Schenectady County

Reunion brings back Draper days

Interest in a reunion for Draper School alums was almost nonexistent — until it snowballed into a ne

Interest in a reunion for Draper School alums was almost nonexistent — until it snowballed into a nearly a 150-person affair at the Rotterdam Elks Club on Saturday night.

“I wanted to see people and no one would do this,” said class of 1973 graduate Patricia Liddle. “I’ve been asking people for a couple of years to do it and no one would do it.”

For Liddle, of Schenectady, who enrolled in the now-defunct school in ninth grade, the last time she had a reunion was the 20th reunion for her class in 1993. The event on Saturday night was unlike any reunion she had been to or had been held for alumni, as it was open to anyone who went there.

“We were going to do 1969 to 1973, but suddenly people from 1974 wanted to come … and then … 1968,” Liddle said. “That’s when all of a sudden it just exploded … and I had already named it ‘Across the Years.’ ”

Robin Questel, a 1973 graduate and now Rotterdam resident, said she and the handful of other organizers who met at the Blue Ribbon Restaurant were slightly caught off-guard by Liddle’s expansion of the event. “Every time we had a meeting … she would say, ‘I invited a few more’,” Questel said.

Further into the process, Questel recounted how Liddle dropped the biggest bomb. “I said to Pat, ‘how many?’ She said, ‘from the beginning of Draper to the end.’ ”

Of that large group, Questel said she recognized the people before and after her grade, but revealed that no one recognized her. “If I didn’t have a name tag on they wouldn’t know who I was, because I look a lot different. I was a chubby girl in school,” said Questel, who is now a very fit dance instructor.

But it was also a chance to dive into people’s lives, as Questel said that these events had become rare since their school ceased to exist in the 1980s, absorbed into what is now the Mohonasen Central School District. After connecting with people, she said it was surprising how many of the graduates had stayed in the area and commented on the fact that Facebook had made it easy for them all to connect.

journey of years

“I just want to see where everyone went,” Questel said. “What did they do on the journey? What happened?”

Niskayuna resident Gerald Terry, from the class of 1937, said he didn’t know anyone at the function except one other person from his grade. The 91-year-old flipped through his class yearbook and revealed that he used to love playing sports.

Dating himself just a little bit, Terry referred to some of the graduates from the 1950s as “kids.”

“They were little kids when I went to school,” he noted.

On display was memorabilia from the school’s history, including an old jersey, photographs and its publication “The Viking.” There was also an ongoing slide show of photographs and a table with about a dozen yearbooks that people reverently paged through.

June Armstrong, from the class of 1958, brought six yearbooks and lamented the fact that one of them had been gnawed by her dog.

Also in attendance were some former teachers, including Rotterdam resident Frank O’Connor, who taught from 1957 to 1986. He said at one point or another he had taught art, social studies, English, business law, economics and sociology during his tenure.

Wearing a name tag that simply said, “Mr. O,” he joked that there weren’t any problem students from the past at the reunion, because he “buried them.” O’Connor added, “It was a small school. Everybody knew everybody and we all got along.”

The second “Across the Years Reunion” has been scheduled for July 21, 2012, with the location to be announced.

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