How sweet it was

MVRHS class of 1968 holds 50th reunion.


It was a little hard to hear conversations with “The House of the Rising Sun” playing in the background, but members of the MVRHS class of 1968 did their best at the Barn Bowl and Bistro last Saturday night.

Maria Trebby came all the way from Boise, Idaho, where she moved in 1991, and Janet Erickson was there from Framingham. Both women remembered their time at the high school, although Janet was quick to tell me that she was no “Miss Fun” back then, having been voted most studious in her class.

“There was a dress code,” Janet said. “Pantyhose were relatively new, so we wore garter belts with nylons, can you imagine? We had Brickman’s, Vineyard Dry Goods, the Sears, Roebuck and the Montgomery Ward catalogs. We had 4-H Club, and a lot of us sewed our own clothes. Remember those Mary Quant patterns?”

Maria nodded. I asked her what she most wanted back then, what was coveted by a high school girl on the Island.

“Oh, a date with one of the Beatles!” Maria said without hesitating.

Janet said there was debate about who was better, the Rolling Stones or the Beatles. She said you wore your “good clothes” to school and then changed out of them when you got home.

By the end of the 1967–68 school year, there was much talk about the Vietnam War, and the Paris peace talks had just begun, Janet said. It was the first year of the Minnesingers, and if you wanted to see a movie in the winter months, you’d have to leave the Island.

“When ‘The Sound of Music’ came out, we went to half of it because we had to catch the boat back,” Janet remembered. “It was a long movie.”

Janet said she was involved with music and theater when she was in high school. Mary Payne, who headed up children’s theater on the Island back then, directed the production of “The Barretts of Wimpole Street” that year. The school newspaper, The Screaming Gull, says in its May 5, 1968, issue, “After many weeks of hard work which often lasted into the very late hours, the Youth Center’s Drama Workshop presented, this past weekend, a performance well worth seeing. The three-act ‘Barretts’ was dedicated to Katharine Cornell, who made it famous.”

The newspaper, typed on sheets of colored paper and stapled in the top left corner, also featured a story about the Minnesingers tour and another simply titled “Nixon.”

The 1967–68 yearbook is full photos of girls with long hair and thin ribbon headbands, some with pixie cuts, others with hair teased falling into a flip, à la Marlo Thomas in the TV show “That Girl.”

My friend Nancy Wood’s daughter Sandra was one of the first people I recognized at the reunion. I know her mother well enough to have already heard a little of her backstory. She might have been a bit of a wild child back in 1968. Let’s just say she hitchhiked barefoot to Boston back in the day. She’s home on the Island now full-time, which Nancy loves.

One student who plays a starring role in the pages of the yearbook is then-basketball team co-captain Rick Harrington. His wife Elizabeth said her husband was asked by the yearbook editor if he’d mind posing for a few photos. “He told her, ‘Sure, whatever you need,’” Elizabeth said.

The results are photos of Harrington in a football uniform, with track clothes, with a tuba, wearing a cap and gown, and in other poses throughout the yearbook. The Harringtons came from Palm Beach, Fla., for the reunion, but also for last weekend’s Ceremony of Remembrance at the Edgartown Lighthouse. (Rick started the event almost 20 years ago to remember his son Ricky, who died in a car crash in 1995.)

While many of the class left the Island, there are some who stayed.

Gayle Stiller is a second-generation Islander — her mother was a Cronig — who was always yearning to come back home after she left the Vineyard. She went off to college, like many of her peers.

“I went to Ithaca College,” Stiller said, “it was so far from the Vineyard. I traveled and I lived in Israel for six months, and in England for six months, but I kept coming back here, and finally I thought I might as well establish my roots.”

Stiller, one of the reunion organizers along with Carolee Stewart and Madeline Fisher, works at the county courthouse in the clerk’s office, where she’s been for more than 40 years.

She remembers hanging out with her girlfriends, trying out dance steps and having sleepovers. Once you got to the high school, Gayle said, you were more likely to hang out with kids from other towns.

“There was a youth center where Educomp is, but before that, there wasn’t much of anything,” Gayle said. “Once you got into the high school, you met kids from other towns, and you would visit them. I’m sure kids these days don’t think of it this way, but it was a big deal to go to Edgartown.”

She also told me that if a teacher thought your skirt was too short, they’d ask you to go home to change.

“Once I had a teacher say, ‘Don’t ever wear that again,’” Gayle smiled. “It was really pretty, too. Once I wore a little jumper I made myself; I couldn’t wear that one again either.”

Rick Convery, a member of the Island rock band the Bodes, said all the guys grew their hair long in the summer because they had to get it cut above their ears for school in the fall. The Bodes played all over the Island.

“We liked playing the ’60s stuff,” Convery said. “The Beach Boys, the Kinks, the Byrds, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, and all that stuff. We still play once in a while. We played a benefit for Rick Harrington’s memorial at the lighthouse. We played beach clubs, yacht clubs, private parties, and at the Island a Go-Go on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven.”

Evidence of the styles of the day were in the photos projected onto the wall upstairs at the Barn. Planning for the reunion began a year ago, Madeline Fisher said. “We’re going to plan for something again in five years,” she said. “Make sure you stress that people stay in touch so we can find them.”

The tables were filled as everybody sat down to eat. I left, not wanting to overstay my welcome. I imagine there was some catching up to do, and a chance to revisit those dance moves from 1968.