High School class still together after 70 years

EASTON, Pa. (AP) — With memories of WWII still fresh in their minds in the late 1940’s, Palmer Township resident Phil Spaziani said Americans “tried to pull together to make everything better.”

He believes it was that attitude that helped the Easton High School Class of 1948 maintain friendships that have lasted more than 70 years.

Some of those friendships were on display Friday at Green Pond Country Club in Bethlehem Township, where a group of 31 former Red Rover classmates celebrated their milestone 70th high school reunion.

They remembered living through hardships like sending older siblings and even parents off to war, and rationing metals. But there are plenty of good memories, too, including the annual football game with archrival Phillipsburg, a Thanksgiving Day tradition between the schools.

“Oh, it was definitely a rivalry,” even back then, said Alberta “Tootie” Brodhead.

“Oh, the high school years were fantastic for me,” said Spaziani who played football, basketball and was a member of the track team. He also met his wife, Mary Jean Salady Spaziani.

There were 365 in the class. A tightknit group still meets for lunch the first Tuesday of every month.

“We used to get up to 25 people, but now we are lucky if we get 10, “ Spaziani said.

“You knew everyone and we were all very close,” Spaziani said.

The graduating class even has six married couples, including Spaziani and Mary Jean. They will celebrate their 67th wedding anniversary next month.

Class sizes were smaller back then, which Spaziani said helped foster better relationships.

But life was also different back then, too.

The end of World War II brought a renewed sense of optimism and hospitality toward those around you, he said.

Most of the classmates were born in 1930, and around 11 years old when the United States went to war with Germany and Japan. .

Jean Butler-Faringer, 87, who lives in Palmer Township, remembers collecting tin cans with her friends and walking them to Centre Square in downtown Easton where big collection bins were set up so the cans could be recycled into solder and airplane bearings, according to a February column in the Orlando Sentinel.

In fact, on Oct. 19, 1942, the War Production Board mandated every town with a population greater than 25,000 had to have a tin-can collection process.

Butler-Faringer was about 11 on a solo trip to the grocery store when an announcement came over the store’s radio saying the United States was going to war.

“I remember running home to tell my mom,” she said.

Her father worked for Bethlehem Steel at the time and intended to join the United States Naval Construction Battalions, or Seabees.

“I remember sitting on the sofa between my two parents and crying that I didn’t want him to go into the war,” she said.

Luckily, because of his job at the Steel, her father was told he was needed at home.

Because men were off fighting , the government looked for high school-age boys to work on local farms, said Spaziani who spent the summer of his freshman year working at a dairy farm in Tioga County for $1 a day.

It was hard labor. There were 26 cows to milk and wheat, corn and barley to harvest, but Spaziani said it was probably the best summer of his life.

“The farmer’s wife was a fantastic cook,” he recalled.

By the end of that summer, Spaziani had gained 10 pounds of muscle and was in better shape than ever for his sophomore football season.

In 1999, the class established an ongoing scholarship fund that has awarded nearly $40,000 to local students over the years. They also purchased the announcement sign that stands in front of Paxinosa Elementary, which served as the original high school until 1961, Spaziani said.

He’s unsure whether the group will have another official reunion, but says they plan to continue raising money for their scholarship fund.

“You never know. Maybe we will see you next year,” he said.