2016-08-19 / Front Page

The class that plays together . . .

By Molly Lovell-Keely
Managing Editor


Laura (Hasey) Small shows a newspaper clipping from high school where she’s featured. She’s all the way to the right in the photo and attempting to hide a cane that she had to use because of polio. (Molly Lovell-Keely photo) Laura (Hasey) Small shows a newspaper clipping from high school where she’s featured. She’s all the way to the right in the photo and attempting to hide a cane that she had to use because of polio. (Molly Lovell-Keely photo) The South Portland High School class of 1964 is planning at 70th birthday party of all of its members, who turn 70 in 2016. The group has been getting together monthly since their 50th reunion two years ago.

SOUTH PORTLAND – There’s one class in South Portland High School’s history that seems unlike the rest.

For two years – since their 50th class reunion – the class of 1964 has met monthly for luncheons. Next month, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, it will hold a 70th birthday party for everyone in the class at the Maine Military Museum, 50 Peary Terrace in South Portland. Students from Cheverus High School’s class of 1964 are also invited.


A yearbook photo of Sandra (Coughlin) Peters, who is also in the background, wearing pink. Peters was on vacation in Maine but lives year-round in Florida. (Molly Lovell-Keely photo) A yearbook photo of Sandra (Coughlin) Peters, who is also in the background, wearing pink. Peters was on vacation in Maine but lives year-round in Florida. (Molly Lovell-Keely photo) “A lot of them came from South Portland; we went to the same schools until eighth-grade,” said Biddeford resident Jeanne (Farrell) Lovell, a Red Bank native. “We’ve kept in touch with them, we’re still friends.”

Many of the girls dated Cheverus boys.

“Some of us even married them,” Lovell said, smiling, referring to her first husband, her high school sweetheart who was a Cheverus student.

About 15 members of the class of ’64 and their spouses attended an all-day get together July 22 at the home of Laura (Hasey) Small on Little Sebago Lake in Gray. The women introduced themselves by their maiden names and most, at some point, mentioned names of classmates they wondered about.


Members of the class of 1964 and their spouses pose for a photo with a sign that travels to each of their monthly gatherings. Jeanne (Farrell) Lovell stood next to Bruce Johnson in the back left of the photo; Johnson died Aug. 11. “I said to him, ‘You have the dearest wife.’ ‘Yes, I know,’ is what he replied. I can’t believe that’s the last thing I said to him.” (Molly Lovell-Keely photo) Members of the class of 1964 and their spouses pose for a photo with a sign that travels to each of their monthly gatherings. Jeanne (Farrell) Lovell stood next to Bruce Johnson in the back left of the photo; Johnson died Aug. 11. “I said to him, ‘You have the dearest wife.’ ‘Yes, I know,’ is what he replied. I can’t believe that’s the last thing I said to him.” (Molly Lovell-Keely photo) John Buckley, who grew up on Hill Street in the Pleasantdale neighborhood, is a Wisconsin resident, but he and his children vacation in Maine every summer. He found out about the class of 1964’s monthly events through Facebook.

“Interestingly, what I’ve found was that the people who were great in high school, still were great, and the people who we thought were jerks in high school, well, they turned out to be OK, too. They probably say the same thing about me,” he said, laughing.


Above, Jeanne (Farrell) Lovell and Bruce Johnson on July 22 at a gathering of the South Portland class of 1964. Johnson died on Aug. 11. He told Lovell that he had a crush on her, and that in high school she had “the cutest curls.” “You never asked me out,” she quipped. Lovell said she and classmates were “sad, shocked” to learn of Johnson’s death. Right, John Buckley, pointing himself out in the “Honor Parts” of his class’s year book. Their senior was when John F. Kennedy was assassinated and Buckley said he remembers it being on a Friday. Lovell and her best friend since kindergarten, Sandra (Coughlin) Peters, said they cried together all weekend. (Molly Lovell-Keely photos) Above, Jeanne (Farrell) Lovell and Bruce Johnson on July 22 at a gathering of the South Portland class of 1964. Johnson died on Aug. 11. He told Lovell that he had a crush on her, and that in high school she had “the cutest curls.” “You never asked me out,” she quipped. Lovell said she and classmates were “sad, shocked” to learn of Johnson’s death. Right, John Buckley, pointing himself out in the “Honor Parts” of his class’s year book. Their senior was when John F. Kennedy was assassinated and Buckley said he remembers it being on a Friday. Lovell and her best friend since kindergarten, Sandra (Coughlin) Peters, said they cried together all weekend. (Molly Lovell-Keely photos) Buckley went to the 50th class reunion but before that, hadn’t seen his classmates since 15 years after graduation.

