Saturday, February 17, 2018

NPHS Reunion Interview: Mike Watson, Class of 1968

Mike and Bonnie Watson
Describe your career in 100 words or less.
I spend almost my entire career as an electrician.  I also worked 38 years in the motion picture industry.  I was a post-sound technician and ended my career as a post-sound wireman foreman.  I retired in May, 2014.

Where do you live now?
I live in Arroyo Grande, California (almost halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco).  After retiring, I moved from southern California to San Luis Obispo County, California where Arroyo Grande is located.  Among the places I've lived since leaving North Plainfield: Minnesota (1968-69), Mt. Pleasant, Iowa (1970-71) and Santa Monica, California, beginning in 1976.

What was your sense of community in the high school?
I attended young life meetings for a year.  I was in Cub Scouts and then Boy Scouts.  And for a time I was with the Sea Scouts.

What experiences in high school -- positive or negative -- helped to shape you as a person?
Everything turned out pretty well so I would like to dwell on the positive and point to the friendships I made and kept.

Do you have any regrets about your experiences during high school?
Not studying harder and not getting better grades.

Now, 50 years later, has your perspective on high school changed at all?
For a while I thought that I had totally squandered my chances for success in any field. But I found something I loved to do.  They say if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life!

What are your fondest memories of your years at North Plainfield High School?
Some of my fondest memories were hanging out with my good friends.  I had a solid family life.  It was really great that my dad came to all of my football games.
Mike Watson, on his sailboat, off the coast of Catalina Island (California), 1976.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

NPHS Classmates -- These Were the Top Songs of 1968

"Sunshine of Your Love," from Cream's psychedelic Disraeli Gears album, ranked as the  #6 song of the year.

  1. "Hey Jude" (The Beatles)
  2. "Love Is Blue" (Paul Mauriat)
  3. "Honey" (Bobby Goldsboro)
  4. "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay (Otis Redding)
  5. "People Got to Be Free" (The Rascals)
  6. "Sunshine of Your Love" (Cream)
  7. "This Guy's in Love with You" (Help Alpert)
  8. "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" (Hugo Montenegro)
  9. "Mrs. Robinson" "(Simon & Garfunkel)
  10. "Tighten Up" (Archie Bell and the Drells)

Saturday, February 10, 2018

NPHS Reunion Interview: Maggie King, Class of 1968

Maggie King at a Virginia conference for writers in October 2017.
In 100 words or less, describe your career.  
I started out as a retail sales manager but spent most of my career in IT, as a programmer/analyst, web designer, and PC trainer. My best career is my current one as a mystery writer.

Where do you live now and where have you lived since graduating?
In 2002, my husband, Glen, and I moved to the great city of Richmond, Virginia. We live with our cats, Morris and Olive. After college graduation in 1972 I lived in Boston (‘73-‘75); back to North Plainfield (‘75-‘77); out to Los Angeles (‘77-‘96); back to the east coast, this time in Charlottesville, Virginia (‘96-‘02).

What was your sense of community in your class/in the school at NPHS?  
I made many good friends during my high school years, and our relationships endure.

What experiences in high school, positive or negative, helped to shape you as a person? 
High schoolers are challenged with giant social, personal, and physical changes, resulting in frustration and anxiety—in other words, teen angst. I wasn’t immune and dealt with my angst through journaling and writing really bad poetry. I still have the journal and the poetry. And no, I’m not sharing. 

The journal entries and the angst continued throughout my life. In the nineties, I turned to writing mysteries, often incorporating my strong sense of justice into my work. And my political reps get a piece of my mind on a regular basis.     

Do you have any regrets about your experiences during your high school years?
I wish I’d been more serious. My mother always said I had high potential and when was I going to reach it, or even approach it? But studying and school activities (except for the social ones) didn’t top my list of priorities. The opposite sex took that honor.

Now, 50 years later, has your perspective on your high school years changed at all?  If so, how? 
This is the most interesting question that’s been asked for this interview.  Back in the day, I didn’t expect that everyone I knew, classmates included, would have an effect on my life, in big and small ways. But now I see that this is true. Reconnecting at reunions and on social media has made this realization all the more apparent.

