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Newtown High School Class Of 1953 Celebrates 50th Reunion



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Newtown High School Class Of 1953 Celebrates 50th Reunion

By Larissa Lytwyn

While much has changed in Newtown since the days of Saturday night square dances and graduating classes numbering fewer than 40 students, Newtown High School’s Class of 1953 still feels like family — even 50 years after they received their diplomas. 

“We were all very close knit,” said Robert Brown, a self-described “quiet” student who taught eighth-grade science at Schagticoke Middle School in New Milford for 35 years. He retired in 1997. Though considered a longtime head reunion organizer by peers, Mr Brown was quick to credit class president Richard Carmody and others as active planners in the graduates’ 50th anniversary. “Preparing for this event was a joint effort,” he said.

The event was marked by a special dinner at the Stony Hill Best Western Inn in Bethel. Attendees received memorabilia bags containing, as always, the full names and addresses of the Class of 1953. In addition, Mr Brown enclosed copies of an article by graduate Rose Madeline Mula about the reunion experience published this past spring in the Saturday Evening Post and Curtis Packaging provided Americana posters of the nation’s flag and a Rubik’s Cubelike picture of Newtown. Commemorative post cards depicted glossy images of Hawley Elementary School, Newtown Middle School, and the current Newtown High School. While the Class of 1953 began its senior year at Hawley Elementary School, there was an increasing lack of space. In January, the 32-member class finished its high school education at a larger building on Queen Street, today known as Newtown Middle School. The graduation ceremony was held at Edmond Town Hall.

While some classes meet only during the traditional 10, 25, and 50-year marks, Newtown High School’s Class of 1953 has met frequently over the years, including a gathering in the year 2000. This year, however, the reunion committee decided to distribute buttons bearing senior class pictures for wearers to more accurately discern each other.

Still, said Lillian (Sedor) Emmons, most class members tend to recognize each other. “There’s still a resemblance,” she said. Active in ladies’ softball and other sports while in high school, Ms Emmons remembered the ladies’ basketball team retaining championship status during most of the 1950s.

As for the differences between her generation and present high school students, a lot, she acknowledges, has changed. Laughing, she recalled sneaking in a case of beer during a party she threw. “We were too scared to even open it!” she said. “Now, the parents serve their children alcohol [to prevent them from drinking elsewhere]!”

Bullying and other social ills, said Mr Brown, were not nearly as widespread in 1953 as they are today. Robert Kingman believes that most of their class’s closeness is due to their small number. “How many people do you remember out of a class of 200 or more students?” he said. “About 20. Just a few more than that graduated from Newtown High School in 1953.” Mr Kingman fondly remembered riding his motorcycle during his senior year, often taking his classmates for rides. He also loved the Saturday night dances and eating at the Sycamore Diner in Bethel, still a state landmark.

“Nothing has changed about that diner!” agreed Ms Emmons. “The stools, the décor — it’s all the same!” While many of the graduates have stayed in the area, several have since relocated up and down the eastern seaboard, including Maine, Massachusetts, and Florida. Evelyn Pendergast, a local resident, was class reporter. When asked how the position differed from that of class secretary, she laughed. “Frankly, I don’t know!” she said. “I think there was just one slot left and I wanted to get on the board of officers.”

While graduates such as Mr Kingman maintain that there simply “wasn’t a heck of a lot to do” in Newtown during the 1950s, many class members now recognize their hometown as an increasingly popular destination for young families and merchants. “It’s changed a lot,” said Ms Emmons. “It’s just a different world.”

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