Long gone are the days when you could wake up in the morning, head to Chookies Luncheonette at New Utrecht Avenue and 79th Street, and buy yourself the breakfast of champions: scrambled eggs, french fries and a vanilla coke, plus your smokes for the day, all for $1.50.
In fact it’s been 50 years.
But those years have flown by for New Utrecht HS’s class of 1961 — a group that graduated the year John F. Kennedy was elected President of the United States, Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s home run record, the Vietnam War started, and Ford’s classic Mustang was still three-and-a-half years off.
Those days of wine and roses (when most seniors were of legal drinking age) will be celebrated with doo-wop music, egg creams and memories galore during the class’s golden anniversary reunion at Sirico’s on Sept. 17.
And the remembrances are bound to run deep.
“For the last eight months, we had conference calls over the phone.” said Norman Siegel, the president of the Class of ’61 and the former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “And when we were making those plans it brought back a lot of fond New Utrecht memories.”
For a lot of students, New Utrecht was more than a school; it was a home. “Many of us came out of poor homes, so our parents would work all the time, and a lot of the nurturing we got was from the students and the teachers.” said Judi Berliner Eisenberg, a former cheerleader and captain of the biology squad.
And it was the community students found there that made New Utrecht such a special spot — and one that help produce some of the greatest thinkers of our time.
“My teachers would spend time after class encouraging me to learn,” said Siegel. “If I didn’t go to New Utrecht, I wouldn’t be the lawyer I am today.”
Of New Utrecht wasn’t all about hitting the books. The school and surrounding neighborhood became a home-away-from-home for students, and the local candy store became the de facto meeting spot for students to hang out before and after classes.
“I close my eyes, and I can see Chookies,” said Siegel. “They had a great jukebox, and we’d sing and dance. It was an age of innocence.”
For other 61ers, the friendships made in high school have lasted a lifetime, and this week’s reunion will simply be yet another opportunity to catch up with old friends.
“I loved the camaradiere,” said Eisenberg, who’s says she speaks with many of her classmates daily, and has done so since they graduated. “We made friendship that lasted a lifetime.”
New Utrecht High School Class of 1961 Reunion at Sirico’s [8023 13th Ave. between 80th Street and 81st Street in Bensonhurst, (718) 331-2900] Sept. 17 at 6 pm. For info, visit www.newutrechtalumni.com