PRINCETON, NJ—The New Brunswick High School Class of 1974 celebrated the 40th anniversary of their graduation at a reunion held the evening of October 25 at the Princeton Marriott.
The class of '74 attended at a time when New Brunswick, Milltown and North Brunswick students all attended high school jointly.
New Brunswick was the only town of the three that had a high school. Several alumni recalled the overcrowding, and how they had to attend school in split sessions.
Freshmen and sophomores went during the morning session, while juniors and seniors went during the afternoon.
The group was very open and honest about what life as a New Brunswick High School student was like in the early 1970’s.
The group was entering high school in the aftermath of riots that were brought on by the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy.
"The Vietnam War and racial tensions added to young people being fed up with the government and led to riots and protests throughout the country," said Doug Scruggs.
Several alumni spoke about the National Guard coming to the school due to riots, the protective gates surrounding the principal’s office, and no football games being allowed at night due to fears of rioting.
Even though their experience was somewhat chaotic, the class continues to hold onto fond memories of each other and the positive experiences and memories from their time at New Brunswick High School.
Committee members Audrey Williams McCarthy, Stephanie Martin, Sylvia Nielsen Kenney, and Anne Marie Arico planned the reunion in just six months.
The class of 74’ has had a reunion every 10 years, this one being the second largest. 86 people attended, of which 61 were graduates.
Committee members and attendees traveled from all over the country to be there.
Committee member and Class of '74 graduate Audrey Williams McCarthy attributed this year’s turnout to the launch of a Facebook group for the class that began with about 50 people and now includes over 100 grads
“We had a lot of rookie FB users so it was really fun to see all the grads navigate the group page and their own profile,” Williams McCarthy said.
There was a cash bar, hors-d’oeuvres, dinner, and desserts. During the evening, pictures of men and women with long hair, bare midriffs, high waist pants, afros, prom, and students sitting on the lawns of the old NBHS on Livingston Avenue, streamed on a projector screen.
The photos of teens sitting on flowered couches, wood panel backgrounds, Volkswagen beetles, sideburns, and coke bottle glasses only added to the palpable nostalgia, as adults looked back on a time when they were all just kids looking forward to the future.
Blue, white, and zebra-shaped balloons surrounded the venue, and stuffed Zebra animals on the tabletops added to the proud Zebra atmosphere.
After dinner, the song “Get down tonight” got the party started.
The DJ played hits from the 70’s including “The way we were,” “What’s going on?” “Dancing in the Moonlight,” “Brick House,” “Play that funky music,” and the “Electric Slide,” while the reunited classmates boogied like it was 1974.
Alum and retired army veteran Derrick Capers has fond memories of his years at New Brunswick High School and expressed that high school is what you make it.
“I enjoyed high school. No matter what your circumstances, you can make it; you will make it. Young people need to know this.”
The committee also made a point to acknowledge those alumni that have since passed and had a memorial table set up in their honor.
The class took the opportunity to gather to do some good as well.
Alumna Joanie Zukowski collected items to send off to the military for the holidays and had graduates write personal notes to go into the gift boxes.
The class also partnered with the New Brunswick Education Foundation to donate a scholarship to a current NBHS graduate some of them took a tour of the new New Brunswick High School.
Williams McCarthy said she hopes to continue with the reunions.
“We have lost several members of our class and this is why many people said they were coming. 40 years is a long time and it's really important to reconnect with old friends. Some of us have lifelong friendships from our high school.”