CHS class reunion: Grads from 1948 remember singing fight songs and collecting metal for war effort

By RAY DUCKLER

Monitor columnist

Published: 09-16-2023 9:16 PM

Peachy Healy wasn’t sure she got all the words right from Concord High School’s old fight song.

But when she raised her right arm to show school spirit, and her eyes, deep blue against her white hair, squinted in delight, you knew she’d give it a try. School songs – this one sang at Concord High’s football and basketball games, shortly after World War II had ended – carried more weight back then. They were not considered nerdy. They showed unity.

Hail, hail to Concord, dear old Concord High, we thee do honor, for your praises we vie, high as the mountains, in our thoughts you lie, hail, hail our alma mater, hail to Concord High. . .

“Rah, Rah, Rah!”

Asked if she had been a member of the Concord High choir, Peachy pushed out a high-pitched laugh and said, “Are you kidding me? I’m going to tell my kids you asked me that. I’m known for having a bad voice and not being able to keep a tune.”

Maybe so, but her memory looked back like a rearview mirror, because on Saturday, at the every-fifth-year reunion for the Class of 1948, this one at Havenwood Heritage Heights, Peachy’s voice rivaled Sinatra to the other graduates who attended. 

They came – 10 graduates in all – mostly from Concord. Laconia and Nashua were also represented. One grad came from Medway, Mass. Children, seniors themselves, drove those who no longer drive. This was the 16th time they held a reunion.

“I’ve been to them all,” Peachy said.

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Before sitting at a long table with a snow-white cloth – glowing from the sunlight shooting through a nearby window – and goblets of ice water, seven women and three men, all 92 or 93 years old, mingled in the mingling area, a large space with cushy couches and chairs.

Heritage staff members made sure the coffee and ice machines were ready. A buzz of conversations and laughter, usually reserved for a younger crowd, told you something special was unfolding. Steak tips would be served later.

A whisper of sadness surfaced now and then. There had been 23 graduates at the last reunion, in 2018 at Makris Lobster and Steak House. Peachy, Daisy Day and Violet Spiro had all attended.

They went on triple-dates after graduating from high school and were known as the Fruit and Flower girls. Violet, though, has since passed away.

“We were all really good friends,” said Daisy, who twirled a baton in the marching band. “People are leaving us.”

Talk of mortality and limited mobility, though, were not invited to the reunion. In fact, some of these seniors continue to drive, including Jean Berry Chase, Daisy and Peachy.

“I drove here,” Jean said. “I do my own shopping, clean my own house. I do everything.”

All 10 delighted in looking back, their memories sharp and clear. School sports were big in the 1940s. The only games in town. The Concord High boys’ basketball team won the state championship at the University of New Hampshire in 1948, then played in the New England regional against Connecticut at the old Boston Garden.

“We went to every basketball game and we went to all of the football games,” Peachy said. “The stadiums were full, and if you did not get there early, you did not get a seat. We cheered and helped our teams.”

Honey Reardon was way ahead of her time. She starred in basketball, softball and field hockey. Having four brothers helped. They grew up on Franklin Street. Honey still lives there.

“They played football,” Honey said, “so they used to practice on me.”

Was she tough? “I am strong,” she said. “I loved it.”

After Friday night games, the teens always went to the Concord YMCA for dancing. Boys on one side of the gym, girls on the other.

“We’d say, ‘Oh my God, I hope he’s going to ask me to dance,’ ” Peachy said. “Or we’d say, ‘I hope he’s not going to ask me to dance.’ ”

Don Lockwood of Laconia, tall and slender, recalled some of the women who attended the reunion, saying, “They were too wild for me.”

He remembered going to the movies for a dime, plus a 2-cent tax. He and the boys had a plan each time. 

“They let one guy in,” Lockwood said, “and he’d open the backdoor for the rest.”

The most vivid memories surrounded World War II. In a rare instance, the country was unified. Everyone was on the same page. Everyone needed to do their part.

They collected stuff to help the war effort. Gas was rationed. Symbols told you a story.

“A lot of houses had stars on their doors, and that meant you had someone who was in the service,” Daisy said. “You did not want a gold star. That meant someone had died. They became the Gold Star Mothers. They’re still around today.”

“The boys could drive, and we’d go around in the back of the truck,” Peachy said.  “We’d collect metal.”

There was no shortage of stories. About war and dancing and sports teams and movies. About boys and girls in high school, figuring out who they were and where they were heading.

The reunion rotates from place to place. The Red Blazer and the Highway Hotel (now long gone) once hosted. The Makris restaurant, the setting five years ago, remains.

So does the excitement, the anticipation of seeing each other and remembering another era. An innocent era.

They received photos – their graduation photos – of themselves and wore them like necklaces for identification purposes. In hers, Peachy’s hair was parted on the side, with curls near the bottom.

Page boy haircuts were in style then. And high school fight songs were, too.

“I might have said some of it wrong when I sang it,” Peachy said. “My whole family always sang. We used to sing a lot in the backyard. We sang off-key, and we did not care.”

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