Next week I head to New Rochelle, New York, for my 50th high school reunion. My reunion is not just with old classmates, but also with my hometown, a mid-size suburban city just north of Manhattan—and the setting for the residence of Rob and Laura Petrie of the Dick Van Dyke Show.
I have been back to New Rochelle countless times, but primarily to see family. This time, I hope to:
…see my first New York baseball game in, yes, 50 years. In June of 1965, despite losing 70 games already that season, the Miracle Mets were only four years away from winning the World Series. The Mets’ home, Shea Stadium, was torn down in 2008 and replaced by Citi Field. Entering a major league park for the first time is always a thrill—just like the 100th time.
…go back to Roosevelt School where I spent six years being reprimanded by teachers for my reprobate behavior. I’d like to sit in the principal’s office again, just as I did most days after school, except I’d probably be in someone’s bedroom. Roosevelt School was renovated into Roosevelt Condominiums about 20 years ago.
…go back to Walter’s Hot Dogs, a family-owned business that has been grilling franks in a small Chinese pagoda for almost 100 years. I’ll buy two hot dogs (on perfectly grilled buns with mustard relish) and tell the girl behind the register that I remember when the dogs were two for 45 cents. She’ll say “whatever,” and I’ll walk away feeling very, very old … until I take that first bite.
…go back to the pricey country club where I was a soda jerk. On Mondays they used to let the kitchen staff and caddies play golf, and that’s when I got my first hole-in-one back in 1965. I’ll tell the golf pro the story and ask if I can go back and play that hole again 50 years later. He’ll remind me that I’m not a member, and I’ll say “whatever,” and I’ll wish I had never stopped by.
…go back to the former site of Sickles Field, the small baseball diamond in downtown New Rochelle where we played Little League ball—where we wore woolen uniforms in 100-degree weather and were told not to drink water when we were hot because it would make us sick. The New York Daily News said I was the best Little League center fielder in the state. When I got to high school, I didn’t make the team. I hope no one remembers that at the reunion.
…and I hope I’ll see Larry, part of our inseparable friends trio. All of us aspired to be professional wrestlers. We dressed the part, rehearsed the body slams and gave performances on the beach, fake blood and all. Larry and I will talk about Steve, who passed away last month and will be remembered as the most courageous and inspirational member of the class. A football star in high school, he was recruited by Colgate University and during the first week of practice 50 years ago this week, was the victim of an unnecessary (and now illegal) head tackle. Steve spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair. A successful attorney, devoted partner and father, he will be the talk of the reunion.
After the reunion, Larry and I will want to go back to our favorite pizza place to talk more about Steve. Well, we would, but I think there’s a Walmart there now.