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Young at heart, slightly older in other places

On Saturday, September 8, from 12:30 to about 2:30 p.m., Concord High School’s Class of 1948 held its 70th class reunion at Heritage Heights.

Some 40 people, 22 alumni and friends combined, came together in the Great Hall to celebrate and catch up with people not seen since the group’s last reunion five years ago.

They took time to proudly sing the high school’s song “Hail, Hail to Concord,” written by classmate Muriel Coleman. Coleman died in 2007.

And, they shared memories of what it was like to start high school during World War II and graduate in its aftermath, experiencing extraordinary events while also enjoying the same types of activities that today’s CHS students do.

Winifred Woodbury Langtry, who was active in many clubs such as choir and glee club, had “good memories” of Concord High before she went off to Keene for college to become a teacher.

She said that she was “very aware of what was going on with the war” because she had a family friend in the service and so had first-hand insights of what was going on: “more than others.”

Langtry remembers practicing air raid drills where CHS students would hide under desks or run into woods and hide.

She also talked about receiving letters from the war, sent by her family friend. “Soldiers writing home from the war had to be careful with what they said in their letters” because some things weren’t allowed to be publicly shared.

“Often times in letters if something was written that wasn’t supposed to be shared it would be marked out.” To reduce the cost of sending the letters out through the military postal system, “v-mail” letters were censored and copied to film overseas and then printed back on to paper upon arrival back in the United States.

Betty Mahon shared that back when she was at CHS her least favorite was math and her most favorite was English because she enjoys reading. What she remembers most were good times with her best friend of 83 years, fellow Class of 1948 graduate and reunion attendee Norma Morse Whitcomb.

Mahon and Whitcome told stories of running to the theater after school to catch a showing of Gone With the Wind.

They spent every Saturday night together watching the fights at Mahon’s house because her family had a TV before the Whitcombs did.

CHS students today use cell phones but back in the 40s people shared land lines. Mahon described her family’s “party-line” which was a phone line that was connected to many households. Different families knew when to answer the phone based on the tone of the ring.

“You could listen in on people’s conversations,” Whitcomb said, leading all at the table to share a laugh.  

Mahon now works for a telephone company in a management position where she worked for the past 15 years.

Whitcomb, who was also active in the glee club, remembers what the fashion was like back around 1948. Girls wore formal dresses to events like prom and knee socks and long skirts to school. Pants and jeans weren’t a thing yet.

She also shared some distinct war-related memories, including rationing of food and gasoline. War songs and movies became popular, and movie star Bette Davis came to visit New Hampshire to promote war bonds.

“The war touched us and I remembers everyone just tried to be as patriotic as possible,” she said. 

Following graduation Whitcomb went on to college at UNH and got a job as an administrative assistant at St Paul’s, where she worked for 19 years. She did get married, to a man in the navy, but waited until later than most because she “wanted to have fun.” 

Carolyn Jesseman Adams, who also attended the reunion, was part of the basketball team and glee club here at Concord High. She was also active with her church in the choir and attended summer camp every summer at Camp Dakotah in Keene.

Adams remembers walking to school and to many other places. She didn’t have a car, as do many CHS upperclassmen in 2018, but said Chevy and Ford were popular models when she was in high school and only cost, at most, around $1200. And while gas was cheap then — about 25 cents per gallon — not many people drove because of the  gas rationing.

Frances Quimby Howland said she didn’t do any sports or afterschool activities at CHS because she worked, as did many other young women. She did share that she met the love of her life in freshman year. They got engaged her senior year and they were married for 56 years until late husband passed away. 

Howland, Adams and others have seen many impressive advancement of technology, including the first jet plane and refrigerators instead of iceboxes. Construction, too, has changed radically since 1948.

There were no complexes then like there are now: hospitals, nursing homes, etc. Also people didn’t talk the way they do now about medical issues.

In addition to sharing memories, those who attended the reunion enjoyed general catching up on who’s been doing what since they last met.

 “We’ve all been friends for years” said Daisy Day.  “I’ve been best friends with one of the girls here since kindergarten.”

“I could have never gotten through high school without the friends I made and kept all these 70 years,” said Howland.

Day and Whitcomb are two of five Concord High alumni currently on the committee. The other members are Peachy Healy, Howland and Honey Reardon.

The group has decided that this will be the final reunion for the Class of 1948, and so they planned a party no one will forget. 

“This is like a goodbye,” said Whitcomb. “We’ve planned for years, prepared and tried to execute it, and now it’s over.”

Reardon and Healy,  asked what advice they had to share to CHS students who’ll graduate soon, said, “Stay healthy, exercise, and have fun. Then in seventy years, you can be here for your seventieth reunion.”  

Day had one additional piece of advice for younger CHS graduates as the successful event came to a close. “Do what you can while you can.” 

Fellow Class of 1948 member Paul Anderson, who pitched for Concord High’s baseball team and also served as class treasurer back in the day, advised finding balance. “Always do your work but also don’t drown yourself in work,” he said.

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