Saturday afternoon and evening I was reunited with people I had not seen in years. The reunion of the Pioneer Central School Class of 1971 was the second of two reunions I have attended this summer. Both reunions were special for different reasons. The first reunion of the summer happened in Olean, New York where I rejoined the Class of 1970 of Archbishop Walsh High School that I attended from 1966-1968. Attending Walsh was a continuation of Catholic education which began in 1957 at a small grammar school that no longer exists. Walsh was 40 miles south of my home and I needed to make a bus trip with forty other youngsters. Participation in extracurricular activities was out of the question for me. The take home bus only came as far north as Franklinville and my father was unwilling to make that trip to fetch me.
In the fall of 1968 I was abruptly removed from Walsh and transferred to Arcade Central School which was right down the street from where I lived. The transfer was traumatic but I was quickly welcomed to the school and unlike the Walsh experience I could participate in extracurricular activities like interscholastic athletics because of our proximity to the school. I tried out for the basketball team in the fall of ’68 and was cut. The coach liked my work ethic and offered me a job as the manager. The tallest member of the team was the manager.
I was taking trigonometry and failing it and almost lost my manager job until I convinced my parents to let me drop the course and retake it later in high school. Trouble with mathematics in high school was anathema for me. I barely passed algebra as a freshman at Walsh. The next year I failed geometry at Walsh and had to attend summer school to pass the course. The decision to drop trigonometry would prove fortuitous and allowed me to slow down a bit and in the process move into the Class of 1971.
Dropping mathematics allowed me to retain my position as manager of the 1969 Arcade Lions varsity basketball team. That team won the Section 5 Class A title vs Spencerport in the then Rochester War Memorial. Our team was honored with a banquet at the Crystal Inn and we all received complementary AM radios from the local Motorola plant with our names engraved on them.
In the fall of 1969 our classes moved to the new school building in Yorkshire. We became the Class of 1971 at Pioneer Central School. There were more new schoolmates to meet. Ironically I was reunited with some of the students I had met at St. Pius X years before. I was able to join the varsity soccer team, Latin club, Key Club, Wind Ensemble. I made the varsity basketball team that year and felt a part of the school class and community that were formed by the merger of Delevan-Machias and Arcade.
Adolescence is a difficult time for everyone. Mine was no exception. It was complicated to an extent by my father whom we later discovered was suffering from depression. Our home was not a happy one in those years so my classes at Pioneer Central and the extra-curricular activities were the beacon that gave me hope.
Some of my classmates were particularly helpful in supporting and encouraging me through those difficult times at home. One of them actually allowed me to live with him and his family for a time. Another frequently listened, offered encouragement and laughed at my jokes. In June of 1971 we walked across the stage to receive our diplomas and then we were gone. A year later I was drafted and enlisted in the United States Navy. When I returned to civilian life three years llater most of my high school peers had moved on with their lives. We lost touch with each other.
My life was tempest-tossed for a period of time and then I found recovery. In time I met a beautiful woman. We fell in love, married and had a couple of lovely children. I stayed away from school reunions until the twentieth in 1991. Since then I’ve attended several. This year was special because of the trauma of the pandemic and the knowledge that we’re all getting older. We learned at the reunion that 180 of us graduated in June 1971 and since then we’ve lost forty classmates. One of them was my friend Gary who gave me a home for part of our senior year. There were about eighty who attended this fiftieth reunion and it was great to see them all and share our journeys. In Greek mythology there is a term for the safe return. It is soteria. Soteria is the spirit of safety, deliverance and preservation from harm. The spirit that united us as teenagers brought us together and delivered us safely for an evening of reunion.