What is your fondest memory of your years at NPHS?  
I performed a parody of Don Quixote for Spanish class. It was fun and the students and Mr. Kianese enjoyed it. 

What was the craziest or stupidest thing you did in high school?  
Lighting that first cigarette at age 14 in a misguided attempt to be “cool.” I quit and restarted many times over the next twenty years, but finally lit up for the last time in 1984. And no one thought I was cool.

What was your proudest accomplishment in high school?  
Getting my driver’s license. Being that I was the world’s worst driver—or at least North Plainfield’s worst—I was extremely happy and grateful the day I passed my test. I desperately wanted to drive. Before the day was over, I managed to back up into the car behind me at a light and smash the guy’s headlight. He took pity on me and promised not to report it if I paid for a replacement. Which I did.

My driving skills improved, but I can’t say I’m eager to get behind the wheel these days.    

Who was your favorite teacher?
NPHS was blessed with wonderful teachers, so I had a few favorites. Mrs. Charters for one. Not only was she a stellar English teacher, but she didn’t put up with any disruptive students. I remember the day she expelled the top three troublemakers. Too cool. I loved Spanish, so have fond memories of Mrs. Mayer, Mr. Kianese, and Mrs. Meise. Then there was Mr. Pecoraro (Algebra), Mr. Faulkner (Sociology), Mr. Radner (English), and several others.    

What was your worst class? 
Chemistry. Just wasn’t my thing.

What is your most powerful or haunting memory during your years at NPHS?
When Miss Irene Hutnick died from a self-inflicted shotgun wound at the age of 22. I’ll never forget the day Mr. Messer announced it on the PA system. She had graduated in my brother’s class and was in her first year at NPHS as a gym teacher. It was supposed that the recent breakup with her fiancée led to this tragedy. This was probably the first time someone I knew committed suicide.  

How did growing up at a child of the 60s – and all the social baggage and impact that it may have entailed – impact you at the time and in your young adult years? 
I often wish I’d been a hippie. In retrospect, it seems like such fun. But my family was very conservative and my brother served in the military, doing two Vietnam tours. They pressured me to be mainstream. Plus dressing well was very important to me back then (it’s ceased to be). Let’s face it, hippies weren’t the sharpest dressers.

That said, I did partake in some of the excesses of the time. I’ll be vague about the particulars.  

Parting words.
Be well, my friends. I look forward to seeing y’all at the reunion. Don’t forget to view my website/blog, or connect with me on Facebook (MaggieKingAuthor) or Twitter (@MaggieKingAuthr)

Maggie at 19.  

Sunday, January 28, 2018

NPHS Reunion Interview: Barbara Green Elbeze, Class of 1969

Barbara Green Elbeze and her husband Fernand share a love of biking in foreign lands.  Here they are in a 2012 trip to Costa Rico.  

Barbara Green Elbeze retired in 2008 after 27 years in Alexandria City (VA) schools.  Her career in education totaled 35 years as a teacher and administrator, from full time teaching middle and high school level English for Speakers of Other Language (ESOL) and Spanish. However, she continues to work in her community in many ways such as teaching ESOL and Spanish for Fairfax County adult community education programs, tutoring, working as a teacher-support specialist for her religious school, supervising student-teachers in their MA programs for two universities  (GWU and JMU) and assisting a Class Manager for jazzercise.  She also volunteers as a Court Appointed Special Advocate.  Whew!   She and her Parisian husband of 40 years Fernand Elbeze live Fairfax, VA, a metro ride of only 12 miles from the White House. She lived in the DMV (District, MD VA) area from 1969-1975, until finishing grad school.  Then Barbara lived for seven years in the Monticello, NY, area. In 1984, she and her husband moved back to Virginia to raise their two daughters and have been there ever since. She met Fernand at a kibbutz in Israel in 1976.  They love to travel and they are especially passionate about bike tours to different countries.  In fact, she is returning from a bike tour in Greece the day before the reunion (Oct. 5) and may be too jet-lagged to attend. 

