Saturday, July 18, 2015

45 Years & Still Hitting Stride

Amherst Regional High School top right, Jr. High bottom left, 1970

They say 60 is the new 40.  For the 1970 graduating class of Amherst Regional High School -- now pushing retirement age -- this year's 45th reunion may be the perfect time to test that slogan.

You're old enough to have experienced much of what life can throw out both good and bad, but still young enough to keep coming back for more.  And maybe passing on that hard-won wisdom to the generations following behind.

ARHS 1970

Most baby boomers would agree that 1970, the Age of Aquarius, was an epically tumultuous year.

The anti-war movement hit a frenzied peak, culminating with a "student strike" nationwide following the tragic May 4 shooting deaths of four student protesters at Kent State by National Guard troops.

And then, less than two weeks later, two black Jackson State students were killed by police bullets.

Click to enlarge photo

Following the Cambodia invasion UMass Amherst shut down for the semester just before finals, and although ARHS did not follow suit, the student body was actively involved in protesting the war.

Plaque on the Amherst Town Common

Many would participate in the stand out in Amherst town center every Sunday initiated by the Quakers, and to this day still carried on by a small determined contingent. 

Although not all students protested against the war.  Some would show their support in a disruptive way by tearing off black armbands worn by fellow students symbolically expressing their discontent.

Principal Langlois took to the P.A. system to strongly defend the First Amendment right of students to display their symbolic disapproval of the war and chastised those who would bully them.  He comparing the wearing of a black armband with the right to wear a religious medallion.

Race relations was also a hugely divisive national issue back then -- as it still is today -- managing to infiltrate the halls of Amherst Regional High School as well.

The A Better Chance program, that brought inner city black youth to our predominantly white middle class High School, had just started the previous year and was not met with enthusiasm by a distinct minority of the student body.

One day the disgruntled group organized a symbolic protest by having supporters wear white shirts to school.  Once again Principal Langlois set the malcontents straight in a school wide assembly defending the ABC program, which thrives to this day.

ARHS also instituted a "black studies" program that was not met with overall support by a number of the black students and their parents.  Just as today the school sometimes struggles with providing programming that pleases everyone.

Like most of the graduating classes from ARHS dating back 60 years the vast majority of the 234 members of the class of 1970 spread far and wide, away from our little college town. 

Come August 7-9 many will return to warmly reminiss about the good old days, rekindle friendships, perhaps mend ancient disagreements, and remember those who are no longer with us.

Or maybe just hoist a celebratory toast to their remaining classmates for getting this far; and for not just seeing things as they were, but for dreaming things that could be.

And still can.

Goldbug 1970 Yearbook two page spread

Special thanks to Jones Library Special Collections department


Anonymous said...

What is the point of this?

Larry Kelley said...

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Anonymous said...

Very cool- thanks Larry.

Larry Kelley said...

No problem.

Stirred up a lot of interesting memories for me.

Rene said...

Was thus your class, Larry? I guess I thought you were somewhat younger.

Larry Kelley said...

No, but pretty close. I'm class of 1972 (St. Mike's in Northampton).

Tom Porter said...

Larry, whose drone shot that intriguing first picture of the Jr High and the High School?

Larry Kelley said...

It was in the 1970 Amherst Record, accredited as an "aerial photo provided by the School Department."

Anonymous said...

1970 was the transition from sanity to insanity.

Dr. Ed said...

Let me see if I understand this: The Principal condemned bullying those wearing black armbands but then proceeded to HIMSELF bully those wearing white shirts. That is nothing less than being a damned hypocrite, particularly when you remember that Westover & Barnes were active bases at the time, which meant that some of the kids attending ARHS had parents on active duty.

Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the Norway Maple is considered so much of an "invasive species" that it is now banned in Massachusetts...