Home as found - Familiar Memories Unfold
(With apologies to James Fenimore Cooper for borrowing a title from one of his lesser known novels.)
Recently eleven Richfield Springs High School classes from 1955 to 1965 met together for a joint reunion, the first of its kind for Richfield. Some came as far away as the west coast to meet with old classmates and acquaintances.
Did the Richfield they remember change much? Well, maybe somewhat. Ehrmann’s and Kitt’s drug stores are no longer on Main Street. Also, not to be found are three automobile dealerships, plus the A&P and Victory stores to name a few. Remember going to Ruby’s Department Store to purchase bobby sox, saddle shoes or a poodle skirt?
Going around the lake, the Pine Grove and Perkin’s beach are now only a memory. For many, seeing only a vacant lot where Canadarago Park once stood was probably the saddest of all. Who could not cherish hearing the announcement over the PA system, “The next skate on this evening’s program is a Moonlight Skate for couples only. A Moonlight Skate for couples only.” Five cent candy bars and ten cent sodas are just a recollection and reminder of changing times.
At some time during a student’s school years they would have witnessed the end of the “Big Band” era and the birth of rock & roll with a little doo-wop thrown in. In 1960, Paul Anka was the headliner with a group of other singers at the new Utica Memorial Auditorium. The admission charge was $1.90. Compare that to the $100 headliners get today.
In 1961 or 1962, the town clock was moved from the center of the intersection of Main, Lake and Church streets to Spring Park. I bet Allen Kitts wished they had made the move a few years earlier. In case you forgot, Allen’s new 1961 Ford hit the clock dead center one Friday night.
I remember all those great cars, including Dan Bond’s ’55 Chevy, Jack Gorney’s ’57 Chevy, Orville Eckler’s GTO and Don Oldick’s ’60 Chevy. John Kleban and Don Bond both had ’55 Fords, until John wrecked his and went on to forever be a Corvette man. Who could forget Andy Hugick’s ’58 Chevy? I drove my fathers ’56 Studebaker and later his ’60 Lark until I got a brand new ’64 Ford Galaxy 500 out of Smith’s Ford showroom for $3,000.
Most of the former students can remember having only a radio in their home. Television would be an extravagance until the late 50s and the early 60s. A color TV was something new and costly. Up until 1961, when you called the Schuyler House for a pizza you picked up the phone to have an operator ask you, “Number, please?” Then it was a marvel to be able to dial the number by your self. There are a few dial phones still around today and its funny to watch a teenager pick up the receiver and not know what to do next.
Some of us can recall their family getting their first refrigerator. Before the “fridge” we had ice boxes and a local guy made a living delivering blocks of ice that were taken from the local lakes the previous winter. The cakes of ice were stored in barns covered with straw to limit the melting. Fresh milk in glass bottles was delivered to our doorsteps every other day.
None of the former students had the luxury of using a calculator to do their math problems. When they first came out in the early 70s, a simple four function would cost $35. You can pick up a similar calculator in the dollar store these days. Unlike many of today’s generation, we can still do math in our heads.
Customs and attitudes have changed over the years. No guy would think of going to a wedding or funeral without wearing a jacket and tie. Compare the yearbook photographs from back then to today. Not that it fits in to the 50s and 60s, but I have a 1929 photo of my father with about 20 of his fellow motorcycle club members where most of them were sitting on their bikes wearing ties.
Although the alumni found some changes, many things did not change. The population of Otsego has been about the same since the Civil War. The village population has even dropped by a few hundred or so. Richfield is still a beautiful area and a great place to grow up and settle down in. Canadarago Lake is now cleaner than it was 50 years ago. Many that have moved away have been replaced with people from the metropolitan area. Some of them have expressed to me that they never fail to be in awe of how beautiful the area is.
The reunion was a great time to see so many folks that we haven’t seen in so many years. Because of the warm August sun, many wore sunglasses, which made many of us have to check nametags, only to be embarrassed for not recognizing them right off. Was I the only one who looked at some alumni and thought, “Oh, that must be -------, who Terry Berkson wrote about but changed their names to protect his innocence.”
The thing I noticed the most was that I’ve never seen so many people smiling. The laughter and treasured moments were a joy to see. Although there was a whole weekend, there was not enough time for all the shared memories. At times I could not help but feel sad for the ones who were not there. Opportunities to meet again will be rare. Some classmates we will never see again. Time marched on much too quickly.
We must do it again...soon.