On Saturday afternoon, the halls of the A.V. Zogg Building once again bustled with students as it had 40 years earlier when it was still the Liverpool Central School District’s only high school.
The structure, in which the Liverpool Community Church is now located, opened its doors to the Liverpool High School class of 1966, the last class to graduate from the old high school before the existing school on Wetzel Road became home to district high schoolers. Graduates from 1966 came in from all over the country to tour the building and relive old memories as part of their 40th reunion weekend, celebrated Sept. 15 through 17.
“This is exactly where Mindy broke up with me one Friday morning,” one classmate exclaimed in a second-floor hallway.
“I got caught kissing Tim in the gymnasium,” recalled another. “I got in so much trouble!”
Classmates reminisced all over town as they enjoyed reunion activities. The weekend also included lunch at Heid’s, where seniors would enjoy their lunch breaks during school, and a dinner dance at the Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center off Carrier Circle in Dewitt.
The reunion was the brainchild of Victor Szendi, now an attorney in California.
“I’d been trying to find something out about it for years,” Szendi said. “I kept trying to find out if there was going to be one. Frank Sofia at the high school used to handle all of the alumni affairs, but he retired, and no one else could help.”
Szendi then turned to a resource not available in his high school days: the internet.
“I signed up on Classmates.com and started getting responses,” he said.
From there, the reunion plans blossomed. Szendi began exchanging e-mails with other classmates interested in a reunion, including Marilyn Tucci, now deputy commissioner of facilities management for Onondaga County. Using the internet, Szendi, Tucci and the rest of the reunion committee searched for their former classmates. The planning started in earnest last October.
“From October to December, we started our first push, sending out holiday cards,” Tucci said. “We wanted to see how many we got back.”
Once they received responses from the holiday cards, the reunion committee members knew that they had the correct contact information for their fellow graduates. The committee sent another mailing in February, this time sending a survey requesting biographical information and an accounting of what the class had been up to in the last 40 years.
“The responses from the survey gave us a ballpark idea as to how many planned to attend the reunion,” Tucci said. “We sent a final mailing in May with a registration form and an events listing.”
One hundred and sixty-eight people registered for the reunion weekend (103 graduates and their spouses). Thanks in large part to the internet, the reunion committee was able to account for the whereabouts of 330 of the class of 390.
“Thirty are confirmed dead,” Szendi said. “There were 10 or 15 more we suspect are dead but couldn’t confrim. The rest we couldn’t locate. Women get married and divorced and remarried. Some names are too common so you can’t find the one Tom Smith you’re looking for.”
Overall, Szendi was pleased with the committee’s efforts and with the turnout for the event.
“It was a labor of love,” he said. “Now here we all are, returning home. It’s like Homer’s Odyssey.”
And so it came to be that 168 class of ’66ers were at the Zogg building on Saturday afternoon, sharing good memories and bad, struggling to remember the names of teachers and staff, reminiscing about the days that shaped their lives.
Standing beside the window overlooking Fourth Street, Szendi recalled feeling safe and happy in his time at LHS.
“It’s such a lovely environment,” he said. “We were right in the village. It was safe. It was a different time.”
Not everyone was so philosophical. Others recalled raising Cain in their time at Liverpool.
“We used to skip class all the time to take road trips,” recalled Doug Earley, a 1967 graduate who was attending in his brother’s stead. “We went to the brewery in Utica during school so many times that they knew our names.”
Earley also recalled wreaking havoc on school grounds.
“We used to drag race and do wheelies in motorcycles and cars on the gravel track behind the school,’ he said. “The Liverpool cops used to chase us.”
Szendi remembered some mischief he caused, as well. “We would sell elevator passes to the freshmen,” he said with a smile, “until they caught on that they didn’t actually need elevator passes.”
More somber memories were discussed, as well.
“A lot of us served in Vietnam,” Earley said. “If you didn’t go to college, you got drafted.”
At the dinner Saturday evening, Rev. Steven Sigourney recalled the 30 classmates lost in the last 40 years. He called upon his classmates to “mourn, but then move on and laugh again.”
As they shared their memories, the class of 1966 also expressed joy that their former school was now being put to good use.
“We were so glad the church bought it,” Lorraine Church Bailey said. “We were so upset when they were talking about tearing it down [in 2002]. They’ve done a really nice job keeping it up.”
The tour was headed by Alan Freed, a member of the Liverpool Community Church, who took the attendees wherever they wanted to go, indulging them as they strolled down Memory Lane.
Szendi, too, was glad that the building was still standing, if only as a memorial to the class of ’66.
“As the last class, you feel like you left a legacy,” he said. “A part of it stays with you, and you are a part of it. No matter where we went or what we did, the lessons we learned here stayed with us. Whatever happened, good, bad, or otherwise, nothing will ever spoil that.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.
Feb 21, 2017