by Barbara Sottilaro
PERTH AMBOY — On Friday, Nov. 1, 2013 at 4:45 p.m., the Perth Amboy High School (PAHS) Class of 1958 began celebrating their 55th reunion by “buzzing the stem” or driving down Smith Street. This was our custom in the fifties. Many of us who had cars would drive through town on Friday night which was the big shopping night to see and be seen.
Those participating, met at the Terrazza Restaurant parking lot on High Street. Perth Amboy police officers Rogers and Martinez were there to guide us on the historical trip. With their lights flashing and the sirens whooping, they stopped traffic and led us around the city hall circle, through the downtown, turning into the train station and back on to Smith Street. We opened our windows and sun-roofs and played our fifties music. For me, Barbara Franko Sottilaro, as the leader of the caravan in my red Accord, it was the “coolest” thing I ever did.
Those who were in the caravan raved about how much fun we had. They noted the puzzled looks on the faces of the shoppers and passersby who didn’t know whether we were a funeral procession or a wedding. About 30 classmates “buzzed” the stem. We made history with this momentous event, and the police officers helped make it so. Afterwards, we returned to Terrazza to reminisce and continue our celebration.
The spectacular main event of Saturday, Nov. 2, was held at the ZPA Banquet Hall and Lounge on Grace Street. It was beautifully decorated in our School colors of red and white. Many guests commented on the 4 easels that held the photos and names of the 83 classmates who are no longer with us displayed in the form of the letters “PAHS”. We danced to the music of the fifties by the Moonrakers. There was a huge cake with the logo of our yearbook in the center of the red and white icing. Photos and memorabilia of our classmates adorned tables along the wall. Red panther “class of ’58” T-shirts were given out along with chocolate panther lollipops. It was a great evening none of us wanted to end or will ever forget. We ended the evening with the song “Moments to Remember”.
On Sunday, we continued our celebration, meeting at the ZPA to begin a tour of the historical treasures of Perth Amboy on the Jankowski Senior Citizen bus graciously loaned to us by Kenneth Ortiz, Director of Human Services of the city of Perth Amboy. Our classmate, Tony Massopust, the city historian, pointed out the salient sites along the way including the new Herbert Richardson School which replaced the former Number 10 and 4 schools of our childhood as well as the Thomas Mundy Peterson School across from the McGinnis School.
Our first stop was the McGinnis School, for us the “Halls of Ivy” or the former Perth Amboy High School from which we graduated. We were met by principal, Dr. Myrna Garcia and her husband. She escorted us through the building pointing out the math lab, the new library and the cafeteria. We all sat in the gym bleachers and reminisced about our proms, the dances, the basketball games, and our extraordinary teachers. We continued our excursion with a stop at Kearny Cottage and were given a talk on the former note worthy residents of the cottage by Katherine Massopust. Our next stop was the Royal Governor’s Mansion, or Proprietary House, and Anton Massopust Jr. gave us an enlightening tour of this important building. We ended our tour with a walk through the Cemetery of St. Peter’s Parish on Rector Street.
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