They remember June 7, 1974 like it was yesterday.
Back then, they’ll tell you, Philip William Noel was the 68th governor of Rhode Island and Eugene J. McCaffrey Jr. was sitting in the City of Warwick mayor’s office.
Back then, they’ll tell you, Christopher K. Rallis was the principal at Warwick Veterans Memorial High and Karl B. Rittmann and Francis T. Crawley were the school’s assistant principals.
Back then, they’ll tell you, their hair was much longer than today and their pictures were in the back of the Gryphon, the school’s yearbook.
Back then, they’ll readily admit, they didn’t have any special titles, tags or superlatives next to their names and they weren’t among the so-called social set.
But today, Debbie Anderson Petisce, Christine Furlong Murphy, Marie Martini Genest, Laurie Mathews Donovan, Sue Theriault Hartington, Diane Budnik Haley and Ron Wheaton are the glue for the class of ’74. So much so, in fact, that the “Super Seven” Hurricanes have planned the last two class reunions and can’t wait until next Saturday, June 7, the day they actually graduated from Warwick Vets; the day they’ll host the Class of 1974’s 40th Reunion at the East Greenwich Firemen’s Club.
Although their life paths took different routes and included some interesting careers, the group has known each other since their freshman year at Vets.
“We have lots and lots of good memories of our high school days,” Petisce, who is retired from the school department and Kent Hospital, remembers. “We had double sessions back then, and that was before Toll Gate High School was built.”
Petisce, who also remembers that Raquel Welch and Pam Grier were “the hotties and fashion icons back in 1974, also says cheerleading and “The Lettermen’s Follies” Variety Show were among her favorite things at Vets.
She’s also what the group calls “the heart and soul of our team” who even went as far as having special labels made up – in gold no less – for the Vets Reunion Committee.
Why though, after years and years have passed, did they get involved in actually organizing a class reunion?
“We had our fifth, 10th, 25th but no 30th,” Petisce said. “So we all got together and said, ‘Let’s have a cookout or something for our 35th Reunion. We could possibly have it at the Masonic Youth Center [in Buttonwoods].”
And for the last 12 months, the group has been meeting on a regular basis planning what Petisce calls “a trip down memory lane” that will include a memorabilia table she hopes is filled with Hurricane happenings through the years.
What’s more, as Petisce said, “We are a coastal community [and] we wanted to have someplace where we could be right on the water and appreciate its full beauty.”
Thus, the group chose the East Greenwich Firemen’s Club that’s known for its food and views and the fact the non-profit social organization sits atop a hill and overlooks the picturesque harbor.
Perhaps Marie Martini Genest’s favorite memory of her high school days could now be used for the fun-loving group’s theme, as she says “spending time with my friends” were her favorite times in high school.
Back when the Boston Celtics won the NBA championship and Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert were the darlings of pro tennis and Barbra Streisand’s “The Way We Were” hit the top of the music charts.
Genest, who is a retired teacher and IBM salesperson, says her favorite song back then was “Your Song” by Elton John.”
Wheaton, meanwhile, who worked in cabinet design, says his favorite memory of high school was “those crazy things that went on in school, the parking lot shenanigans and, of course, Graduation Day!”
What was his favorite song of the good old high school days?
“Anything from David Bowie,” Wheaton replied. “’Space Oddity,’ ‘Fame,’ ‘Golden Years’...whatever!”
For Susan Theriault Hartington, a loan specialist at Coastway Community Bank, her favorite memory of high school was “being able to wear a wool plaid skirt to school on the first day of high school, one that wasn’t a uniform from parochial school! Yeah!”
Three Dog Night, which recorded songs like “Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog” and “Joy to the World,” was sweet music to Theriault’s ears back then.
“I loved cheerleading and all the laughs!” exclaimed Christine Furlong Murphy, an administrative assistant. “And my favorite song was ‘Maggie May’ by Rod Stewart.”
As for Laurie Mathews Donovan, another energetic committee member and retired teacher, she says her favorite memories of Warwick Vets were “meeting and enjoying all the friends I made” and she also loved “Billy Joel’s ‘Piano Man’ back then.”
So now it’s all systems go for the Class of 1974’s 40th Reunion that get underway at 7 p.m. June 7 and will have everything from a live band, Whiskey Rhode, to a photo booth as well as a Memorial Table for the 31 classmates who have since passed away.
Perhaps the group’s fun-filled planning meetings and the many marvelous memories of their days at Warwick Vets, as well as the 40th Reunion itself, are reflected in Petisce’s favorite song back when was, she said with her always-pleasing smile: “Jim Croce’s ‘Time in a Bottle.’”