The Class of 1958!

June 23rd 1958! The Riverhead High School Senior Class, slightly over one hundred strong, received their diplomas and scattered to the ends of the Earth, never again to gather under one roof.....until the third weekend of October 2018!

 

Riverhead High School Class of 1958 - Photo by Diane Tucci

When my class graduated from Riverhead High School on June 23, 1958, Dwight Eisenhower was in the last two years of his second term.  John F. Kennedy would not be President for two more years and would not be murdered in Dallas, Texas for another five. Vietnam was as well known to most Americans as Pearl Harbor on December 6, 1941. And so, on a muggy night in June we gathered for one last time in our caps and gowns, all 117 of us – the Class of 1958! With words of optimism from our class valedictorian, Tom Medsger, and a speech from School Board President Amy L. Tooker, we scattered into the night eager to face our futures. Now, after sixty years, we had come back home!

Some of us in the Class of ’58 never left Riverhead or went away  to college or served a hitch in the service and came back after a few years. Still others, like me went away never to return except for an occasional visit to the old hometown. Now,  sixty years had passed since that balmy night in June. We were all looking forward to the third weekend in October to reconnect and share our memories. Most of us had to reach for our class yearbook, The Blue Peconic, for a refresher course on our senior class. Traditionally, class reunions take place every ten years, but once Father Time started thinning our ranks, the reunion committee decided to make the event every five years.  Our last class reunion was in 2013. The highlight of our Golden Anniversary in 2008 was a guided tour of our old alma mater, which is now the Pulaski Street Middle School. But, to the Class of 1958, it will always be Riverhead High School.

Our intrepid reunion committee took great pains to track every classmate  down and extend an invitation. To entice friends and classmates who had great distances to travel, we planned a full weekend of events. Since Riverhead bills our hometown as The Gateway to the Hamptons,  it was an easy sell as a vacation destination. Long Island has a myriad of things to do and see!  We gathered on Friday evening at the Outerbanks Restaurant in the Indian Island County Park for our ever-popular reunion reception. The following night we sat down for our reunion  dinner at the Riverhead Polish Hall. Our special guests on Saturday night were Walt and Betty  Stewart. We all knew Walt as Coach Stewart, who used to coach the boys wrestling and Junior Varsity Football teams. At 91, our coach is still hale and hearty. He even brought his tennis racket to demonstrate to us all that he was still in the game.  The final event was a farewell Sunday brunch at the venerable Birchwood Restaurant to cap things off. We old-timers knew the Birchwood as Regula’s Corner.

This reunion marked a very special, sentimental journey for me. I was accompanied on this visit to my old hometown by both my children. My son Michael had come to another reunion with  me back in 2003, but my daughter Dana had never been to Riverhead. Both my son and my daughter were born and raised in California, where they grew up. Dana now lives near me in Texas, while Michael lives with his wife Laura in Rome, Italy, where he’s been for many years. Neither one of my kids ever knew their grandparents. Skip and Charles Botula died years before they were born.  And so, I drove them around town to show them the house where my brother Packy and I grew up, the Methodist Church where we went to Sunday School, the Roanoke Avenue Elementary School and of course, our high school.

Our class is an especially close-knit group of people. Many of us have known each other all our lives. For instance, I attended first grade at Aquebogue Elementary School, transferring to the Roanoke Avenue Elementary for second grade when my folks moved into Riverhead the next year. Many of us went to Sunday School and church together, joined the scouts and along the way made life-long friendships. Sixty years after graduation, we are still good friends.  And at the Saturday Reunion dinner, we decided to do it all over again in five years. Yes, Virginia, the Class of 1958 is already planning its 65th Anniversary Reunion!

I would like to extend a hearty thank-you to the other members of the RHS Class of ’58 Reunion Committee who really worked hard to create a hugely successful high school reunion! Jim Taylor, our class archivist and web site manager; Peter Rafle our Treasurer; Lois Cantor Corwin and Susan Downs White, our Sunday Brunch organizers; Tony Stasiukiewicz, our Polish Hall coordinator; Ellie Cruser Hurt, our event planner; Kalman Heller, our class musicologist who provided the Saturday night sound track; Linda Tyte Gatz,  our headquarters hotel coordinator; Rich Lombardi, event planner; and Pat Jones Harris, keeper of our class banner and entertainment coordinator.

