Memories started to come back slowly as Bruce Wells toured the halls of Niskayuna High School Saturday morning, 50 years after he graduated.
“I used to hang out right in that corner right there with my buddy,” he said, pointing to a corner near a set of doors that used to be a main entrance. “The old cafeteria was down where that clock is.”
He was strolling down a bright hallway near the school gym. Outside, a lawn has replaced the traffic circle Wells remembers.
“Yeah, this was kind of a promenade,” he said.
Wells was one of more than 100 members of the Niskayuna High School Class of 1965 who toured the school Saturday as part of the class’s 50th Reunion weekend. The tour was led by Student Activities Coordinator Vince Bianchi, who began his career at the school in 1969, and Assistant Principal John Moskov.
The size of the classes have not grown that much in 50 years. Wells graduated with about 250 other students in 1965; today, the senior class has about 368 students, according to Bianchi, and that’s one of the bigger classes in recent years.
But the building has changed. As Bianchi welcomed the Class of ’65, he explained the massive redesign that began in 2007, adding many sections to the building that did not exist in 1965, and transforming others.
He took the alumni through the new media labs, the TV studio with its green screens and editing rooms, the high-tech workshop barely recognizable as “shop class,” the science labs that used to be music rooms, and showed off the smart boards that have replaced blackboards in every room.
In the library, he said, “We still have books, but they don’t use them much anymore.” Instead, the students have Chromebooks, tablets, and digital textbooks.
“I think it just seems like an extraordinary school,” said Molly Fritz, who now lives in Nashville. “The opportunities, the facilities, the enthusiasm — I wish my grandchildren could have the opportunity to come here.”
As she passed a classroom, she stopped and peered in, then turned to a few other former classmates. “Remember that?” she said. “That was a chemistry class. That’s where we had chemistry.”
Everyone in the group wore name tags with old black-and-white yearbook photos for easy identification. As they walked through the school, they swapped stories about teachers and classmates, laughed at inside jokes, and tried to find their old lockers.
Class President Joan Thompson Rockwell said the group had gathered Friday night at the Stockade Inn, and planned to spend the rest of Saturday at the Mohawk Golf Club and then have brunch Sunday morning at the Edison Club.
Of the 251 graduates in the class, 102 had made it the reunion weekend, “which is amazing,” she said. “And it’s been so much fun.”
With classmates spread out across the country, Wells said it’s been hard to keep in close contact with more than a few. As he saw everyone again Saturday, he said there were the expected Harvard professors and doctors, but some surprises, too.
“Some people I thought would be prosperous haven’t been, and others that are prosperous were a surprise,” he said. “And there are a bunch of folks who didn’t make it this far.”
He looked carefully at the walls of the school and pointed to a large square patch where the yellow brick was slightly darker than the brick surrounding it. There use to be a school store there, he said, where kids could buy notebooks, pens, pencils and other supplies.
“It’s probably changed five times since then, though,” he said. “Fifty years is a long gap.”