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Dorsey High's class of '42 shares 70 years of memories

Time slips by so fast.

One day you're in high school, the next squinting at faces, searching for traces of the long-ago teenagers you once knew.

So few left now in the Dorsey High class of 1942, gathered for a 70th reunion lunch at the Marina del Rey Hotel.

Of about 50 tracked down from the original 400 or so, 15 of you make it to this meeting room, which is decked out in Dorsey green and white.

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You are 87, 88, 89. Around your necks, you wear name tags featuring your cap-and-gown black-and-whites from the yearbook.

Seventy years. Still, those days you can't ever forget.

When the superintendent gathered you outside to announce the attack on Pearl Harbor. When your prom was canceled out of fears you might be bombed, with a large gathering and light blazing through the gymnasium glass.

When the young men among you were told to come to school Fridays in white shirts and dark jeans to learn to drill, and you marched back and forth carrying flat wooden rifles made in shop, trying not to think about the draft notices heading your way.

"Remember that?" asks one old classmate. And not everyone does.

"We've lived a long time since then," says Marge Gordon Stein, who like most of the women wears a tag with several last names — the one you knew her by followed by one or more marrieds.

"How lucky to be together that long. I wasn't that lucky," she tells Leonard Franklin, when he says he and Arlyne just celebrated their 61st anniversary.

In your group, you've lost husbands, wives, friends, even children. You know some who've had the blackboard wiped clean.

You ask one friend who's come without her Dorsey husband if he's passed, and she tells you, "No, he's fine. He just doesn't have a memory anymore so I had to place him in an Alzheimer's home."

Glenn Miller's playing in the background, along with the Dorseys and Duke Ellington.

After chicken with pineapple and fluffy slices of lemon cake, you take your turns standing to say a few words.

There's Bill Livingstone, who bailed out of a flaming plane over Germany and was a prisoner of war for six months. Bert Fernald, who still sets off alarms at the airport because of the shrapnel he's got in his shoulder from being blown off his gun in Italy — and who delivered five babies, including one of his own, as an L.A. police officer, before he retired in '72.

Tom Fukasawa glides past his family's forced internment with the words, "Then the war in the Pacific started, and I had to move inland."

Some things are better now, you say. But you're all feeling nostalgic, for a "pre-smog" L.A., when doors stayed unlocked and big department stores lined Broadway.

Ray Wiley takes you back as he talks about his breakthrough moment in the garment business, when he decided enough with polyester, time to make soft cotton clothes, but pre-washed so they wouldn't shrink.

"It was just about the time when men were leaving their ties at home. They were going to work in just an open shirt," he says. "So it was more like an easy life was coming in, and we all were starting to barbecue at night at home and things were different."

It's getting on. You've sung the school songs — "Oh we're Dorsey Dons from Dorsey town" — and some of you have driven a long way.

The twins, Jean Wright Kime and June Wright Nowell, say they have to start heading back to Oceanside.

"Loved being here with everybody. Wouldn't have missed it," Kime says as they walk out the door.

Her sister waves and then calls out, "Hope to see you all again someday. Bye."

[View the story "From caps and gowns to war -- a 70th high school reunion" on Storify]

nita.lelyveld@latimes.com

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