Special thanks to our official photographer Diane Tucci, who took our class reunion portrait above along with the candid photos at our reunion dinner at the Polish Hall on Saturday October 21st.

They all  worked very hard to make our 60th Anniversary Reunion a tremendous success!   We’ll see you back in Riverhead in five years.

As always,

Onward and Upward!

Mike  Botula

Our Special Guests - Walt and Betty Stewart!

Walt Stewart was a member of the RHS Phys Ed Department. In 1958 he was one of a team of great coaches. Coach Stewart along with Mike McKillop and Jim Gilhooley coached the guys, while Carol Dunton and Winnifred Barron coached the gals. At age 91, Walt is living proof that staying in shape pays off!

Our Reunion Committee!

Mike Botula, Peter Rafle, Jim Taylor, Linda Tyte Gatz, "Bubbie" Brown, Lois Cantor Corwin, Kalman Heller, Ellie Cruser Hurt, Tony Stasiukiewicz, Susan Downs White, Richard Lombardi. Patricia Jones Harris.

MikeBo's Blog About the Reunion

We Did the Huck-A-Buck!

The Huck-A-Buck Chronicles:

MikeBo’s Blog for Thursday 25 October 2018

Clear 50°F/ 10°C in Riverhead, NY

Cloudy 70°F/21°C in Cedar Park, TX

Dzień dobry, Panie i panowie!

(Good Morning, Ladies and Gentlemen!)

Any youngster who ever went to school at Aquebogue Elementary knows from HUCK-A-BUCK!  But, most of the folks who read my blogs never went to Aquebogue Elementary School. First, it’s pronounced AQUA-BOGG. It’s a native American word. HUCK-A-BUCK in plain ol’ eastern Long Island English.

I attended Aquebogue Elementary for one year before my parents moved into town and I finished growing up in Riverhead, New York. During that year, 1946, I made some life-long friendships: Tom Medsger, Ginny Kratoville, “Bubbie” Brown, Susan Downs and Linda Tyte among them. When my folks bought our house on east Main Street and moved into Riverhead, I didn’t see my first grade friends until we went to high school. My brother Packy and I attended  Roanoke Avenue Elementary School, then Riverhead Junior High and then  Riverhead High School, where I graduated in 1958 at age 17. My kid brother graduated in 1963.

Good ol’ Huck-a-Buck didn’t have kindergarten, so I managed to skip the preliminaries, which meant that, at age 77, I was hobbling off to the 60th anniversary reunion of the Riverhead High School  Class of 1958. There were about sixty-five of us – surviving classmates along with our spouses and guests. The graduates followed different paths after the strains of Pomp and Circumstance faded away. Some of my classmates stayed put after graduation, living their lives in the old home town. Others left for a while – going away to college or serving their country in distance places like Vietnam. I fell into the last category. After staying around for a couple of years, I headed out and didn’t set foot in my home town until 2003. This reunion was very special. My son Michael and my daughter Dana came along with me. So did Michael’s wife, Laura. Dana and I came from Texas. Michael and Laura traveled from Rome. For me, it was a sentimental journey of the highest order.

My parents, Charles and Mary “Skip” Botula first came to Riverhead in 1940. Hailing from the western Pennsylvania coal country, they had both come to New York City where they married in 1937.  My mom was a registered nurse and dad was a loan officer for the Personal Finance Company. He often joked that his competition for the small, personal loans the company specialized in was the Mafia and La Cosa Nostra’s notorious loan sharks. His promotion to branch manager brought the couple to Riverhead in 1940. I joined them in January 1941. Since Riverhead would not have its own hospital for another ten  years, I was born in Manhattan. Pearl Harbor was attacked in December, and dad got his commission in the US Navy in 1943. While he was off to war, my mom took me and returned to upstate New York to spend 1944 and 1945 near her parents. By December 1945, when my dad returned from the Pacific War, my kid brother, Charles Botula III, aka Packy¸ had joined us and Skip and Charlie returned to Riverhead, where we lived happily ever after until 1961 when my mom died of cancer. Shattered by the loss of his Skipper, my father died in 1965.

