I still see some of my friends from Riverside High School, and it’s always fun to reminisce about years gone by – before the ups and downs and twists and turns of life molded us into who we are today. In August, the class of 1953 will celebrate our 60-year reunion.
Athletes, politicians, teachers, nurses and a whole variety of good people came out of that class. Fortunately, we were a close-knit group. It seems that no matter where they live, even if it’s in a foreign country, many still show up every five years to rehash old times. Smiles abound and there are pictures galore.
There are stories of Murtagh’s, a soda bar on Tonawanda Street, where we used to meet. For those too young to know, a soda bar was a special meeting place where the jukebox played the latest tunes and where ice cream sodas, banana splits and special drinks, like the Horse’s Neck, were available.
Riverside Park was a perfect place to meet for a swim, a day of sunbathing (this was long before SPF 30 was even heard of), a game of tennis or baseball or just acting goofy.
Our only form of local transportation was a bicycle. A ride from Riverside to Beaver Island Park for a swim was all in a day’s work. No way did we ask for a car ride; there was only one car and Dad took that to work while Mom was home doing housework and making dinner.
A nice walk by the river or a concert by an orchestra was a treat. We watched the many boats go down the Niagara River, so close it seemed like you could reach out and touch them. There was always a wave from someone on the large vessels from other countries, bringing a smile to our faces. Fishing was spectacular by the Riverside Park lighthouse. Back then, you knew when spring weather was well on its way in April or May because the guys would jump off the lighthouse into the river to see who could stay in the water the longest. I tried it once and thought my lungs would explode. A lesson well-learned.
Front porches were a great place to spend a rainy day. That’s when a continuous game of Monopoly was high on the agenda. There were no electronic games for us; we had to use the old brain. The porch swing was a special place to sneak a kiss or two. It was a much more innocent time.
We loved the weekend dances at the local church. Back then, all of the slow tunes were played for good old-fashioned dancing together. The “dip” and the cha-cha were popular, along with the jitterbug.
The local movie theater was crowded on weekends. You attended with your group of friends on Friday night, while Saturday was date night. If you didn’t have anything else to do, you might go on Sunday afternoon to see the changeover for the week in new movies. But many friends had to stay home because Sunday dinner was special, with family and company coming over.
I could go on and on about the ’50s — what a fun time it was! It hardly seems possible that 60 years have gone by so quickly. Some of our high school sweethearts are still married, and sadly other classmates have passed on. Even though our class is getting smaller at each reunion, we still vote to do it all over again in another five years. God willing.