event.
At our age, planning something seven months from now is not just optimistic, it’s practically an expression of a belief in immortality.
The event will be the 60th reunion for the 1959 class of Cubberley High School in Palo Alto. Mike Couch probably picked the room at Mitchell Park, that is operated by the city, because everything else in Silicon Valley is too expensive for most people.
If I make it to the sock shuffle (that’s the version of the sock hop that can be expected from those of us who are still ambulatory), I’ll be taking whatever is left of my life in my hands.
The reason? After our 50th reunion, I wrote a column in which I stated that my first impression of the affair was, “Who are all these old people?”
The late Diane (Doxtater) Cox maintained the website at the time, and she put my essay online. I think some of my former classmates took the remark personally. At least that’s what Diane told me when we went to Italy together a couple of years later.
Perspective on age
The significance of the upcoming reunion can be understood if you know that some of my classmates, including myself, were born before World War II. We had already made it through the toddler stage when Dr. Spock wrote “Baby and Child Care,” the iconic tome, published in 1946, which instructed parents on the proper way to raise their kids.
Although generations of American children (and their parents) were influenced by Spock’s doctrines, we pre-Spockers somehow muddled through, despite the fact that we had to deal with the peak of the poliomyelitis (commonly called polio) epidemic of the 1940s and 1950s. Sometimes we’d walk past a house and see a “QUARANTINED” sign affixed to the front door. That could have meant polio, or influenza, or even measles because there was no immunization for many diseases, some of which no longer exist in the United States.
Polio was the disease that crippled Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was President of the United States when we were born. Some children who contracted the disease had to be put into “iron lungs” to help them breath. A vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk was first tested in 1952, and children throughout the country stood in long lines in 1955 to get their first shots after the serum was approved.
There were rumors, started in Pakistan, that the second injection could cause impotence and infertility among male children. So I skipped that shot and took the third injection. In 1961, when the Sabin oral vaccine became available, I took that instead.
Television did not exist when we were young.
Really, there was no television.
The technology had been developed, but the vast majority of people did not have television sets until the 1950s. Then, the typical TV set had a 13” screen and used an external antenna that was set on the roof. The image on the vacuum tube was black and white. And only major cities had three or more channels.
For most people, home entertainment during that time involved the family sitting around the living room and listening to radio. People relied on newspapers for information about what was going on in the world, as well as for announcements about events. Neighborhood movie theaters flourished. Typically, the theater showed two full-length movies, newsreels, and a number of cartoons.
People also entertained themselves with a slew of board games like the classic “Monopoly,” that debuted in the mid-1930s, and “The Game of Life,” “Go To the Head of the Class,” and “Chutes and Ladders,” which were introduced by Milton Bradley in the early 1950’s. And, like board games, most other activities were family-centered.
Our high school was brand new when my classmates enrolled, it having opened in 1956. I transferred in from New York in 1957. The school was built to accommodate the Baby Boom, the first Boomers having been born at the conclusion of World War II. It closed when the last of that cohort of students came to an end in 1979.
However, the structures are still there. The buildings were converted to the Cubberley Community Center because they were located on a land transfer from Stanford University and could not be sold, so the property remains in the possession of the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD). It is leased to non-profit community organizations and serves as the Palo Alto campus of Foothill College (also my alma mater).
In an uncommon display of optimism, I’ve already indicated that I’ll attend. But, being a realist, I’ve suggested that we start inviting other classes to join us.
Because we have the only active website on the Internet for Cubberley reunions, I’d hate to see the tradition come to an end when we are no longer able to hold such functions.
It is undeniable that a number of our classmates have died and more can be expected to die as the years go by. Diane, who lived in Atlanta, had to make a cross-country trip to attend our 50th reunion, and was in much better physical condition than I. She was diagnosed with cancer about four years after we returned from Europe and died after a brief illness. Stuff happens. (I cleaned that up for a family newspaper.) So, I offered a plan to my classmates.
This year, we’ll invite the class of 1960 to join us. Next year, the class of ’61. Then, ’62, and so on. In this way, the memory of Cubberley High School (which was named after Elwood P. Cubberley, Dean of the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University) will live on.
That tradition may be important to future students because the PAUSD projects that the growing population in the area may necessitate reopening the school in 2025.
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Jim Glynn may be contacted at email@example.com.