Packy and I both went through the Riverhead school system, although my younger brother missed out on Aquebogue School. Also, he went to kindergarten, unlike his big brother. After graduating from R.H.S. (the Pulaski Street school, not the new one), I embarked on the career in broadcasting that I had begun at WRIV while still a sophomore, and my kid brother went off to SUNY Buffalo and a career in the US Air Force. Now, we’re both retired. Packy lives in Illinois near St. Louis with his wife Susan, and I live near Austin, Texas, not too far from my daughter Dana and my five grandchildren. Son Mike lives in Rome, Italy with his wife Laura.

I met and married Michael and Dana’s mother, Donna, in Phoenix before we moved on to California to start our family. Our children grew up in California and never set foot in their father’s home town in New York together until I brought them to Riverhead for this reunion.

The RHS Class of 1958 numbered about 117 people when we graduated on that balmy June night. It was the last of the pre-WW 2 classes to graduate from the building on Pulaski Street. Most of the graduates had grown up in and around Riverhead – Flanders, Jamesport, Wading River, Calverton, Manorville, Baiting Hollow, Mattituck, Laurel and of course, Aquebogue. Along the way, we were joined by young people who had moved from other cities and states, and even other countries. We welcomed new classmates who didn’t even speak English when they started school. They were from families who had sought new lives in the USA after their own homes in Europe had been devastated by the war.  Since my hometown already had a large population of Poles who had come to the US after World War I, many of the newcomers also came from Poland. The newcomers became part of what would be The Class of ’58, part of the Riverhead family!  For most of us, the bonds of friendship would last a lifetime. That’s what my son and daughter came to understand on their first visit together to their father’s home town. By the time we headed back to our respective homes on Sunday, Mike and Laura and Dana felt right at home.

The reunion followed our time-honored format: A reception  on Friday evening, sit-down dinner on Saturday night, and Sunday brunch to cap it off. The reception this year was at the Outerbanks Restaurant at Indian Island County Park. We had the Saturday dinner at our class favorite, Riverhead Polish Hall on Marcy Avenue. Diane Tucci  took our latest family portrait before we sat down to the Polish Hall’s famous home cooking. Finally, Sunday brunch took place  at the venerable Birchwood Restaurant, also in Polish Town, which we old-timers remember as Regula’s Corner.

In between reunion events, I took the kids on a tour of the town. We drove out to Aquebogue, past the elementary school where I attended first grade. Past the old Downs’ General Store and US Post Office building to the Modern Snack Bar. After lunch we drove up to Iron Pier Beach to gaze across Long Island Sound at Connecticut. Finally we drove back through Jamesport and back to town along Peconic Bay Boulevard.  Friday, after a stop at the Riverhead Flower Shop, we headed up to the Roanoke Avenue Cemetery where Mary and Charles Botula are buried. Michael and Dana never knew their grandparents. They had died before the kids were born. We placed the two bouquets we had brought with us, and Dana scraped the moss that had started to form on her grandparents’ headstones.

Saturday morning we drove out to Montauk Point and its historic lighthouse, built in 1796. Dana commented on the age of the lighthouse, almost 300 years. That brought a laugh from Laura, who hails from Rome, which is nearly 3,000 years old! While I waited below, Michael, Laura and Dana joined the other tourists and climbed to the top of the light house. Then we drove back to Riverhead and joined the others at the reunion.

Sunday morning, Dana and I had coffee with Michael and Laura before they headed to Newark Airport and their flight back to Rome. Dana and I went on to brunch, and then it was back to Islip for our flight back to Austin. Our sentimental journey to dad’s hometown was over.

 

Ciao!

MikeBo

 

[Mike Botula, the author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! is a retired broadcast journalist, government spokesperson and media consultant.   Mike’s book is available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble Books. You can read more about Mike Botula at www.mikebotula.com]

 

Class of 1958 Reunion Photo Gallery - Photos by Diane Tucci

The Tour Guide Who Wasn't There!

 

Experience is the teacher of all things.

