Students look at old photographs and clippings from the Delray Beach School, circa 1954-55. Photos by Tim StepienBy Ron Hayes
The first rule of etiquette at high school reunions is very simple.
Everybody present is a “boy” or “girl” — even if they’re in their 70s or 80s.
“That girl I just kissed was my high school sweetheart,” Ernest Simon boasted, nodding toward a figure just disappearing into the luncheon crowd at the Delray Beach Golf Club. “Gloria Gove. She’s Gloria Gove Allen now.”
High school sweethearts Gloria Gove Allen and Ernie Simon catch up at their high school reunion.In the early 1940s, when Simon and Gove graduated from Delray High School, the town was small, they were young, and Old School Square had schools.
Now those high school seniors are senior citizens, and for two days over the weekend of Nov. 12-13, more than a hundred alumni of Delray and Seacrest high schools came together to share old memories, and make a few more. They lunched at the golf club, reminisced at Old School Square, danced at the Delray Dunes Country Club, and promised to do it again in 2014, if the fates allow.
Both Simon and Gove wed others, but they stayed in Delray Beach, and so did many of their classmates.
“I was born on Atlantic Avenue in 1921,” said Bob Miller, Class of ’41. “Born in a house right about where the Arcade Tap Room [building] is now.”
Thornton Wilder, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, was never a student at Delray High School, but without him there might not have been a reunion.
In 1974, Simon, now a successful lawyer, took on the role of the Stage Manager in a local production of Our Town. He was struck by the cemetery scene in which the deceased Emily Gibbs reflects on how fleeting life is.
“It really hit me,” Simon recalled. “I wanted this so we would see each other from time to time.”
At that first reunion, 20 of the 35 students from his Class of 1942 turned out. In time, the reunion expanded to welcome anyone who had attended Delray High School or its successor, Seacrest.
“At first we did it every four years,” he explained, “but then we decided that was too long between. We were losing people.”
At the 2007 reunion, 135 graduates attended the luncheon. This year, co-chairman Dot Baker counted 109.
The earliest students represented were Laurabelle McNeece Brola and Dr. Fred Love, from the Class of ’38.
Brola, longtime editor of the school newspaper, The Highlights, echoed many of her former classmates in waxing nostalgic for the town she knew growing up.
“I felt so privileged to have grown up here,” she said. “This was the best place in the world to have grown up during the Depression because we learned to depend on each other. Five families went to school together, and we’d pick up each family as we walked to school.”
Love, 88, left for a career with the public health service, but returned to town in 1988.
“This is my one chance to see a lot of people I used to see every day on the street,” he said. He looked around the banquet hall. “I don’t see many people I know here.”
When Simon asked how many had served in the military, more than half the “boys” held up hands.
When he called for an a cappella rendition of God Bless America, everyone seemed
to know the words.