Nothing could keep the Greenport High School Class of 1945 from celebrating its graduation every five years; not even 2,500 miles, the distance one attendee, Mary Becker Smart, drove from Texas in order to make the event.
Seated around a table in the dining section of Michelangelo’s in Southold, six lifelong friends and some of their family members reminisced, sharing laughs about what everyone remembered — or didn’t remember — from high school 70 years ago.
Chatting with an ease only heard among longtime friends, Henry Santacroce Sr., Sue Mortensen Tasker, Edna Turner Quartochia, Agnes Malinauskas Dunn, Alyce Kruszeski Doroski and Ms. Smart discussed the legacy they left at Greenport during the reunion Friday afternoon.
“We were the first ones that started the Beachcomber,” Mr. Santacroce said, taking out a copy of the 1945 black and white paperback yearbook and passing it around the table.
In addition to the yearbook, the class created their own song and motto. They were very determined, the former classmates agreed.
“Our motto was ‘if we can’t find a path, we’ll make one,’ ” Ms. Dunn said.
Ms. Quartochia then began singing the class song as Mr. Santacroce, the organizer of this year’s reunion, asked others to join in, with no luck. The song, sung to the melody of the Doris Day tune “My Dreams are Getting Better All the Time,” celebrates the class finally graduating.
Ms. Tasker joked that leaving school was her favorite high school memory.
Other fond memories included their rainy graduation day — when the teens solidified their bond and shouted, “forward — as well as their class trip to the Picadilly Hotel in New York City to see a Broadway play.
Ms. Tasker said the class was supposed to visit Washington D.C. for the trip, but couldn’t because the United States was fighting World War II at the time.
The war affected their lives in other ways than changing their trip destination. Many of the classmates said they chose careers following graduation that required them to move to D.C., either working as a “government girl” or enlisting in the service.
Although the six classmates left Greenport following graduation, all but one at the reunion eventually made their way back to the North Fork. But surprisingly, they don’t see each other that often.
“We live in a small town, but we only see each other when we bump into each other shopping,” Ms. Tasker said.
That’s why the group believes having reunions is so important.
“We wanted to check and see if everyone still has their brains, so every five years we check up,” Ms. Quartochia said with a laugh.
The Class of 1945 takes this very seriously. They boast about attending most, if not all, of the 14 reunions held. Those unable to attend this year — like Earl Breese — still made an effort to participate in the reunion.
“He usually came, but he’s with the veterans this weekend,” said Ms. Tasker, waiting for him to call in to chat.
While the group has “thinned down quite a bit” from their original 58 members, Mr. Santacroce said, the good times haven’t over the years.
“This is a milestone,” said Mr. Santacroce’s wife, Barbara. “When you think about it, 70 years, it’s a big deal.”