The Last Innocent Class

     Three classes actually: Cambridge Central High 1963, 1964 and 1965. Five decades past, half a century. Not long after the Dodgers and Giants had skipped out for surfing in sunny earthquake country. Pre-lunar landings and Vietnam, pre-Beatles Rubber Soul and Let It Be.  Pre- pop-top Ballantine beer and the late ’60s NY Yankees collapse. For the last time in 1964 we jingled newly minted silver dimes, quarters and half dollars in our pockets and purses. Gold was $32 an ounce and tightly regulated out of Fort Knox, a target of Auric Goldfinger while Bond, James Bond, begged to differ. The graduating classes of 1963-65 streamed out into a world seemingly, hopefully of cherries and peach bowls, in an age of Chuck Berry and early Elvis, of Brenda Lee and the Beach Boys. Of Mercury and Gemini orbits and stamp collections from places we still knew as Indochina and Belgian Congo. Vatican II priests faced the folks in the pews speaking in plain English, not the liturgical Latin mumblings which often sounded to many like, “Betcha can’t beat the lady in the front rowwww in dominoooooes.”  Visiting Father Gonzales from Spain assisted at St. Patrick’s on South Park, an 1850s edifice newly repainted inside with brightened up holy works yet with a remaining half life of a mere decade or two.

     Russia was still reeling from its smack down in Cuba in October 1962 while America was slowly recovering from a triggerman’s Killing Kennedy. The 1964 Civil Rights Act, enabled primarily by Republicans lest we forget, was unfurling its blackbird wings. Bobby Richardson and the Yankees snagged the ’62 Series Ring from the Willies, McCovey and Mays, out at windswept Candlestick. That would be their last title for some time as Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and the Dodgers swept the Bronx Bombers in four in ’63, and Bob Gibson and Saint Louie beat ‘em again in a nail-biting seven games the next year. The lowly Red Sox and marvelous Mets were still loveable bottom feeders. The Cleveland Browns won the NFL crown in ’64, half a dozen years before Super Bowl I (they didn’t call it that back then), and their fullback Jim Brown retired at the top of his game, as did Koufax. An often bitter Brown became an actor of note and vocal in African-American identity, while Mr. Koufax quietly dipped under the radar.

     In hoops, the Washington County League of 1963-64 watched a clinic put on by the Salem Generals, who ran the table, undefeated, en route to the Section 2 Class E Championship, behind George Foster, Steve Ludd, Johnny Rae, Angie Tarantino and Gary Wilson.  Many local HS graduates those years were off to college in the SUNY system, teachers’ schools like Albany State, Brockport, Oneonta, and locally for a trade at Russell Sage, Hudson Valley and Adirondack CCs. There was a time when New York State considered Cambridge for a new Community College – imagine the economic boost here – but Hudson Falls/Glens Falls won that battle. In the mid-60s frats and sororities nationwide were beginning to feel the heat as haughty, uppity, or something, a decade before Belushi tossed Jello against the cafeteria walls. At HVCC about this time a guy named Dave ran for homecoming queen, and won! Won with “A Vote for Dave is a Greek in the Grave.” Graciously at the dance he turned his crown over to the runner-up, Dee Dee, but not before Team Dave had doctored her campaign signs from “Dee Dee for Queen” to “Dee Dee has Vee Dee.” Tramps, er, scamps will be scamps.

     The first Stingrays – the model name was revived in 2014 after three decades on the shelf – hit US Route 66 out West and NY 22 here in the county. The ‘63 was the only Vette ever with a split rear window (photos attached, a Florida beach town, March 2013), immortalized by Jan and Dean in their classic “Dead Man’s Curve.”  Go to YouTube for the tune to tap your toes, or more likely you’ll want to get up and rock the room.


     Car tunes and other hot rod sounds, and the mushy moon mood music of Bobby Vee’s Red Rubber Ball and Bobby Vinton’s Blue On Blue and the like, a bit sappy by today’s standards, were spun up every Friday night at the Lake Dance at Hedges, Nesbitt’s Pavilion, with DJs from the Tri-Cities like Boom Boom Branagan and Juan Fifero (“1-5-4-0”, 1540 AM WPTR, get it?)  By the summer of 1966 our American Graffiti years were turning sour, more bitter than sweet, that year’s class perhaps the first with buckets of cold water splashed in their face.

     Time then to grow up, to leave the nest. But in time, to find our way back home, back along The Long and Winding Road. Today, the Class of 1965 thinks it, hopes we all, can go home again after all.  For its 50th Reunion word on the street says they plan a Lake Dance Revival this July 2015. But their DJ had best not play any Doors or Janice Joplin. That would be but an eerie anachronism, transporting us past that signpost ahead, into the Twilight Zone, into one of Rod Serling’s original B&W canned celluloid masterpieces.