Bill Lindel confessed to being anxious about attending a recent reunion for Field Stevenson Elementary School’s classes of 1970-74. He said that, during his middle school years, he was more focused on mini-bike engines than on his social life. Would his classmates recognize him? Would seeing them stir up painful memories of teenage angst? he wondered.
When he walked through the doors of the Howard Mohr Community Center, on Nov. 5, what he found was 40 of his classmates – hair thinning and graying at the temples, body weight shifting to locations where it hadn’t been when they were fourteen – who were engaged in conversation so animated and energized that it drowned out the Bobby Day tune “Rockin’ Robbin”, being played by the DJ.
Many attendees scrutinized the collection of class pictures that alumnus Judy Koepp enlarged, printed and placed on the wall.
As people trickled in throughout the night, the standard greeting by those already there was to break conversation, stare inquisitively at the new arrival for about five seconds, grin and scream, “Oh my God!” before running toward that person with arms extended for a hug.
In contrast to his adolescent years, when he was much more reserved and self-conscious, Lindel found himself in the middle of many conversations.
Donna (Barone) Petrey, a Field-Stevenson grad, said that she heard more than one person bring up adolescent wounds, and express hesitation about coming, but “those feelings dissipated quickly once hugs and greetings and ‘Remember when’s?’ were exchanged.”
“The highlight of my night,” said alumnus Randy Howard, “was dancing with Lori Onesti. I was too shy to ask her back then to dance.”
The idea for the reunion was hatched at a Groovin’ in the Grove concert last summer when Koepp and Mike Hough (another Field Stevenson grad) were chatting with Karen Dylewski, director of the community center, and Mayor Anthony Calderone. They talked about how nice it would be to get everybody together.
Hough said that 95 percent of the 1970-74 graduates were on Facebook, and also mentioned that the others were reached by word of mouth. Tickets were made available at a website called www.forestparkcokedance.com.
As the reunion crowd shared memories, a consensus formed that growing up in Forest Park 40 years ago was, in Howard’s words, like the old TV show The Wonder Years, a coming-of-age series set in 1960s suburban America.
“Forest Park gave all of us a strong sense of community. This close-knit community offered us an exceptional education-both formal and community based,” Petrey said.
Howard texted the following while waiting at the airport for a plane back home to Mesa, Ariz., where he now lives: “In talking to my former classmates, we all agreed that we did live the ‘Wonder Years’. It was special time and a special place and I’m happy that we had the opportunity to relive it for a few hours.”
“We are already planning another reunion for next year,” said Hough, a day after the event. “I think everyone had a great time. Next year we will open it up to students from 1969 through 1975.”