10 area personalities share yearbook photos and their high school recollections

As teens prepare to shut lockers until September, 10 well-known people in the Capital Region are ope
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LeGrande Serras had a nickname, Liz Bishop had a uniform and Julie Chapman had big hair.

Joe Allen had plenty of friends, Lydia Kulbida had different looks and Mike Saccocio had an outfielder’s glove.

They’re all memories stored in high school yearbooks. While people age and appearances change little by little — thicker in some places, thinner in others — young women and men remain forever young in the pages of June annuals.

Today, as teens prepare to shut lockers until September, 10 well-known people in the Capital Region are opening their old yearbooks and sharing with Gazette readers their photos and thoughts from their school days. Those photos and stories appear on Page D3. Taking part besides Serras, Bishop, Chapman, Allen, Kulbida and Saccocio are Schenectady city councilman Joseph Allen, Price Chopper executive Mona Golub, Albany Mayor Gerald D. Jennings, former Schenectady Mayor Karen Brown Johnson and current Schenectady Mayor Brian Stratton.

Bunches more were sought: Albany activist Alice Green was unable to find her yearbook, and Schenectady entertainer Carla Page said she never posed for a high school senior photo. Neither did WAMC head Alan Chartock. Amsterdam musician Alex Torres was in the process of moving. “My whole life is in boxes,” he said.

Folks who could locate senior pictures — and bravely agreed to share them — talked about their senior years.

“I was a good student — so I enjoyed my classes,” said WRGB broadcaster Bishop. “I took my first journalism class with Sister Carmel — an Albany legend — and became sports editor of our high school newspaper, The Blue Banner. So high school helped point me toward my eventual career, and helped me to develop a great love of writing and reading.”

Schenectady clinical psychologist Rudy Nydegger said people like checking out their friends’ high school photos to compare. And to satisfy curiosity.

“We almost use looking at other people as a way of kind of evaluating ourselves,” said Nydegger, also a psychology professor at Union College.

Looking at someone’s yearbook photo from decades past, and offering less-than-flattering critiques, can be just plain fun.

“I think all of us probably enjoy teasing people a little bit with that, as we would expect to be teased, too,” Nydegger said. “I certainly can look at some of my pictures and old hairstyles and say ‘Oh my god.’”

Local restaurateur Serras might take some ribbing when people open the 1964 “Crossroads” yearbook from Niskayuna High School.

Forty-four years ago, he hoped to someday become king of Greece.

He still has time.

Joseph Allen, Schenectady city councilman (Mont Pleasant High School, Class of 1954)

Allen marvels at all the dark hair he had as a young man. The kid in the light-colored jacket was a quarterback on the Mont Pleasant football team and a guard on the Red Raiders’ basketball team.

Allen said friendships he made in classrooms, athletic fields and courts remain strong 54 years later. One high school memory is not a pleasant one. He recalled a senior field trip to Washington, and most of the kids going to an amusement park in Virginia.

Blacks were not admitted. Some white girls, friends with black girls in the class, took a stand.

“They decided they weren’t going to go; they stayed in the hotel,” Allen said, adding that he and a black schoolmate made other plans. “We said, ‘We can’t go. Don’t worry about us,’ ” he said. “We found something to do and we did.”

That “something” was a bunch of clubs in downtown Washington.

Liz Bishop, WRGB anchorwoman and reporter (Vincentian Institute, Class of 1970)

“V.I. was a Catholic school. So we all wore uniforms,” Bishop said. “It was a dark blue jumper with a belt and pleats — that we all rolled up so it would be above the knee, until we saw one of the nuns coming and then we dropped it back down where it belonged — and a white blouse. That solved all the ‘what to wear to school?’ issues. In ‘real’ life, we wore bell-bottoms and flannel shirts, and when we dressed up it was ‘poor boy’ sweaters and flowered skirts. My friends called me “Betty.” My parents still do.”

Bishop worked on the high school newspaper, The Blue Banner, and also liked to sing during her days at Vincentian. The Albany school closed after the graduation of the class of 1977.

Julie Chapman, Capital News 9 anchorwoman and reporter (Susquehanna Valley High School, Conklin, N.Y., Class of 1988)

“We all had that big curly hair,” said Julie Chapman, looking at the girls she knew in Conklin (near Binghamton) during the mid-1980s. “It was right in the heart of the Madonna rocker era. I look back and actually remember that it was so much fun. I was so carefree. My big worry of the day was what was I going to do with my hair?”

Chapman was busy in high school. She was homecoming queen in 1987, co-captain of the cheerleading team her senior year and a member of the Saber soccer team (2-10-4).

She can laugh at the guys’ mullet-style haircuts, and the wispy mustaches some of them wore. “And I found that sexy,” she said of the facial fashion statement.

Chapman can even poke a little fun at herself.

“When I look back I say, “Were my cheeks really chubby like that?’ ” she said. “And the hair is so ‘done.’ Today, it’s all about being more natural — oh no, I am ‘done.’ My hair is perfectly curled.”

Chapman will attend her 20th anniversary class reunion this fall.

Mona Golub, vice president of public relations and consumer services, Golub Corp., owner of Price Chopper supermarkets (Niskayuna High School, Class of 1982)

Fair Isle sweaters, turtlenecks, chino pants and penny loafers were in style when Mona Golub was a Niskayuna senior.

