25 Memories of High School 25 years later

Backstage at Bye Bye Birdie

I missed it.  That’s what you get for being Transplantednorth.

I missed my 25th High School reunion. Tottenville High School, Staten Island.  It was just too far to go. After spending 12 hours in the car round trip last weekend taking my kids to camp, taking another 12 hour round trip back to Staten Island for my reunion the next weekend was just too much.

And, after all the messages and photos posted on Facebook in the afterglow of Tottenville ’86’s 25th reunion, I missed it more than I thought I was going to.

There are lots of people who don’t go to reunions. “I don’t do  reunions,” some say. Or they say, “I keep in touch with who I want to keep in touch with. Why do I have to see a bunch of people I would never talk to back then?”

Why? Because – it might be fun. People change. And people grow up. For the most part, the cliques are gone, dismantled by spouses, jobs and kids. And, going to a reunion, you may run into someone who you hadn’t thought of in years, doesn’t mean that you didn’t share one or two memories with them in algebra or in the cafeteria.

So, if you are lucky to live close enough to where you went to high school, GO to your reunion. These are the people who knew you back when, for better or worse.

One thing I know – Back then I was good. Maybe too good. The song “Goody Two Shoes by Adam Ant?” He could have been singing it to me.  And I can acknowledge the fact that yes, I was and am still a bit of a geek. I embrace that. I can laugh at that now.  And look what being a geek has done for the likes of women like Tina Fey. You know she wasn’t one of the cool kids in high school.

Twenty five years later and I feel like having a late-in-life teen rebellion.

No, I am probably not the most memorable person in my high school class, or the most popular. But, when your high school class was 840 members strong, there is certainly enough wiggle room to find your own crowd. And at Tottenville, there was enough diversity to find your own stride, and for that I am forever grateful.

Now that I’m a parent, and as my daughter starts high school in the fall, I so appreciate the teachers that she has been blessed with so far in her career. And only now, as I look on the pages of our yearbook, can I start to appreciate the teachers – some great, some not so great – that we had at Tottenville.

So, here’s my list of Tottenville memories – what are some of yours?

  1. My ridiculous outfit my first day of school freshman year. No wonder I was bullied in Jr. High, did I not learn?
  2. xylem up and Floem down! Thanks to my 9th grade bio teacher, Mr. Briedenbach, the teacher who wore the bow tie. Thanks to him, I will never forget the correct terminology for a plant’s vascular system.
  3. How we wore big neon belts and black leggings with neon and black shirts. An attempt was made to revive the style a few years ago, but it never quite caught on.
  4. Mr. Levy’s physics class. In the middle of a big test, he would break up the tense mood by pulling a rubber chicken out of his desk.
  5. Our talented jazz musicians: Eric on drums. John, Nick, and Fred on trumpet.  I wonder if they are still playing somewhere.
  6. The very wise beyond her years Nimmy, who was also at times very silly.
  7. My dad, Mr. Cooper.  On Valentines Day of my senior year, I got a red rose – remember those?  My heart soared thinking I had a secret admirer, and then sank when I found out it was from – Dad. THANKS DAD!!
  8. Mr. Ira Shatzman the ultimate Tolkien and calzone loving fan. Spending hours after school working on the yearbook and learning how to use a pica ruler in the days before desktop publishing.
  9. Performing in Hello, Dolly and Bye Bye Birdie.  Getting fitted for hoop skirts. The all-weekend rehearsals. I’ll always think of Mr. Herbert and thank him for all the time and heart he put into those shows.
  10. Mr. Mass, our beatnik English teacher.
  11. Going to my first concert – Cyndi Lauper – with Andrew.
  12. Sitting in the back of Global studies class with Michelle B. I don’t remember anything I learned in the class, but I remember how Michelle made me laugh every day.
  13. Dissecting a sand shark with Jen in AP bio – but not before we named him first.
  14. Trying to be independent from my dad. Trying not to just be Mr. Cooper’s daughter. Waiting for a bus in the cold until my thighs froze Freshman year. I got smart by Senior year and took the ride in with dad every day.
  15. Sitting every morning before homeroom for almost four years in the cafeteria with Karen, Ilene and Stacey. We called ourselves KISS.
  16. Going to soccer games and wrestling matches. Watching my dad coach and treat those guys like they were his own sons.
  17. Sitting in Mrs. Pastrana’s spanish class the year I didn’t take lunch. Listening to her go on and on about the three-hour lunches that people take in Madrid.
  18. Selling Twix and Nestle Crunch Bars for prom. Eating lots of Nestle and Twix bars and wondering how I would fit in a dress for prom.
  19. Prom.
  20. The weird sculptures that hung over the entrance to the gym. The weird sculpture that sat in the courtyard, but it was not as weird as the sculpture in front of New Dorp High school.
  21. Trying to get to a class on the fourth floor D wing after gym, which was in the basement B wing.
  22. Going into the city for the first time by myself freshman year, Jen came with. Jen was only allowed to go to the city on the condition that we would ONLY go to Bloomingdale’s, but we really went to the Village. Jen, your mom isn’t online, is she?
  23. SING
  24. laughter
  25. friends


About stacylynngittleman

I have been a reporter and public relations professional for over 30 years, specializing in profile features and investigative longform writing. During my career I've profiled WWII Honor Flight Veterans, artists and musicians and have written on topics that range from environmental and gun control issues to Jewish culture. Click around on my writing samples plus read my blog on my personal life raising three kids over 27 years and three cities.

10 responses to “25 Memories of High School 25 years later”

  1. Stacey says :

    KISS!!! And sorry, Adam Ant doesn’t remind me of you. Its Boy George all the way 🙂 I didn’t make it to the reunion this time any way, and it was only 15 minutes from my house. Next time, maybe we all can get there….but until then, we have the memories 🙂


  2. Lauren Fertig says :



  3. Ilene says :

    Sitting in the cafeteria with you and the rest of KISS was a bright spot for me in an otherwise not so bright high school career. I guess I found myself in college more so than HS. We need to have our own reunion!


  4. Ed says :

    We did not hang in HS; however, I have something to say. Mr. Cooper was the man and yes he did treat us like his own sons. From a kid that was lost in HS and kicked around with no home there were 3 teachers that cared. Br. Cooper, Mr B. (auto) & Mrs. Rose.


    • transplantednorth says :

      Ed, what year did you graduate? So glad you left a comment and have memories of my dad helping you out, yes he took many of his students/athletes under his wing. Hope you are well and enjoying life wherever you are now and thanks for reading!


  5. Arlene says :

    So nice to find someone who remembers Mr. Shatzman. My HS was in Brooklyn in the 70s.. Sounds like yours was Staten Island in the 80s? Do you know what happened to him?


  6. Ed says :

    I escaped THS in 82. Left for the Navy in 84, returned to the Island in 88 for less than a year and now living in CT. I can be reached at ebockowski@wm.com.



  7. Beth G. says :

    Mr Shatzman was my beloved English teacher at Sheepshead Bay HS, in Bklyn in the 70s. Every so often I do a search for him. We were in touch on & off over the years. A wonderful man & educator.


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