1962—the year Marilyn Monroe died, Johnny Carson started on the Tonight Show, and Alan Shephard became the first American in space, manning a fifteen-minute flight. The year stamps were four cents, gas, twenty-eight cents, and the federal debt, $302.9 billion.
And, most importantly for the moment, the year forty-three of us graduated from a three-year diploma program in nursing.
Now, that same class has begun planning their fiftieth reunion for next year. Forty of the forty-three graduates are alive. And so far eighty percent have declared “count me in” on the reunion. And the others asked to extend their greetings to all.
How is it that these women of the sixties are still so invested in their nursing school class? Think back to a time of the three-year diploma program—the first year at a college, the final two years in a hospital-based school of nursing. A time of dorm living, housemothers, curfews of 9:30 during the week and 10 on weekends. A time of blue-striped uniforms covered with starched white aprons, capping ceremonies, long-sleeved graduation uniforms sporting French cuffs with cufflinks to match the school’s pin.
I know why. One gal gets all the credit for our bonding. When we graduated, that gal—I’ll call her Sally—offered to send out a newsletter every six months. After a few years, when we had settled down a bit, the letter became yearly. A few weeks before the due date, Sally mailed out reminder postcards. All the rest of us had to do was mail her a letter with our news, enclosing a dollar for her expenses.
In the early days, we received the letters on mimeographed paper in blue ink. Later, it was by Xeroxed copies. And now, it’s mostly by e-mail. The reminder for the annual “classletter” comes each February.
The last few weeks, I’ve had the fun of keeping track of the responses to a reunion query. That involved phone conversations with ten people, plus many e-mails. What struck me was that voices hadn’t changed. What thrilled me was their palpable excitement at meeting again.
And I know what will happen when we meet again in person: as our eyes tear up, we will say the same thing each of us writes when we sign off our annual letters, “Thank you, Sally, for keeping us together.”
Mina Vander Pol said:
Great summary of our newsletter/class bonding! I’m going to share it with some of my nurse friends-I’m sure they’ll enjoy it. Thanks for your work in getting the reunion off the ground and the coming work of organizing it.
Lois Roelofs said:
And thank you for volunteering to be on the planning committee! Talking with our classmates felt as if it were yesterday. Just like visiting with you last summer! The reunion will really be fun.
How interesting to put 1962 in historical context. How things have changed not only in the world but in nursing.
My class of 41 women will also celebrate 50 years since graduation from a small Catholic Hospital in New Jersey. We didn’t have a Sally but somehow most of us manged to stay in touch.
Wonder how many other nurses out there are planning to celebrate 50 years?
Lois Roelofs said:
Hearing your group’s plans from you certainly gave me the bug to get our plans going. It would be fun to know how many other classes are celebrating 50 years. Wonder if we’ll make it o 60 or 70!!
Lois Barliant said:
A great reminder that education isn’t just learning, it’s meeting people who become important to you–and we learn that is part of life: it happens on the job, in our neighborhood, at our children’s schools. You’re right to thank Sally. It gives the alumni newletter (and request for donations) a new light.
Lois Roelofs said:
So true. And to think of having that base of friendship still there this many years later. I’m probably getting sentimental, but meeting up with these people now in the year most of us will be turning 70 is more poignant than ever before.