Members of the Upper Arlington High School class of 1970 will have to wait another year to celebrate their 50-year reunion.
The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has caused many changes for the Upper Arlington community, including one pertaining to the Fourth of July celebration.
The event initially was called off, but the Upper Arlington Civic Association announced it would salvage a version of the annual parade.
What still was lost was the class of 1970 members’ plans for a multiday celebration of their 50-year reunion.
Organizers scrapped plans for the gathering even before the UACA started making decisions about the event.
Class of 1970 student council president Rod Ebright said it was a tough decision, but it was made so that classmates – particularly those who would have to travel from long distances – would not be left in limbo.
“People are quite sad about it, as I think you might expect,” Ebright said. “We’ve always had a decent group and good turnouts when we’ve had those reunions every five years.”
Ebright said the decision to cancel wasn’t taken lightly but was made after considering potential health risks of gathering in large groups, as well as those who would have traveled via air.
“We just looked at the way events were unfolding and thought it would be the most sensible thing to do,” he said. “It was with a lot of regret, but we just truly felt given our age group and the higher likelihood of being vulnerable to (the virus) that we should call it off.
“Fifty years out of high school we’ve started using some common sense.”
Reunion organizers plan to hold a celebration during next year’s July 4 festivities. They hope to hold a party, a golf outing, lunch events and have a float in the 2021 parade.
They also intend to uphold plans for a memorial service of sorts at which they will honor classmates who’ve passed away.
Among those hoping to make it to next year’s event is Barb Arnold Hamelberg, who lives in Orange Township in Delaware County.
“The last trip my mother ever took was to her 50th reunion in Philadelphia, and she wore a class button with her picture on it,” Hamelberg said. “I wanted to wear that button to my reunion. I wanted to bring her with me.
“That will have to wait a year. It’s a huge disappointment because who knows if we will all be around to get back to it and who knows if there will be a (coronavirus) vaccine by then.”
Hamelberg said she has tried to make most of the class reunions that have been held every five years since she moved back to Ohio in 1988. She said she enjoys finding out what people have been up to and where their lives have taken them.
“These are friends,” she said. “The older we get, the more friends we seem to need.”
Another classmate who planned to come this year but who is not so sure she will make it next year is Holly Boardman, who lives in Orlando, Florida, and is leery of air travel without a vaccine.
“I was really looking forward to it,” Boardman said. “It was a good reason to go home to Upper Arlington.
“My mother died a year ago, and I don’t really have a reason to go up there.”
Boardman said she has been to only two reunions over the years, guessing they might have been the 10- and 25-year events.
She said she was looking forward to visiting with people she had not seen in many years and, in some cases, decades.
“I’ve lost touch with most people and was looking forward to catching up,” Boardman said. “It’s a big milestone year and people come from all over the country.
“It’s a big deal.”
In addition to the reunion, Boardman looked forward to reliving childhood memories of riding her bicycle in the Fourth of July parade and the requisite family dinners that took place after, she said. She called them “some of the fondest memories of my childhood.”
The conversation led to her to reflect on her school years, including a string of Friday food fights at Jones Middle School that led many girls in the class to bring umbrellas to the cafeteria to shield themselves and a walkout that was thwarted by a math teacher whose name she has forgotten.
“We don’t remember what the reason was we were protesting – that was back in the era of protests,” Boardman said. “It made us feel older.
“We were going to march out into traffic, but I remember (the math teacher) coming out and starting to beat the kids over the head with her umbrella, although some people say it was a yardstick. I don’t think we left the building. We just went to the stairwell.”
Boardman and Ebright both recalled the “Gilded Bear,” an underground student newspaper that “everyone” at the high school read.
“That was huge,” Ebright said. “It was not sanctioned.”
Additionally, Ebright said, female classmates were responsible the removal of a dress code that required them to wear skirts of a certain length and prohibited them from wearing long pants.
“It was such a different time,” he said. “They would have to kneel on a cafeteria table and if their skirts didn’t touch the table, they were sent home.”
The girls brought down the dress code, he said, after they planned to get sent home en masse a couple days ahead of an important school levy.
“The plan was that their parents would be so inconvenienced or upset about the situation that it would stir enough controversy that it would adversely affect the levy,” he said. “The administration lifted the dress code a couple days before the levy.”
In addition to youthful rebellion, Ebright said, the class of 1970 was known for athletics, including success in tennis and swimming.
Back then, students didn’t go to Upper Arlington High School until their sophomore years, and football players from the ’70 class never lost a game in the three years they attended the high school. They won three state championships.
“It was a go-go place,” Ebright said. “The football team’s success kind of reflected the tone and tenor of the times in Upper Arlington.
“It was a golden era, and I don’t think we fully appreciated what remarkable lives we had.”