BY DAVE MARCUS | firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 30, 2009
For the next few weeks, gray-haired Long Islanders will be wearing
psychedelic shirts and bell-bottom pants while cranking up hits by
Three Dog Night, Janis Joplin and The Grateful Dead.
It's high school reunion season, and the Class of 1969 is celebrating
40 years of peace, love and upheaval.
High school graduates often look back at their year as special, but
those who are organizing the 1969 reunions say theirs was truly historic.
"It was a phenomenal - the year of man walking on the moon and
Woodstock," said Jan Goral, a retired teacher, artist and
self-described "original hippie." She is tracking down classmates
from Bayport-Blue Point High School for a July 11 dinner.
Nearly everyone from those classes has a favorite fact to prove their
contention that 1969 was unusual. In January, Richard Nixon was
inaugurated as president. Soon after, 250,000 Americans marched on
Washington to protest the Vietnam War. That summer, tens of thousands
more converged on a muddy farm for the three-day Woodstock festival.
"It was an amazing time to be an American," said Herb Harrison, a
graduate of Malverne High School who, like many of his classmates,
turned 58 this year.
The good news and the bad came in bursts. On July 18, Sen. Edward
Kennedy drove off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, killing his
passenger. Two days later, astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.
Said Larry Warehime, a Farmingdale High School alum: "Science was
discovering things, the social climate was cool and college was
really available to everyone."
Smaller things happened, too. "Sesame Street" made its debut on
television. The first automated teller machine opened at a Chemical
Bank in Rockville Centre. And the Jets and Mets both won world championships.
"I don't know if we really knew it at the time or if it's just in
retrospect, but there was a sense that things were changing," said
Judy Hopkins, an organizer of the Aug. 1 Brentwood High reunion.
Change came from everywhere. That spring, the Supreme Court ruled
that students could wear black arm bands in school, and the ruling
was widely interpreted to allow relaxed dress codes. A couple of
months before graduation, Hopkins said, the Brentwood principal
announced that girls no longer had to wear skirts or dresses to school.
"It was a symbol of freedom of expression," she said. But she
couldn't take advantage of it because she didn't own a pair of slacks.
Meanwhile, arguments over the war divided Long Islanders. In 1967,
during her sophomore year of high school, Jan Goral had gone to the
prom with an older boy named Bill Mauck; by 1969, she was protesting
the fighting in Vietnam War, and he was a married father on his way
to becoming a Suffolk County police officer.
"I was one of the original hippies," she recalled, "and he was a lot
She went through two marriages, then 15 years ago she married Mauck.
They have seven grandchildren. Next month they'll go to the Class of
1969 reunion and dance to Motown tunes as they did long ago - but
this time as husband and wife, the former hippy and the retired cop.
These days he has a pony tail and rides a motorcycle.