Julius Caesar

 

   Class reunions present a wonderful time for good friends to reminisce about long ago memories. And so it was at our class reunion in October 2018. The Riverhead High School Class of 1958 was celebrating its Sixtieth Graduation Anniversary! We were a small graduating class,  slightly more than 100 graduated on that sultry June 23rd way back in the 20th century. Most of us started first grade or kindergarten together and went all through school together, forming many life-long friendships. We gathered over three days, giving all of us ample time to share our memories. When the inevitable memories of our favorite teachers came into the conversation, I recalled one teacher in particular. Morris Diamond was my Latin teacher. I was in his class for two  years. Yes, my alma mater had Latin as part of curriculum. It still does. Mr. Diamond has faded from the scene, but not from the memories of his students, like me who took his Latin I and Latin II classes. Many years after I graduated from RHS, I learned something about Mr. Diamond that he never shared with his students. I wrote about his secret a few years ago.

 I think the story bears repeating…

 Back in the 1950s before Elvis and the Rock and Roll Revolution, pop singer Patti Page had a hit song called Learning My Latin! I had actually heard the song first as part of arranger-composer-conductor Gordon Jenkins’ classic Manhattan Tower, which I stumbled across recently on ITunes. It made me think about my very first trip to Rome in 2005, and my first visit to The Forum, guided by my son, Michael. We walked from the Coliseum past the Triumphal Arch into the very heart of the Roman Empire. The Senate was located here along with other ruined marvels from Rome’s glory days. Then, Michael pointed to a desolate patch of ground and told me, Right on this spot is where Julius Caesar was assassinated. He smiled, Et tu, Brutae?  Yikes! I replied, Of course! The Ides of March 44 BC. March 15th.  

As a professional guide, my son loves to punch holes in historical myths. This was the first time I had been treated to his particular talent. I thought it happened on the grand stairs of the Senate, I said. No dad,  he replied somewhat condescendingly. It was right here, behind the place they used to execute the Vestal Virgins who strayed from the straight and narrow. In spite of Shakespeare’s depiction and Hollywood’s numerous movies, this weed patch amidst the ruins of the Forum marked Julius Caesar’s demise. Ālea iacta est! I said, The die is cast! It was then that I remembered my high school Latin class at good old Riverhead High School. Then I said, Omnes Gallia divisa in partes tres! What are you saying, dad? My son asked. All of Gaul is divided into three parts. It’s the opening line of Julius Caesar’s “Commentarii de Bello Gallico.” That is Caesar’s narrative of his military campaigns in Ancient Gaul. Remember “Veni, Vidi, Vici?” It was Julius Caesar’s after action report on his Gallic war, “I came, I saw, I conquered.” I still remember some of my high school Latin. I sure wish we could show this to Mr. Diamond. On that trip and the subsequent visits to Italy, I found myself time and again seeing a place for the first time, with the definite feeling that I had been there before. And I owe that to Morris Diamond.

Who’s he, my son asked. Morris Diamond was my high school Latin teacher, I replied. To this day he is a legend to any kid who went to high school in my home town in the ‘50s and ‘60s. This is all coming back to me now, because I had a teacher who brought a dead language and an almost forgotten history lesson to life in living color and stereophonic sound. It’s true! Everywhere I’ve gone in Italy, the Coliseum, the Forum, the Circus Maximus and along the Tiber in Rome, I first visited in Mr. Diamond’s Latin class. We spent the whole year in Latin One translating Caesar’s commentaries. We learned how to use Roman numerals. He drummed Latin grammar into our young brains so firmly, that I still tend to go back to the original Latin grammar structure when I need help with French, Italian or Spanish. Mr. Diamond’s Latin class was a combination of language study, Ancient History and Political Science all rolled into one class period.

