A few months ago, my childhood friend asked me if I would help out with our high school’s 50th reunion. I immediately said yes. Then I immediately had second thoughts.

Certainly, I had no obvious incentives to attend a prospective Newton South High 50th reunion.

For one thing, all my close friends from high school continued to live in the area, so there was no need to meet, say, a high school buddy who had been incognito since heading off to breed yaks in Tibet.

And besides, I was never fixated on rekindling my relationship with my imaginary high school sweetheart.

I can offer only normal bragging rights at the reunion, telling classmates that I have had a decent career and been blessed with a family of a wife and two boys.

I wouldn’t be attending to bask in the limelight of a Nobel Prize or to flaunt my killing in cryptocurrency. I wouldn’t be exacting the revenge of the A/V club nerd by touting my invention of the hologram.

Why, then, was I even thinking of rehashing these years via attending the reunion, and worse, extending the rehash via committee work?

I’m going to my 50th for one reason: to tap into the collective consciousness of our Newton childhoods that will permeate the function hall.

It will be the cumulative creation of 100 or so reunion-attendee classmates who all existed with me in time at the same age and at the same longitude and latitude, with the added bonus of 50 years’ perspective on our most evocative years.

Truly, I expect a memorable event that will be nostalgia on steroids with a dose of wistfulness. For a couple of hours, my mirror image will feature my acne and freckles instead of this other person’s wrinkles and lines.

Our class’s collective consciousness will, I’m sure, unearth a buried-memory time capsule circa 1969 of long-forgotten objects.

We will pull out our mental map of a less busy Route 9, where instead of today’s mega-mall, featuring American Girl Doll tea parties and resident Apple Inc. genius techies, we will see Shopper’s World in Framingham.

This was the premier local shopping center, holding the only west suburban Jordan Marsh and the largest suburban movie showcase: a real, live twin-cinema complex.

Our class’s aggregate consciousness will dig up memories of all the old shop signs of Newton Center in the 1950s and ’60s.

This means that we will see GARB DRUG where the CVS sign is today. We will remember, instead of CVS’s Goldfish crackers and caramel-based Turtles candy, GARB’s offerings of real goldfish and pre-salmonella-days pet turtles.

The most cogent collective consciousness for me will be the common cultural recollections of the perhaps one-third of my class that called home the Jewish enclave of Oak Hill, a Newton village.

These memories are for me are both nostalgic and, 50 years later, still possessing identity clout. For me and no doubt many of my fellow members of NSHS’s class of 1969, Oak Hill was, in our baby boomer childhoods, under a postwar Jewish cultural current that blew strongly in our neighborhood.

Indeed, the one collective memory that will be as palpable in the room as the NSHS banner is the Oak Hill postwar mantra that we Jews were lukewarmly thrown into the melting pot.

We remember our parents telling us to just be cautious around the gentiles. We heard the Yiddish names for non-Jewish spouses recited to us, not flatly, but with a sneer.

The Holocaust was not history back then; it was more current events in its emotional impact on the neighborhood. We knew parents who were survivors.

Finally, even if we disregarded some of our parents’ attitudes, the fact that we were living in a Jewish “golden ghetto” gave some credence to the existence of a still anti-Semitic world out there.

The powerful memories of growing up not-quite-assimilated 50 or 60 years ago lurk in all of us Oak Hillers. Thus I wouldn’t be unhappy if my younger son meets a Jewish girl on his current birthright trip to

Israel, as I remember Oak Hill’s block after block of Jewish couples in the ’60s.

Maybe there will be a 60th reunion, and maybe I will be around to attend. But maybe not. I am then taking in our 50th as my last shot to experience the wistful and nostalgic collective consciousness of my graduating class.

I won’t need to snag a door prize. I will win by just showing up and grooving out like it’s 1969.


Bill Levine is a retired IT professional and active freelance writer. Bill aspires to be a humorist because it is easier to be pithy than funny. He may be reached at wlevine0607@comcast.net.

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