- Associated Press - Friday, October 17, 2014

UNIONTOWN, Pa. (AP) - Days before their recent 50th anniversary reunion, planning committee members of Uniontown Area High School’s Class of 1964 gathered to iron out final details.

“You hope you get more this year. We’re still getting names,” said Richard Rennie of classmates responding to the invitation.

“I think it’s the idea that is the 50th,” said Cynthia Mohar Campbell. “It’s the golden anniversary of our graduation.”

While 50th-anniversary class reunions are always a milestone, there is something significant about those taking place this year.

“We’re the first of the baby boomers to have our 50th reunion,” said Karen Rich Douglas.

Born from 1946 to 1964, the youngest members of the generation are turning 50 in the same year the oldest are celebrating these 50-year reunions. The post-World War II generation became one of the largest ever born in the United States, according to the U.S. Census.

They’ve changed life every step of the way from the increased manufacture of baby products to the need to build more schools to adult influences on music, fashion, technology, marriage and work.

“I think they’re a generation that’s experienced a huge amount of change,” said Anne Madarasz of the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh. “They’ve seen the world change dramatically in their lifetime.”

In their youngest years, they were the focus of Dr. Benjamin Spock’s influential 1946 book called “The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care.” They were children during the Korean War. Cultural influences of this time included the growth of television, school desegregation and Elvis Presley.

Dr. Joseph Heim, professor of history at California University, noted, “This was the first generation to have the fear of nuclear war.”

In their senior year of high school, the Class of 1964 experienced the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the coming of the Beatles to America while enactment of the landmark Civil Rights Act would come that July.

Heim noted major events in their adult lives included Vietnam, the assassinations of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy and technological changes such as air conditioning and color television.

There was also the space age, Watergate, women’s rights, personal computers, war on terrorism and the smart phone.

This generation influenced lifestyle choices that ranged from when to marry to when to stop working.

“Our understanding of what it means to be old is changing,” noted Madarasz. “We don’t think of Paul McCartney as old or Mick Jagger. And how long do you continue to work?”

And speaking of work, Douglas noted there were limited expectations for women in 1964.

“With our class, we were either teachers, nurses, secretaries or homemakers,” said Douglas, although mentioning one female classmate who escaped the mold - Anne Feigus attended college at Radcliffe and became an attorney.

“We had no female sports,” Douglas continued, noting the days before the landmark Title IX, the 1972 federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination in education. “The only way you could letter was if you were a majorette, cheerleader or in the band.”

Douglas noted her mother was a nurse who wanted to be a doctor. She was proud her mother was able to attend a ceremony with the family when Douglas’ daughter went to medical school.”

And 50 years after it was tradition for women to stay home to raise children, Lois Shinsky Sabol referred to economic changes when she remarked, “Both parents have to work today.”

That means another change for baby boomers as they move into retirement and help care for their grandchildren.

Cynthia Mohar Campbell commented, “We have retired from teaching and become the granny nannies.”

“The glam-mas,” was the way Douglas put it.

The committee noted 67 percent of their class went on to college, including such prestigious schools as MIT, Cornell and Bucknell. Portia Franklin attended Georgetown University with future president of the United States Bill Clinton, who also graduated high school in Arkansas in 1964.

The reunion committee recalled many classmates who served in the military, including Rennie for 42 years. Many classmates were in Vietnam, such as class president John Miller.

Douglas said Uniontown’s Class of 1964 won state championships in football and basketball. Some of their classmates went on to make a name for themselves in sports after graduation. They included Bennett “Pope” Gregory, who played football at the University of Nebraska and with the Buffalo Bills. Stuart Lantz played basketball with the University of Nebraska and with the San Diego Rockets, Detroit Pistons, New Orleans Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers before becoming a television color commentator for the Lakers.

For this reunion, which took place Oct. 10-11, classmates were expected from West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, New York, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, California and Alaska.

Myrna Barron Giannopoulos reported, “We have 110 coming out of a class of 394. Forty-six have passed away.”

Douglas noted, “We’ve gone through stages together: getting a job, getting married, having children, our parents dying. This reunion, it’s classmates dying.”

While the committee is toying with the idea this may be the last reunion for the class, Douglas noted reunions are therapeutic.

“You’re happy for people,” she said. “You’re glad to see they’re doing well.”

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Information from: Herald-Standard, https://www.heraldstandard.com/


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