I was with Roosevelt BEFORE 1928! He would announce as he got started on his frequent commentaries on politics. That would usually herald his analysis of the day’s hot political story. FDR before ’28, was his way of saying that his political loyalties predated FDR’s first term by four years. He definitely was a New York product. Jewish, degree from New York’s City College, married to an Irish Catholic lady and on a mission to make his favorite class, Latin a well-rounded learning experience for all of us brave enough  to darken his classroom’s threshold. You lucky kids! He would exclaim frequently as he call our class to order. You lucky kids! It was his way of saying it was time to settle down and learn, because it didn’t take us long to find out that he was a very demanding teacher and very strict about teenage classroom antics. Every once in a while, when he saw that one of us wasn’t paying the proper amount of attention, he would launch a blackboard eraser in the miscreant’s direction. Invariably, the missile found its mark. Well, I finally got your attention, Blodgett! We’re on page 51. Your turn to read aloud! And the target of Mr. Diamond’s eraser toss would start reading, first in Latin and translate as he or she went along. To this day, I think of him as Mister Diamond. Even his own daughter Janice, who also took his class, addressed him formally as Mr. Diamond, never Dad or Pop! Latin is supposed to be a dead language, he would often remark. It is your job as my students to keep breathing some life into it! You lucky kids!

We learned Roman history, from the city’s founding in 753 BC by Romulus and Remus, through the early republic, the building of the empire, the grandeur of Imperial Rome and the division of the empire into east and west, and of course, Rome’s decline and fall, and Europe’s descent into the Dark Ages. Time and time again Mr. Diamond would lecture us on the accomplishments of ancient Rome in medicine, political structure, military capability, the inner workings of conquest and how the empire not only conquered but maintained the integrity of its political structure. Everything that we students had come to believe had been developed within the two hundred year life span of the United States, Mr. Diamond would drum it into us that the Roman Empire did it first, and frequently did it better. Our laws, our constitution, the structure of our congress and state legislatures. Another favorite tirade of his, When your European ancestors were living in huts in the forest and swinging by their tails through the trees, Roman citizens were living their lives in a highly advanced civilization. Don’t you ever forget that.

We learned about Roman expansion, the rivalry with Carthage and the Punic Wars. Hannibal crossing the Alps in mid-winter. The slave uprisings, and the Roman dole system-Pane e circo, bread and circuses, the Coliseum and the games, the rise of Christianity, the sacking of Rome by the Barbarians and the inevitable fall of the empire. And all through our halting translations of Caesar’s Gallic Commentaries, Mr. Diamond carefully drew the parallels between the ancient history of the Roman Empire with the contemporary history of World War 2 and the rise of the American Empire. He was an ardent critic of the influence on Americans by Hollywood and Madison Avenue. At a time when television had not  yet become the force it is today, he was extremely wary of the impact on Americans’ minds wielded by the Hollywood movie industry and Madison Avenue’s advertising agencies. If the Russians ever decide to drop the A-bomb on us, he would say, I would hope that the first two bombs fall on Hollywood and Madison Avenue! That, in my opinion, would solve a lot of our problems! Yes. For a teacher of a long-dead language, used only in churches, our Latin teacher spread his wings in an effort to open our young minds.

So now, after four visits to the capital of the old Roman Empire, and in anticipation of future visits, if not a permanent residence, I still think about Morris Diamond, my old Latin teacher. And, to end this little creative effort, I’d like to relate a story told me by one of my other classmates at our 50th Class Reunion a few years back. It seems that one of our other classmates, Westhampton attorney Shepard Scheinberg had brought back a stone that he had picked up at the Colosseum on his vacation trip to Rome in 1959. The following year, Scheinberg went to Rome a second time. When he got back, he visited Mr. Diamond, who was still teaching Latin up until the 1970s, and presented him with the stone as a souvenir of his visit, remarking to his old teacher that Mr. Diamond’s class made him feel like when he had visited Rome for the first time, he felt as it he had been there before. Years later with Mr. Diamond’s health failing, Scheinberg went to visit him at a nursing home. That’s when he asked his teacher if he had ever been to Rome. Mr. Diamond said he had not. As Scheinberg related in a “Letter to the Editor” of the local paper, the Riverhead News Review in 1985, “He was like his namesake, Moses. He too, saw the Holy Land only from afar, but never set foot therein.” Morris Diamond died in November 1984. His wife, Elsie, followed him on his journey to the Elysian Fields just a few days later.

I still find it hard to believe, because our teacher, Morris Diamond made it all so vividly real for us. I’ve seen with my own eyes what he taught us about and I’m still scratching my head over his admission. But, then, we all considered him a great teacher, one of our most memorable, and, I guess that is what makes a good teacher a great teacher. You lucky kids! We sure were.


 

LST 920: Charlie Botula's Long, Slow Target!

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