Those are among her fashion memories. She has other remembrances from times in and out of the Balltown Road school.

“Enjoying the company of my friends, finishing my high school career with distinction, gaining early decision to Bowdoin College, capturing our senior year activities both editorially and in photos as class historian, playing alto sax in the stage [jazz] band, being captain of the field hockey, volleyball and softball teams and pitching Nisky to the Section II Championship in softball,” she said.

Golub will meet Niskayuna teens from 2008 on June 26, when she speaks at the seniors’ commencement ceremony at Proctors in Schenectady.

“I think it will be very satisfying to share an empowering thought or two about life with this year’s graduating class,” she said.

Gerald D. Jennings, Albany mayor (Cardinal McCloskey High School, Class of 1966)

Jerry Jennings showed off his batting skill in the 1966 “Cardinal,” the McCloskey yearbook. He steps into a pitch and connects, a confident look on his face.

Jennings was one of the stars of the McCloskey baseball team, co-captaining the team during his senior year. He also played intramural basketball and belonged to the Spanish Club. Oh, there’s no mention of student government.

Like Vincentian, Albany’s Cardinal McCloskey closed after the 1977 school session.

Karen Brown Johnson, former Schenectady mayor and current campaign director at Proctors (Hathaway Brown School, Cleveland, Ohio, Class of 1960)

Karen Johnson received a full page in the 1960 “Specularia,” and a giant 4-by-5 photograph. All her friends did, too.

“When you only have 49 kids in your class, you get a lot more attention in the yearbook,” Johnson said.

Schenectady’s former mayor was Karen Brown in 1960, and known around the Hathaway Brown hallways as “K.B.” She was the editor of the yearbook, a technician for the school drama club and — according to the “Specularia” — possessed the ability to “stick to her guns without shooting down the opposition.”

“That may have been a precursor to my political life,” said Johnson, a Schenectady resident since 1967.

Lydia Kulbida, WNYT Television anchorwoman (Academy of Mount St. Ursula, Bronx, Class of 1984)

Mount St. Ursula senior Lydia Zaluckyj knew all about those mid-1980s hairstyles. The big, rock star look was in vogue; so were short, punk looks.

“I was looking at other pictures from around that time, and realized I had some unfortunate brushes — pun! — with ’80s hairstyles,” said Lydia, now Lydia Kulbida.

For a while, Kulbida joined the new wave. She wore her hair very short.

“The crewcut wasn’t really a rebellious statement,” she said. “I just got my hair permed and colored on the same day and ended up frying my hair. So as soon as it grew two inches, I had everything cut off past the regrowth.

“In a way, you could say I was lucky for my high school photo, since it was taken after the big-hair phase and before the crew-cut.

“Now if only I’d had as much luck with my hair during my first on-air job at TV-8 in Glens Falls. On my last day, they ran a montage of clips, and I had more hairstyles in one year than Katie Couric had during her entire run of the ‘Today’ show.”

Mike Saccocio, director, City Mission of Schenectady (Schalmont High School, Class of 1979)

Mike Saccocio hasn’t changed that much in 29 years. He still looks like he could play center field for Schalmont’s baseball team. Saccocio was in the lineup when the Sabres won the Section II championship in 1978.

He also played soccer and basketball, and says high school kids today — who often specialize in just one sport — are missing out. Saccocio liked the change of seasons for athletics.

Like others, he remembers the people he met during four years of study and socialization. He remembers slipping into a tux jacket, puffy dress shirt and black tie for the graduation photo, and immediately slipping out of them. The big, wide black tie was a simple accessory.

“There’s no question it was a clip-on,” he said.

A lot of guys wore their hair long and straight, parted down the middle. Not “Sacco,” with his late 1970s curls.

“I never found my ‘style,’ ” Saccocio said. “I think I’m still looking.”

LeGrande Serras, owner of Real Seafood Co. restaurant (Niskayuna High School, Class of 1964)

LeGrande Serras has almost always worn his trademark mustache since graduating from Niskayuna High School. When he left school, he left something behind — his nickname.

“Everybody called me ‘Chico,’ ” Serras said. “Everybody had a nickname when we were in high school. One buddy, Pete Sherman, he was called ‘The Fly.’ Dave Hamilton was ‘The Wolfman.’ ”

The tag has not completely vanished.

People who knew Serras 44 years ago still know “Chico” when they see him.

“Anytime I hear someone say ‘Chico,’ I know it’s got to be somebody from my past,” he said.

Brian Stratton, Schenectady mayor (Winston Churchill High School, Potomac, Md., Class of 1975)

Brian Stratton can chuckle at the long-haired kid in Winston Churchill High School’s “Finest Hours” yearbook from 1975.

“It was just a much different time,” he said. “Long hair — I think how I had my hair. But that was me.”

Stratton remembers the times. Some hours were spent with “Chicago VII,” the rock band’s double album. And there was always television. In 1975, shows such as “Mannix,” “Happy Days” and “Kojak” were viewer favorites.

“Life was simpler,” Stratton said. “We thought it was so complicated, but it was all so simple.”

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