By Mike Morsch, Executive Editor
Vicki Mack’s classmates threatened to have her lead them in a cheer at their class reunion. After all, Ms. Mack had been captain of the varsity cheerleading team at Hightstown High School her senior year.
But she put a stop to all that cheerleading talk, and quickly.
“I said, after 50 years, forget that!” said Ms. Mack, a Cranbury native.
That was only one of memorable and lighthearted exchanges during the 50th reunion weekend of the Hightstown High School Class of 1966, held Sept. 9-11.The class has the distinction of being the first graduating class from what was then the new Hightstown High School.
What is now Grace N. Rogers Elementary School on Stockton Street in Hightstown was the high school for many from that era. Construction on the new high school began in the early 1960s and was completed in the fall of 1965.
When students — who came from Hightstown, East Windsor, Cranbury and Monroe Township then — came back from Christmas break in January 1966, they were in a brand new school.
Six months later, the Class of 1966 graduated 168 seniors. But not everybody was pleased with the new digs at the time.
“Most of my memories are with the old high school. I was not too happy moving over,” said Ms. Mack. “It was supposed to be ready in September (1965) and it wasn’t. We didn’t move in until after the Christmas break. So it was a very short time to get acclimated to the new school.”
The Class of 1966 had previous reunions, but members wanted to do something special for the 50th.
Mindy Berman, a retired teacher from East Windsor who ended up teaching in the Rogers School building — her old high school — for 20 years, spearheaded the planning committee for the reunion. She was the senior class president in 1966.
“I was the first girl ever elected to that office,” said Ms. Berman. “We were a very forward-looking class.”
A committee of 17 people started the planning about 15 months in advance of the reunion. Past reunions had been a one-and-done dinner and visiting event last about four hours, but the committee wanted something more this time.
“So we decided we were going to spread it out over a whole weekend, kind of like a homecoming,” said Ms. Berman.
The weekend began on Friday, Sept. 9, with a tour of Hightstown High School, led in part by Principal Dennis M. Vinson Jr. About 40 members of the Class of 1966 took the tour. That evening, an informal gathering at the Town Diner attracted around 50 classmates.
Saturday morning, there was a tour of the old high school — Rogers School. Ms. Berman served as tour guide for that because she had spent so many years there as a teacher.
The big event was Saturday night at Forsgate, which was attended by 89 people — 64 of those were classmates with their rest being spouses and partners.
On Sunday morning, there was a goodbye brunch at the Holiday Inn in East Windsor.
A special memento created for the event was a 50th commemorative reunion book. Class member Steve Goodman, a retired graphic designer and also the editor of the 1966 yearbook, volunteered to put it together, which he was able to do in a few days once all the information and photos had been gathered.
The world of desktop publishing has changed everything,” said Mr. Goodman. “If I had to put the reunion book together the same way we put together our senior yearbook, it would have taken me weeks and weeks.”
The technology advancements over the past 50 years also played a critical role in the planning of the event.
“The remarkable thing is that we did the entire thing on social media. For about a year, the planning committee was communicating with people, collecting email addresses, finding out if they were on Facebook,” said Ms. Berman. “We did nothing by mail, except there were about 10 classmates who confessed to me that they did not even have a computer in their homes. It was the envelope-and-stamp route for them.
“But the social media connection that we had really helped us all break the ice. We had already gotten to know one another again this past year on Facebook and through emails. It was wonderful,” said Ms. Berman.
And the extended weekend of activities also gave classmates more of a chance to reconnect and get to know each other better.
“I think the general consensus was, boy I wish I had really spent more time with this person in high school. What a great guy, what a great gal. We just didn’t know each other then, we hadn’t grown up yet,” said Ms. Berman.
Ms. Berman added that it was easy for classmates to “fit back together” after five decades of living lives separately. And she’s reminded that a lot of history has happened since the Class of 1966 christened the new high school as its first graduating class.
“President Kennedy was assassinated when we were sophomores in 1963 and we watched in horror on TV the attacks on people in the south during the civil rights movement protests,” said Ms. Berman. “We graduated into the Vietnam War era when so many of our generation were thrown into an incomprehensible conflict and others took to the streets in protest. We lived through the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the upheaval in the streets across the country in the wake of that horrible event.
“We all lived through that time and through good and bad of life events in the 1980s, 1990s and the early 2000s and came out at the end of it still sharing friendship. I’d say, that is the most remarkable of all,” she said.
By Mike Morsch, Executive Editor