Decades later: Lawton School Reunion…

After a fire (arson) destroyed much of Jefferson Grammar School on Irving Street in San Francisco’s Sunset District– just before I was about to graduate in the late 1950s– the kids were bused to Ulloa Elementary to complete the semester. As you might imagine, it was a difficult transition to go from the familiar to the unfamiliar but new friends were made.

(If you know the Sunset, you remember that the cross streets go in alphabetical order from Irving-to Wawona–therefore Ulloa was a zillion blocks from Irving, new territory for me, mostly residential.)

By then (before the school fire) my childhood friend, Lynn Kalajian McCloskey, had moved to a new house and attended Lawton Elementary. This was a good move because she was now closer to Lincoln High School and all the parents wanted their kids to go Lincoln. Eventually my parents did the same thing, moving two blocks from Lincoln to assure my acceptance there.

And many of the kids at Lawton went on to Lincoln, so I got to know them in high school.

I have to admit that Lynn and I are opposites. She’s very outgoing and I am not–which is why I can sit here for hours working on my blogs!

A couple of weeks ago Lawton Grammar School had a reunion and Lynn was there to cover the story. The teacher drove in from Sacramento….and former students flew in from Texas and other parts of the country…

Here’s a photo of the kids, now very much adults. The faces I see belong to former Lincoln High athletes, song girls, geniuses and highly motivated elected membersr of the school’s student body in the 1960s.

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Lawton School – Mr. James Healy’s 1960 6th Grade Class –
Back Row: Glenda Dubour, Janis Grimm, Carol Tomasello, Jeff Liss, Karen Tomasello, Berit Hovde, Maria Cresci, Gary Schaezlein, Bobby Cooper, Jim Minor, Mr. James Healy
Middle Row: Walt Scott, Diane Denhart, Tina Chriss, Marlane Drews
First Row: Jeff Gaynor, Lynn Kalajian, David Gabriel, Darlene Pels, Madeline Karonsky, Billy Wilde

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Photo: Reunion organizer David Gabriel gets the party going with a toast.

And here’s the Reunion story by Lynn Kalajian McCloskey

How many people think of having a sixth grade elementary school reunion? I’m sure it’s been done, but one must admit it is rare. On Friday evening, January 18, 2008, a group of classmates from Lawton Elementary School in San Francisco got together for a class reunion at the Beach Chalet Restaurant at Ocean Beach. We all grew up in the Sunset amidst the fog and “dunes.” So, the Beach Chalet was a perfect location for this event.

The group came together as a result of a classmate, David, researching, finding and contacting as many students as he could. During the research process, a number of emails went back and forth and one could feel the excitement brewing. The reunion was becoming a reality. People that I thought about over the years were coming back to life as were the fond memories I have of those wonderful days at Lawton in the Sunset District. Out of 36 students, 20 were able to attend. Sadly, one classmate, and a neighbor of mine in the Sunset, passed away in 2002 from brain cancer. Other students were unable to attend due to prior commitments or living out of the area. However, the organizer is living in Colorado and another classmate who attended, Bobby, lives in Texas. The rest of us live in the Bay Area. The biggest surprise of all was an email from David informing us that our teacher, Mr. Healy would be attending. I can honestly say that Mr. Healy was an amazing teacher, and I think all of his student would agree with me. As the day drew near, it was all I could think about. Finally, the day arrived. I went to work as usual, but couldn’t wait for the work day to end. It was a busy Friday, and the day flew by.

One never knows what traffic into the City will be like so we left in plenty of time. Driving from Marin to SF, I was telling my husband stories of the Lawton days that I hadn’t thought about in years. We arrived in the City about 45 minutes early so we drove around our old neighborhoods and reminisced.

At the designated hour, we arrived at the Beach Chalet. As I was getting out of the car, I mentioned to Larry that I was a little nervous. Would anyone remember me, what would I talk about……. I had seen some of my classmates at my 20th high school reunion. With those that went their different ways, it ended the day we were promoted to junior high some 48 years ago. The first person I saw was David and two other classmates, Bobby and Jeff, who I had not seen since our high school days. The nerves melted away as we greeted and hugged one another. One by one everyone arrived and the mood of the evening was electric. Photos were snapped, hugs were exchanged, laughter was filling the room and the smiles spread from ear to ear.

As we moved toward our tables to have dinner (most of us were too excited to think about food) we were wondering where our teacher was. We were looking around anxiously wondering if he would make it. He finally arrived with his lovely wife. He was tardy and don’t think we didn’t let him know it! He did have a good excuse … he drove in terrible traffic from Sacramento. How come the traffic excuse never worked for us? Everyone was so excited to see him that we mobbed him. I would have known him anywhere! He was still that tall, smiling, mild mannered man that I remembered.

As we settled at our tables, I took a step back and looked around. I was amazed that all the years and time that separated us brought us back together in a matter of hours. It was like no time had passed. We were a class once again, a little older and hopefully a little wiser. I think we would all agree that the years have been good to us and we are blessed to have our health, friendships and most of all our memories.

Thank you, David, for all of your hard work. Thank you Mr. Healy for being the wonderful gentleman you are. And, thank you to my classmates for making this a memorable event.

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Photo: Happy to see each other after decades: Walt Scott, Diane Denhardt, Bobby Cooper, Tina Criss and Karen Tomasello.

To see the event photo album, click here