Dottie Frederick used to see friends like Katie Marino, William Pickney and Carolyn Vincent just about every day for lunch.
It was the autumn of 1950. Dottie and her friends had standing reservations for sandwiches, cookies, apples and potato chips inside the cafeteria at Scotia High School.
The gatherings ended during the spring of 1951, when the teenagers graduated and wandered into the world. Jobs, families and travel followed.
Sixty-two years later, regular lunch dates have once again become a prime social occasion. Members of the class, now in their late 70s or early 80s, get together every month for conversation and comestibles. Earlier this month, 18 people sat at two long tables inside the rustic ambience of the Charlton Tavern and talked about life over house specials like the bacon-broccoli-cheddar quiche, spinach salads and soup and sandwich combinations.
The routine has been part of their lives for about a year now. It started when Frederick helped plan the Class of 1951’s 60th class reunion in 2011. Her planning committee would meet for lunch to discuss the anniversary proceedings.
“We had such a good time, we decided to go the next month,” said Frederick, who lives in Glenville. “The vote was taken to go every month.”
Other classmates heard about the informal gatherings and wanted seats at the table. The group that started with eight became 12 and then 18. “We just enjoy each other’s company,” Frederick said. “It was a small graduation class of 100. A lot of them still live around here, a lot of us have stayed close since graduation.”
The lunch club so enjoyed its mini reunions that members of the group decided to have a larger class reunion to mark the 61st anniversary this past October.
“Some of them started as kindergartners, went through high school and graduated together,” said Marino, who also lives in Glenville and helped plan the reunions. “They’ll talk about what they do on a daily basis, if they’re traveling, talk about their families.”
One of the funniest stories class members recall happened 25 years after graduation. Men and women planning the 25th anniversary reunion were trying to find a unique souvenir for the event. And in 1976, Scotia Junior High School on First Street recently had been torn down.
Frederick said bricks from the school — a place in which all the class members had spent many hours — became the party favors.
“We went in the middle of the night, around midnight, and piled them into a Volkswagen,” Frederick said. “The police came to check on their nightly rounds, saw who it was and what was going on and just kind of laughed and said, ‘Go ahead.’ They kind of looked the other way. They thought it was funny we would go to all this trouble.”
The bricks were cleaned and etched with numbers and words: “1951,” “1976” and “Scotia High.”
Some people who show up for lunch sessions like to joke around.
“It’s visitation,” said Pickney, who lives in Rotterdam. “Nice to see some of the old codgers.”
Pickney was sitting near his wife, Janet, and his “girlfriend” from kindergarten, Carolyn Vincent. “We lived in the same neighborhood, we connected early on and we’ve had a friendship ever since,” Vincent said. “We call each other ‘sweetheart’; it’s become a standing joke over the years.”
One reason the kindergarten friendship has endured — and others, too — is common ground. Growing up during the 1950s and raising families in the 1960s and 1970s brought the men and women through several different eras. They remember the times in which they have lived.
“We have so much in common, we’ve all known each other so many years,” Vincent said. “We keep up with whatever’s going on in our lives.”
Frederick likes thinking back to a simpler time.
“You could go to the neighbor’s house, the door was always unlocked, everybody knew everybody,” she said. “It was a much easier, relaxed type of life for the children. There were movies, football games, basketball games, the dances. We had a ‘hobo hop’ this time of year. It was fall and people had scarecrows out for Halloween. You wouldn’t have to get all dressed up. And there were always dances after home basketball games in the gym.”
Cool hangouts included Gibbon’s Diner on Mohawk Avenue — near the current site of the Dragon Garden restaurant — and a roller skating rink on Erie Boulevard.
Frederick would be happy to add more seats to tables at the Charlton. She can always share words and lunch with kids from the Class of ’51.
“We’re not outwardly looking, but anyone is welcome,” she said. “We’re all the same age now, we all have the same memories. It’s good to be with people your own age.”