“Some people I recognized right away, others not so much. I had an easier time recognizing my women classmates. They age differently. First off, men lose their hair,” he said, pointing to himself. “The men have mustaches and facially, they look different.”

The class of 1964 had many members. Buckley estimates more than 300.

“We’re all Baby Boomers, born right after World War II,” he said.

Buckley’s wife, a graduate of the class of 1963, gets together with her class once a summer; the two literally had chemistry together – they met in a chemistry class at South Portland High School when Buckley was a junior.

Facebook, Buckley said, has made it easier to stay in touch with his classmates.

“We moved around a lot,” said Buckley, who retired from the military after 22 years. “I got reconnected at the 50th and here I am.”

Small looked back at an old newspaper clipping and couldn’t help remembering the cane she used throughout high school because of polio. She could tell she was trying to hide the cane in the photo, but it was visible.

“Nobody that I knew in South Portland had polio,” said Small, who was diagnosed with it in 1949 at the age of 3. “I had crutches until junior high, then I had an operation that was supposed to keep me from limping, which didn’t work.”

Small still uses a cane and said polio inhibited her somewhat in high school.

“I could do pretty much everything others could do, but at a slower pace. There was no water skiing or downhill skiing, but I did other things that were just as much fun,” she said, adding that one summer she was in a hip spica after an operation.

“I remember you were missing in action there for a while,” Buckley added.

About an hour into the July 22 event, Small pulled out the class of 1964 yearbook.

Biographies of seniors indicated whether they were off to college, the workforce, noted as “commercial,” or if they were undecided, noted as taking a “general” track.

“Back in those days, tracking was a big thing,” Buckley said. “You were tracked starting in junior high.”

Buckley pointed out the “Honor Parts” of the yearbook, which featured the next ranking members of the class after the valedictorian and salutatorian. It included three girls and three boys, one of whom was Buckley.

“I’ve got to tell you, this here is sexist in my opinion. Three and three – there was no way these three guys were the next smartest after these three girls. Surely others have figured out after all these years that there’s no way it would be split evenly,” he said.

Buckley and others remembered their classmates as they flipped through the pages, including twins Lorraine and Lawrence Lano.

“We lost him,” Small said.

“In Vietnam,” Buckley added, finishing her sentence.

Jim Pierce, who grew up in the Willard Square area, said he started locating classmates in 2009 through various online programs.

“It’s a nice thing to do,” he said of the monthly events. “I think we like each other.”

Pierce used to date class member Cheryl Hutchins, who has since died.

“She married somebody else,” he said. “The night before her wedding I called her up and offered to take her to Quebec for the weekend, but she said, ‘nope, can’t make it.’”

Bruce Johnson, who grew up in the Willard Beach area, didn’t participate in graduation with the class of 1964. Instead, he went into Air Force when he was 17, halfway through his senior year.

“I had a disagreement with a teacher and thought I knew better than anyone else,” he said. “It was the best thing that happened to me. I was young, ‘smart’ and I got out when I was 21. I bought a house before I got married, started a family and this place (a home on Little Sebago).”

Johnson, since his interview with the Sentry, died on Aug. 11.

His wife, Mary, at the July event said her husband hadn’t been to any class reunions, she suspected because he hadn’t graduated with his class.

“It wasn’t so much that,” he said. “You get involved with your career and every- thing, you raise your family and you don't have time for all that.”

Last year one of his classmates suggested he hold a get together.

“Fifty people came,” he said, laughing. “It was no different than stepping back 50 years and picking up conversations that you left off.”

Johnson’s classmates found out about his death the night before and the morning of their August gathering at the WonderBar Restaurant in Biddeford.

“We were shocked,” said Lovell, who plans to attend the all-class 70th birthday party in September. “He was one in a million.”

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