TARRYTOWN, N.Y. -- Washington Irving High School's Class of 1956 returned to their school building Sept. 24 as part of their class reunion.
Their former high school is now the Washington Irving Intermediate School, overlooking the Hudson River. The 32 class members came from places as far away as Texas, Maine, California, and Washington State.
They were greeted by numerous hand-drawn welcome signs designed for them by today's WI third through fifth grade students, and given a tour by Principal Susan Bretti. She pointed out what had changed in the school and what hadn't since the Class of 1956 walked its hallways.
The visitors, most of them now 78 years old, learned that some large spaces – like the old library – have been divided into multiple classrooms for enrollment reasons, but that the view from the third floor was just as spectacular as ever.
They recognized offices, desks and original woodwork, which were largely the same. Bretti explained that tennis balls are on the bottom of classroom chairs to cut down on noise and preserve the floors. She also pointed out the "legacy project" art pieces that adorn the school’s walls, left behind in more recent years as gifts from each graduating WI class.
In 1956, before Title IX became law, there were only two women's sports at the high school -- field hockey and cheerleading. At lunchtime, most students went home for lunch or walked down to Walton's, a popular soda fountain, to eat. There was no bussing.
Charles Singleton, president of the Class General Organization, recalled that his parents bought a 1951 Buick just in time for his driving years.
"That car was my chick magnet," he said.
Today, Washington Irving is home to approximately 600 students. In 1956, Washington Irving High School was home to about 500 students, including the Class of 1956's 78 members.
There were no ID badges to get into the school back then, and no security guards. Some in the group performed in the high school drama, "The Man Who Came to Dinner," and North Tarrytown High School was considered WI's arch-rival in sports.
Just a few years after the Class of 1956 moved on and graduated, the North Tarrytown and Tarrytown school districts merged into one district.
In the evening after their tour, the 32 class members joined others from 1950s graduating classes in a 60th reunion party at Tarrytown's Doubletree Hotel.