The WMRHS class of '71 posed for a group photo outside the Week's Library during their 50th reunion that kicked off last Friday. (Photo by Tara Giles) (click for larger version)
July 29, 2021LANCASTER — Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" is played live for the first time in Belfast at Ulster Hall. Rocker Jim Morrison leaves the United States for Paris, in an attempt to revive himself emotionally, as well as escape the jail sentence he was given when in Miami. The March on Washington, D.C., consisted of 500,00 anti-Vietnam war protesters, with another 125,000 marching in San Francisco. It was the largest demonstration against a United States war in history. After landing on the moon, astronauts on Apollo 15 take a six-and-a-half-hour electric car ride on the moon.
In the midst of all of this, the White Mountains Class of 1971 marched to collect their high school diplomas. The class of 1971 was the first class to complete all four years of high school at White Mountains. They were the first class to join up with rival towns to merge as one big class of Spartans, the newly voted on mascot.
The event kicked off Friday night with a barbecue held outside on the property owned by the Lancaster Motel. As I walked towards the tent, with my camera draped around my neck, I took a moment to observe this class and how they were interacting. The camaraderie and laughter was so infectious, I couldn't stand back for long. As I approached, I myself was even greeted like an old friend.
There certainly is something to be said about our small high school and the bonds that form as those who have passed through know. This class, however, set the precedent for all classes that followed. They showed us all what it looks like to come together, put old rivalries aside and create a school community that is truly unlike no other.
Danny Boynton was the first friendly face that I saw.
"We were freshman when the school first opened," he explained.
It should be noted that this class has been fairly consistent with holding reunions.
"We always have a good turnout, with a committee of about 10 to 12 people who help coordinate the events and we always have a good time," he added.
There were 150 students in the class, and 55 were present for this reunion.
When asked what it's like to be together again, Boynton said, "You know, we all still feel the same as we did back then. Even though its been 50 years, we feel like no time has passed and we pick back up where we left off. It's just wonderful and sharing whats happened over the years. Some of us we haven't seen since the day we graduated. It's nice to hear stories, and challenges, it's been great."
Mark Bernier, who now lives in Pensacola, Fla., has been to five reunions, including the last three.
"This is so much fun; just the best," he said.
"I just love the people, our friends. It was a great experience growing up together; this really is a great place to grow up," added Bernier.
Bernier was a basketball and baseball player and said that sports was very big back then.
When asked if he feels the same as he did in 1971, he replied, "I feel the same; in fact, I'm not old — I'm older."
Bernier said he was most looking forward to going to the high school on a tour the following day, and seeing the old gym and locker rooms for some nostalgia.
When asked about the music his classmates were listening to, he joked, "If anyone says Aerosmith is their favorite band, shame on them."
"My favorite bands back then were America and Chicago," he added.
Bernier's classmate, Tracy Eastman-Lang, has been to every reunion, and is still semi local.
"I love reconnecting with people and talking about our memories," she said.
When asked to explain some of those memories, she joked, "I can't imagine any of us breaking the law. We have such an awesome class with so many memories."
When asked about the merging of the towns, she said, "We were so used to being just Lancaster, then all of a sudden here comes Whitefield, Dalton and Twin Mountain. It didn't take us long to mesh, because we were all experiencing something new together."
Sitting next to Eastman-Lang was Kathy Sawyer. Eastman-Lang pointed at Kathy and said, "Yup, we used to call her 'Flash' because she was always taking photos."
At that, Sawyer glanced to her small black camera sitting right in front of her and picked it up proudly, as though nothing had changed.
Sawyer said, "I think it took us about six months to really work out the kinks with the other towns but after that it was great. Soccer was something we all rallied around."
Sawyer's favorite teacher was Mrs. Bean, who taught English and Humanities.
Janet Youngholm flew in from Wyoming to be with her classmates.
When she was explaining that her and Bernier were the Class Marshals for the senior class ahead of them, Bernier chimed in, "Yeah because we were the only two not in jail!"
After a good laugh, Youngholm said, "The great thing about this reunion is that despite COVID everyone made an effort to be here."
Youngholm went on to talk about how she remembers when students were voting on mascots and school colors.
As the conversation moved to reminiscing about memories that happened off school grounds, she said, "We would go to the bowling alley, there was a dance hall in Whitefield and Littleton called Jeremiah's and people who had cars were really special to know."
At that, Youngholm pointed at her classmate, Peggy Smith, from across the room and said loudly, "Peggy always had a car!"
Smith came over and together with Youngholm, explained how certain days they would be "sick" and would jump into the car and go ski at Wilderness up in Dixville or over to Cannon.
"Only the good skiers went to Cannon," Youngholm said as she laughed.
She added, "There was a lot of partying or as we like to call it, 'extra curricular' activities."
Smith said, "Picture it — a lot of skis and poles and boots, with at least four people all piling out of a Volkswagen."
Being with friends, those familiar faces from high school, is one way to get a little piece of the past back and nothing could be more treasured by the class of '71.
As Dickens wrote, "The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again."