I wrote last year about a number of significant anniversaries that were occurring in 2018 and included my senior year at San Pedro High School.
A quirk of timing put me in a winter class (the Classics), which meant that my actual high school graduation was January 31, 1969. So my 50th reunion, if it takes place, will be some time this year. Winter graduations seem rather quaint since they were eliminated in the early `70s—one night you’re partying hard, three days later, for many, you’re starting college—but until then, it was standard to split students into A and B grades based on birth dates. (A lot of that, I think, had to do with the propensity for June weddings, as myself and many of my winter classmates all have birthdays around the same time, about nine months after June.)
Winter classes were always small. Today, single classes can number in the 600s or 700s. Ours fit nicely on the SPHS auditorium stage. My graduation program lists 221 names, but the 1969 yearbook shows just 180 pictures (with no one missing). Because of that, you usually knew most, if not all, of your classmates. Because classrooms were often a mix of A and B grades, you also got to know a lot of older and younger students. In my case, I hung out with a lot of S`68 and S`69 kids.
My class was invited to join the S`68 reunion, and we’re also invited to the S`69 reunion. I personally have never attended a class reunion of any kind, but I suspect that will change with the 50th for the obvious reason that I’m tired of running into classmates at funerals or reading about them in the obituaries. It would be nice to celebrate and catch up with people I haven’t seen in decades, especially now that we’ve all forgotten why we probably didn’t like each other in the first place. And the truth is, as I look through the yearbook, I don’t remember a lot of them that well, other than the face looks familiar. The half that I went to Dodson Junior High with, I remained closer to at Pedro, and I still knew a small group from Dana because of my years at Leland Street Elementary. There are a lot of shared memories, however, no matter how close we were 50 years ago. We survived assassinations, a war (our class didn’t lose anyone in Vietnam), riots, the Manson family, and so much more. Now, it’s time to brag about our grandkids.
Carmela Lauro is attempting to form a W`69 reunion committee and is encouraging any classmates to get in touch with her. I hope they can pull it off. Social media has put a lot of us back in touch, and while San Pedrans tend to stay close to home, I know many of my classmates have scattered to the four winds: Jimmy Damalas, class president, owns a world-renowned resort in Costa Rica; John Hiigel, who was student body president, is a professor in South Dakota; Susie (Harris) Wood, “Personality Plus,” is in Utah along with Storm (Chalman) Louise Curtis; Linda (Shel-ton) Condit, “Most Unforgettable,” is in Seattle; retired Navy officer Anthony (Tony) Barbieri hangs his hat in Texas.
If you were in my class, call Carmela at (310) 365-0335 or drop me an email. I’d also encourage you to join the San Pedro Born and Raised Facebook community to stay updated.
SPOTLIGHT ON DANTE
Grand Canyon University, a Christian campus in Phoenix, made news in February for all the wrong reasons, when an invitation to conservative speaker Ben Shapiro was denied and then allowed after a public outcry. At the same time, another event was taking place on campus that had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with San Pedro native, Jonathan Olson.
Olson, 38, an assistant professor of English, oversaw a marathon reading of Dante’s 14th-century classic narrative poem, Divine Comedy. For 12-plus hours, 50 readers, mostly students but including faculty and others, read outside on the lawn. Olson introduced the marathon oral reading concept last year with Milton’s Paradise Lost. In 2017, Olson co-edited Milton in Translation, a recent winner of the Milton Society of America’s Irene Samuel Memorial Award.
Home-schooled by his parents, Randy and Margo, Eagle Scout Olson graduated from Biola University in La Mirada in 2003 and then spent the next nine years immersed in classical education in England. He received his master’s in English at the University of Birmingham and his doctorate from the University of Liverpool before returning to the States. It’s not all classics for Olson, however. Last year, he gave a presentation at the Comics Study Conference at the University of Illinois. His wife, Christi, also has her doctorate and teaches.
Olson’s dad, a S`66 graduate of San Pedro High, is retired after a 36-year legal career in which he spent the last 10 years as a Superior Court commissioner in Long Beach.
You’re invited to join me on “A Bus Ride Through San Pedro History” at 2 p.m. on April 20 at the San Pedro Library.
I was asked to speak by the Friends of San Pedro Library, and picking my topic was easy. I’m intimately connected to the long history of private bus lines in San Pedro, starting with my great-uncle Simone Marconi in 1915. Generations of San Pedrans used buses to travel around town, and a little-known but fascinating part of San Pedro’s history is the link of our early Italian community and the transportation industry. And after 40 years of the RTD, evidence of the old bus lines remains.
The event is free (as my wife so often says, I’m good for nothing). Hope to see you there.
Steve Marconi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.