Thoroughly enjoyed participating in the fifth annual Alumni Day at Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center — or High School, as it was formerly known. During the day, alumni visited freshman classrooms and talked about what Von was like when they were students and the paths they’ve taken since graduating from high school.
We came to Von Steuben Alumni Day with our memories and hindsight knowledge and expertise in an astonishing range of fields. Yet, it came down to this: the most popular question was did the boys really have to swim naked?
The answer is, of course, yes. You should see the kids’ faces. This practice, by the way, ended sometime in the seventies.
Another question that frequently came up was why doesn’t Von have a football team? It never has and no one really knows why. Lack of space is everyone’s best guess. There is an urban legend that the football program ended when a quarterback died during a homecoming parade. Not true!
As someone who was profoundly influenced by an admired Von Steuben English teacher, I was happy to be paired with Ms. Hoffman, who teaches freshman English to three classes in addition to her other assignments. I was interested to learn freshmen now read Romeo and Juliet as their first Shakespeare play. In my day, we read Julius Caesar. Academics weren’t, however, the subject of most students’ questions. They really just wanted to know whether we were the same or different, and we assured them that, despite all the technological advances, teenagers behaved pretty much the same then as now.
After speaking to classes in periods 1 through 5, alums had a chance to wander through the school and then enjoyed lunch together. On my tour I visited the auditorium which is really yellow and has the original drapes, or at least they look like original ones. We also stopped by the cafeteria and the band room, which used to get boiling hot in the late afternoon. I might have learned to play the flute better if the room had been air conditioned then as it is now. No, probably wouldn’t have made a difference.
We also visited the swimming pool. I could have sworn it was much bigger. I passed the library, which now houses computer stations and has no stacks, though bookshelves still line the walls. We looked into the room where you went to get a tardy slip stamped, familiar to all of us. First thing we said: the counter is gone! It’s now the assistant principal’s office and seems like a nice place to hang out. In fact, the entire building, inside and out, looked more beautiful than I had ever seen it. In 2007, the school underwent a multimillion dollar renovation.
The idea behind Alumni Day is to give these young students the benefit of our experiences and alleged wisdom, but as these photographs illustrate, we alums benefited as well. For me, it was a great pleasure to return to the spot where I stood, a bewildered freshman on picture day, in the fall of 1970.
Before closing, special thanks to Al Bloom, my partner in visiting classrooms. You were the best!
Alumni Day was first launched by Richard Wiener, a Von Steuben alum and former Von Steuben athletic director. He also founded the Von Steuben Alumni Association, which The organization will launch a new website in the near future, but for now, you can “like” Von Steuben Alumni Association on Facebook to see more photographs from Alumni Day and to keep informed of future events like the October 12, 2012, All-Years Reunion at Von.