What was your sense of community in your class/in the school at NPHS?  
I definitely felt a spirit of community and connection to everyone in our class, whether or not we were in the same classes or not. We were encouraged to participate in sports, clubs, social activities and to mix up with everyone.  At least I felt that way. We knew each other since kindergarten in some cases and when the “East End” met the “West End” and the Catholic schools, we just merged and all became friends.

What experiences in high school, positive or negative, helped to shape you as a person? 
Growing up in North Plainfield, helped make me the tolerant, open, and multiculturally sensitive person I have become.  Our town was the original “multicultural” one. My friends were all from different religious and ethnic backgrounds. Different languages were spoken at home, different foods cooked, but all of us became the melting pot.  Our dreams and aspirations were given wings by our teachers and we were given confidence to pursue them.  They gave us great courses, challenging learning situations, and the tools to help us manage the rigors of studying without the stress.  As an educator, I realize how those NPHS teachers helped mold me into the teacher and member of my community that I became.    

Do you have any regrets about your experiences during your high school years
I wish I had been more of an “activist” but I suppose I didn’t have the confidence to be a leader then. I was developing and at least I felt enough self-esteem to continue to grow in college and beyond. I wish girls had had the opportunity to play the sports like the boys, but GAA (Girls’ Athletic Association) helped keep me “in the game.”

Now, 50 years later, has your perspective on your high school years changed at all?  If so, how? 
Yes, I treasure those memories and realize that it was an important chapter in my life that I will never forget!  We were naïve, awkward, inexperienced, but we were still “us.”

What is your fondest memory of your years at NPHS?   I loved so many classes and teachers, but I remember the “Great Books” discussions we had with Ms. O’Brien.  We really began to do higher level thinking and developed those skills that helped us in college and life!

What was the craziest or stupidest thing you did in high school?  Once I got “drunk” before a canteen dance.  According to the friends I was with, I kissed one of the teachers and acted totally silly.  I was so ashamed because I felt the worst punishment would be that I had dashed my chances of being inducted in the National Honor Society!!  Imagine that.  But, I was inducted senior year anyway.

What was your proudest accomplishment in high school?  
I enjoyed languages so much (and still do, of course) and I was thrilled to be able to take two languages my junior and senior year. (Spanish and French) I accelerated myself over the summer to go from French 1 to 3 while taking Spanish 5 and loving it. I actually tutored the French 1 students for the teacher in that class. (Ms. Harford).

Who was your favorite teacher? 
Undoubtedly it was Mr. Kianese, who became a role model for me. I had him for four years and was never bored, always challenged in his classes.  He inspired me to major in Spanish undergrad and the foundation he gave me was instrumental in being selected for a fellowship from University of Maryland for my first MA.  I once wrote a paper about him and his influence on my teaching style and love of Spanish.   

What was your worst class? 
I hated math, but never felt like it was the teacher’s fault. Not being astute enough to take Calculus senior year, I went into a Probability and Statistics class over at “Harrison” school. That’s the only class I ended up spending more time skipping, in the bathroom, (with Paula LaCosta) and not in the classroom because it was SO boring.  I can’t remember the teacher, but his lessons were so lackluster that he put me to sleep!  (maybe Mr. Pritchard?)

What is your most powerful or haunting memory during your years at NPHS?
I remember the decade of the 60’s and going to school in such a volatile time.  In fact, I remember 6th grade and hearing about the Cuban Missile Crisis on the PA and being scared out of our minds with our teachers in that building. The assassinations, the Vietnam War, the protests, Woodstock, the hippies.  It was all in our time. I remember one of our classmates’ brothers who died in Vietnam.  He was the only son in that family with three daughters. I was friendly with the youngest girl (Faye Baranoski) who was in our class and it broke my heart when we learned the news of his passing. It made it real to us and then going to college in DC it all became even more “real” but I was then in the middle of it all.   

How did growing up at a child of the 60s – and all the social baggage and impact that it may have entailed – impact you at the time and in your young adult years? 

I think it made me a thinker, a do-er, and more altruistic.  I read, watched, observed others, and tried to find my own niche and style.  It was a fascinating time and one that made us care about others and the world.  Hope we never lose that ideal!
Barbara (seated) in 1975 teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages.