GOOD OLD DAYS: Class of 1961 dips back into its youth

The Newport Harbor High School class of 1961 definitely knows how to plan ahead.

Several of the classmates began annual meet-ups three years ago as “pre-reunions,” leading up to their 50th in 2011.

Saturday was their most recent gathering.

“We’re 64 going on Medicare, and we’re worrying if we’ll still be loved,” quipped Catherine Supple, who now lives in Texas.

“We’re not the boomers; technically, that’s those born post-1946,” Supple wrote in an e-mail she sent to her former classmates.

“Rather, we’re war babies — the one referred to as the ‘good’ war. We were but adolescents for the Korean War; it was merely a blip for us. Eisenhower was grandfatherly and Truman was accountable. It was the Vietnam War that may have defined us.”

Despite the conservative bent of her class, some found the war to be a terrifying prospect for their friends.

Supple said only one of her classmates is known to have been in jail since graduation. While they were in school, the friends faced a parent’s death from cancer, but financial and pregnancy crises were kept in the dark.

On the whole, life was good.

“Being Southern Californians, we lacked snow and change of seasons,” Supple said. “We lacked rain, sleet and other eastern phenomenon. We were the children of bougainvillea, frangipani, mock orange, salt air, birds of paradise, frozen bananas, ferries across the bay, the bumper cars, little Corona, Arrowhead, the Jolly Roger and Bob’s Big Boy on the Island, and Catalina off the coast.”

Many of those places still serve the group when they get together, either for memories or actual meeting places.

Supple finds it hard to imagine that she and her classmates are now the age their grandparents once were. Today, their differences are more apparent than they used to be, as are the changes in their former haunt.

“If we thought homes were expensive then, we were clueless what this area would become,” she said.

“We did think there was traffic and smog, but nothing like what the area is treated to today. Instead, those who had cars, and there were some wealthy families among us, sped around Southern Cal with tans on faces, sand wedged between toes, hair flying in the Pacific breeze with dreams focused on the height of the surf, the blue of the sky and the parties coming up.”

Although there were definite monetary discrepancies between the friends, as all kids from the area went to the same high school at the time, Supple said she didn’t notice them. Many members of the group still live in the area; others moved to pursue industries ranging from the oil industry to the foreign service.

“It’s not that often we dip our toes back into the magic of our youth — after all, we are sophisticated adults now — but we took such joy in reminiscing, reconnecting, hearing one another’s stories,” Supple said.

“Life goes by so very fast.”


CANDICE BAKER can be reached at (714) 966-4631 or at candice.baker@latimes.com.

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