Press-Republican

August 28, 2013

PHS class of 1948 celebrates

BEN ROWE
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — As high-school seniors of 2013 start life after graduation, a different type of senior class met recently to share where life had already taken them.

Thirteen members of the Plattsburgh High School class of 1948 gathered at Anthony’s Restaurant and Bistro to mark 65 years since their graduation and reflect on their time as Plattsburgh Hornets.

In 1948, Harry Truman was president, and Doris Day’s “It’s Magic” was a huge hit. Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in India, and the United States rallied to provide food and supplies to West Berlin when the USSR blockaded access to the city.

ATHLETIC STARS

Yet far from West Germany, the Plattsburgh Hornets were enjoying a series of “brilliant successes,” recalled alumnus Richard “Dick” Harrell in an email.

The Plattsburgh High School football team celebrated its first-ever undefeated season in 1947, the Press-Republican reported then. 

That same year marked the fourth-consecutive North Country League Championship for the school’s baseball team.  

The Hornets basketball team, led by coach Francis “Bud” Miller, would end the 1947-48 season with a record of 19-1 and the North Country League Championship. 

At a 1948 track meet, Plattsburgh pole vaulter John Bergman set a new Section VII record of 48 feet, a distance that would stand for nearly a decade before being broken in 1956.

‘I COULDN’T HIT’

Harrell played junior varsity football and was manager of the baseball team. 

“(Unfortunately I couldn’t hit),” he wrote.

But he bragged some about alumnus Bob Parker of Saranac, who was a three-letter star in football, basketball and baseball. 

And John Clarke, who was class president and now lives in Keeseville, also was a football and baseball standout.

Both attended the recent event.

WORLD WAR II

The students who graduated in 1948 experienced World War II on the home front during their school years, something Harrell recalled as emotionally defining for the class.

“Stars indicating active service people in the armed services hung in thousands of windows in Plattsburgh and the surrounding North Country,” he wrote in an email, “and then from time to time, news of an overseas death or the return of a wounded survivor would sadden all of us and remind us how small the world had become.”

PEN TO PAPER

The gathering at Anthony’s was the fifth time the class had held a reunion since their first in 1993.

That event was organized by alumnus Rieta Blossom of Plattsburgh, who explained that although their busy lives had separated them over the years, she felt it important to make sure they still found time to meet face to face.

“I think, nowadays, people don’t converse like they used to; it’s all sort of a separate thing, and I grew up in an era where families and people got together,” she said.

Though the senior classes of 2013 are more likely to turn to Facebook and other modern technology to help them keep in touch, Class of 1948 valedictorian Ronald Jennett said he and his peers tend to use more traditional methods of staying connected.

“We do send letters and, at Christmastime, lots of Christmas cards,” said the Fort Worth, Texas, man.

As far as keeping in touch over the Internet, Clarke explained that he spends more time arguing with his computer than using it to send email.

The comment drew knowing laughs from many of his classmates, who agreed that they still found it quicker to put pen to paper than keystrokes to emails.

FAMILIAR FACES

After graduation, some of the class of ‘48 stayed local; others ended up as far away as Maine and Colorado.

For Harrell, life after graduation sent him traveling as far as Japan and Great Britain while working for Xerox and Canon.  

Since then, he has settled in Florida, but he still enjoys returning to Plattsburgh to hear new stories and see familiar faces.

“Especially when you see how old everybody looks,” Harrell said jokingly at the reunion.

‘MORE MEANINGFUL’

Age and aging were common topics of discussion at the event.  

A tradition for past reunions was to invite a former teacher, but the passage of time has thinned the ranks of staff that taught the class of 1948. 

Yet even 65 years later, alumni still speak fondly of their faculty and continue to refer to them by their “classroom names,” such as Mr. Cooper and Ms. Douglas.

The guest list for reunions is getting smaller.

Of the 88 who graduated from PHS in 1948, 37 have died; and a number were not physically able to make the trip this year.

Some at the reunion wondered if there would be a celebration to mark 70 years.

Yet while Blossom mourns the death of each of her classmates, she said losing them makes her appreciate being active enough herself to attend the reunions and still have the chance to meet with old friends.

“You’re thankful that you can do it, and that’s why I think it’s more meaningful,” she said.