MRHS Class of 1970 Reunion

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Staff Collaboration

While 2020 marked the 50th anniversary of the Class of 1970’s graduation from Manchester Regional High School, Covid-19 forced the celebration to wait nearly 2 more years. On October 1, 2021 members from the Class of 1970 met at the school’s front doors ready to embark on a tour down memory lane followed by a formal party the next day. 15 alumni participated in the tour of the school led by Superintendent of Schools, Gary Lubisco and Vice Principal, Colleen Brogan. The following day, 28 alumni and their spouses attended a formal dinner dance at Seasons in Washington Township, NJ. It turns out that one of the owners of Seasons, Carl Carfello, had attended Manchester and graduated just a few years after the Class of ’70.  It was said that, “He treated us extra special.” 

Amid the catching up and celebrating, the class took time to remember a fallen comrade, SGT Thomas Ackerman, who died serving in the United States Army during the Vietnam War. Thomas began his tour of duty on January 10, 1968, quickly attained the rank of Sergeant, and was tragically killed in action on September 4, 1968 in Kontum, South Vietnam.

While walking the halls of MRHS on their tour of the school, the alumni visited the plaque memorial, near the Main Office, that was created in SGT Ackerman’s honor. His sister, Dorothy, was among the alumni who paid tribute to this MRHS hero. She also shared that, “The bridge by Squaw Brook Road and High Mountain Ave is named after Tom.” She added, “If you are ever in Washington DC at the Vietnam Memorial, Thomas’s name is on Panel 45W, Row 35.”

To learn even more about Thomas Ackerman visit: Thomas Ackerman’s Virtual Tribute Wall or Honorstates.org.

The memorial brought back many memories marked by the times. The Vietnam War was going on the entire time the Class of ’70 was in high school. The students had to brave the draft lottery which began in September of 1969 and continued for years. The draft, which randomly chose the names of males ages 18 and up, brought the reality of the war into MRHS’s hallways and classrooms.

As always in life, good times are woven through even the darkest times and the Class of ’70 also saw NASA send Apollo 12 to the moon in November of 1969 and the very first Earth Day Celebration in April of 1970. Unfortunately, their graduation year ended with the breaking up of The Beatles, one of the world’s most iconic rock bands.

On a smaller scale, student life at MRHS during the 60’s and 70’s was quite different from student life today. Alumni, Kathleen Kornacki Gonzales summed it up when she told The Flyer Staff that, “When I went to school, girls were not allowed to wear pants. We all wore dresses, but finally in January of our Senior year, we were allowed to wear pant suits or dress pants, just no jeans.”

Pant equality was not the only progress females made and Ms. Gonzales remembers, “During our Junior year we elected the first female class president in the history of the school and during our Senior year, we elected the first female president of the Student Council at Manchester.” She continued to describe student life by explaining that, “Our class had the first rock concert ever at the school to raise money for our prom. We had the Jive Five come to perform, but one of the five never showed up so there were only four of them.” The 1970 MRHS Prom was held at The Manor in West Orange, NJ. 

Teachers were also different in the 1970’s. They were much braver than the teachers today. This is proven by the fact that, “We had driver’s training as part of our Health Class. A teacher taught us to drive with three of us in the car each taking turns behind the wheel.” Ms. Gonzales added, “That was exciting for us.”

As student life evolved throughout the years, so did the MRHS campus. Ms. Gonzales noted that, “When we attended Manchester there was no technology like there is today. Our typing room had typewriters that were manual, not even electric.” She continues to describe the differences by telling that, “The library just had books and study tables when we went to Manchester. Now it is is filled with technology and a makers space complete with 3D printers and high definition cameras. What an amazing place to explore and learn.”

Along with exercising their minds, students at MRHS have new and improved opportunities to exercise their bodies and souls, too. The alumni were all impressed with our newly renovated weight room equipped with treadmills and strength training machines. They also praised the creation of The Falcon’s Lounge, MRHS’s safe hangout and free counseling room.

As much as things have changed, some things have remained basically the same. Ms. Gonzales remembered that, “The Auditorium looked just like it does today save the newer seats.” The athletic fields were the same enough to bring back memories of the wins, losses, and cheers that made up her high school years. So it is clear to this reporter that as much as things change, they still remain the same. Manchester Regional High School is still a warm and welcoming place to learn, grow, make friends, and prepare for a long and successful life.

On behalf of all of us at The Falcon Flyer, thank you Ms. Kathleen Kornacki Gonzales for sharing your memories with us and helping us see how special MRHS can be. Enjoy the photo gallery below for even more pictures of this momentous event and watch Ron Johnson’s video on Youtube: Manchester Regional HS Class of 1970 – 50th Reunion Show