Class of 1969 celebrates 45 yearsPublished 8:49am Thursday, July 24, 2014
Just six weeks before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, 420 members of the Niles Senior High School Class of 1969 received their high school diplomas. This weekend, they will gather for their 45th high school reunion.
Born in 1950-51, these Niles alumni grew up in truly historic times – socially, politically and technologically.
We either rode our bikes to school or walked. Our mothers were usually there when we got home from school. Fathers had good jobs at one of the scores of factories and businesses headquartered in Niles, and many worked for the railroad. There were hundreds of corporate executives and thousands of good paying blue collar jobs with pensions.
We played outdoors all the time. We had to be home by 6 p.m. when the Angelus chimed at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. We didn’t have “play dates.” We just showed up on doorsteps.
Throughout our school years – 1956-1969 – we witnessed the beginning of the Cold War and the real fear of nuclear bombs. We learned about communism and Nikita Khrushchev. We witnessed the building of the Berlin Wall, John F. Kennedy’s election and assassination, the Viet Nam War, the civil rights movement, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King and the riots that ensued. Racial tension was evident even at Niles Senior High School.
In May of 1968, several of us skipped school and went to Notre Dame to hear Sen. Robert F. Kennedy speak at a presidential campaign rally. He too was assassinated a few weeks later in Los Angeles.
History was being made every day and we knew it. But that was then. This is now.
Most people born after 1989 – when we celebrated our 20th Class Reunion – don’t know what the Cold War was because it ended when they were too young to remember. The United States was the world’s leading super power and we faced down the Soviet Union and watched the Berlin Wall fall. Former communist countries began joining NATO as Western allies. Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton all used diplomacy and tact and great wisdom in making sure the Cold War was behind us. These presidents surrounded themselves with the brightest foreign policy minds in the land. We were taken seriously, worldwide.
Now, the Cold War is resuming as Russian President Vladimir Putin begins restoring the old Soviet Union and we are helpless as Crimea is returned to Russia and Ukraine becomes more and more destabilized. The United States appears to be side-lined as European leaders ignore us; raging civil wars wrack Syria, Iraq and Egypt; Israel bombs Palestine, our own war with Afghanistan moves into its 12th year and an alien invasion is threatening our once secure country.
What will my 50th Niles High School Reunion be like?
A native of Niles, Jack Strayer moved back home in 2009 after living and working in Washington DC since 1976. Strayer has served as a congressional staffer, state legislative press secretary, federal registered lobbyist and Vice President of the National Center for Policy Analysis. He is a nationally recognized expert on federal health policy reform and led the fight for the enactment of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).