The Class of '61

Commentator: 
Tom Shipka
Audio: 
Transcript: 

On a recent weekend, the Ursuline High School Class of 1961 gathered at a reunion to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of our graduation. During four events – a social Friday night, a tour of the school Saturday afternoon, a banquet Saturday night, and a brunch Sunday - we got reacquainted with one another, we reminisced, and, of course, we gauged the impact of the years on one another. If I had to pick one word to characterize the weekend, it would be change.

The change in us was obvious. With few exceptions, our thin bodies were gone. In fact, one plump gentleman, whom I did not recognize across the room, waved a photo of a stick of a boy as he approached people. It was his picture from the year book. Further, dozens of heads sported white hair or none at all. A blind person could tell our ages by simply eavesdropping on our conversations. All of them led inexorably to two topics – our grandchildren and our health afflictions.

Similarly, our school had changed a lot. The nuns and priests who taught us and ran the school were largely gone, replaced by laity. The classroom where many of us learned an invaluable skill – how to type – was now a computer lab. Further, the enrollment had gone down over the half century, from over 1,200 students in 1961 to just over 400 today, while the tuition had gone up, from $110 a year to $6,500 a year.

During the weekend my classmates and I talked a lot about other changes, for good or ill, since we graduated. Here's a partial list of what arrived and what departed.

  1. The arrivals since 1961 include CD's, the Super Bowl, AIDS, satellite radio and TV, cruise control, bar codes, cell phones, caller-ID, computers, the internet, Google, Microsoft, kindles, iPods and iPads, YouTube, Facebook, HD TV, the GPS, Wal-Mart, the ubiquitous "Made in China" label, microwaves, MRI's, telemarketers, right-turn-on-red, the Youngstown freeway, malls, international terrorists, drug trafficking, reality TV, a decline in marriage, an explosion in cohabitation, GM Lordstown, the Exal Corporation, V&M Star, Turning Technologies, the Covelli Center, Botox, and Viagra.
  2. The departures since 1961 include Idora Park, the Toddle House, the Broadway Diner, the 20th Century Restaurant, the Mural Room, the Ringside, the Brass Rail, Strouss-Hirschberg's, McKelvey's, Livingston's, General Fireproofing, Youngstown Sheet & Tube, U.S. Steel, Republic Steel, the car dealerships called "The Wick Six," the Ohio and Tod Hotels, the Warner, Palace, State, Paramount, Strand, and Regent theaters and the Park burlesque, nearly all the drive-in theaters, a single digit divorce rate, a busy airport, and the car bombing known as the "Youngstown tune-up." (1)

Finally, I want to mention the classmate who was the undisputed center of attention at the reunion. At 67 years of age, he is the father of six-year old triplets. He transports them and their young mother in a stretch limousine which he bought on e-bay. Although his new family has reenergized him, there is a downside. His retirement is on indefinite hold.


  1. The "Youngstown tune-up" refers to an explosion due to a bomb planted inside a car, usually under the hood. In the war between two factions of organized crime between 1955 and 1963, there were 75 Youngstown tune-ups. This prompted a cover story on Youngstown in The Saturday Evening Post in 1963 entitled Murdertown USA.

© 2012 Tom Shipka