It’s been 70 years since they graduated from Draper High School, which closed its doors decades ago.
But the members of school’s class of 1953 refuse to let the years put distance between them.
The class is set to hold its 70th reunion Saturday at 11:30 a.m. Alumni will gather at Tops American Grill in Rotterdam to eat, laugh and reminisce.
Members of the class have kept in touch thanks to their reunion committee, which has met every month since 1995 at Schenectady’s United Buffet. Ann Armstrong, leader of the committee since 2018, shared excitement about the milestone occasion.
“Not many classes continue a reunion after 50 years,” Armstrong said. “Most of the time, they have a 50th reunion and that’s it. Or maybe a 60th. But I think it’s rare that a class will have a 70th reunion. I think that makes us special.”
Armstrong estimates that approximately 30 graduates will attend. Each attendee will be treated to lunch, speeches and receive commemorative picture frames.
Bill Clock, a fellow committee member and close friend of Armstrong, described the bond among reunited classmates.
“You don’t forget them. When they show up, it’s like the years are stripped away and you just pick up again,” Clock said. “At the last reunion, there was a lot of camaraderie and a lot of warmth. I think we all felt something special.”
Their former high school closed in 1986. Mohonasen Central School District absorbed Draper High after its 63rd class graduation. Armstrong recalled that Draper was beloved in the community, so its closure was difficult for many to accept.
“There were a lot of hard feelings because people wanted Draper,” Armstrong said.
Still, the school’s legacy remains strong in the Rotterdam area. The historic building, which has been transformed into Draper Lofts Apartments, has a wall dedicated to Draper High memorabilia. Mohonasen’s middle school also bears the Draper name.
Joe Pugliese is a 1972 Draper graduate who now works as a hall monitor at Draper Middle School. Passionate about the school’s legacy, he reflected on the close community that emerged around it.
“Draper was a family community. You knew everybody’s family and everything, and you still see them now,” said Pugliese, who helps to plan other class reunions. “You talk to anybody about stories and they might have been 20, 30 years apart, but they share the same stories.”
Pugliese noted that many students at Draper Middle School are the grandchildren of Draper High alumni. He also said that several people who graduated from Draper went on to teach there. Even some Draper teachers, he said, continue to substitute teach at the middle school today.
“There’s a lot of interconnections that way,” Pugliese said. “It’s a neat little community.”
Armstrong and Clock attribute the strong bonds between Draper alumni to the special memories they share. Both expressed fondness for their high school days and the culture of the period.
“We all seem to agree that it was a good time to grow up,” Clock said.
Their senior yearbook, the “1953 Draperian,” is a reflection of this treasured time. It lists the seniors’ pet peeves, including “cowboy serials” and “wearing dungarees to school.” The book also highlights their enjoyment of roller skating, driving hot rods and playing records.
Both Armstrong and Clock have fond memories involving music.
“While I was in high school, I got involved with a dance band. In the ’50s, there was a resurgence of the great bands of the ’30s. We were playing a lot of dance music for Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Glenn Miller,” Clock said. “Every time you hear any of those artists from the ’50s, it brings it all back.”
Clock emphasized that the reunion committee welcomes all members of the class of 1953. Armstrong explained that the group, which meets on the second Wednesday of every month, provides its members with a much-needed social outlet.
“We meet every month, and last month they said, ‘When the reunion is over, can we keep coming? Don’t you think we should keep having meetings?’ And I said, ‘Sure,’” Armstrong said. “They wanted that connection.”