Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Half a century of memories about Peekskill

PHS Class of ‘73 back for reunion 
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One of the reunion organizers Anne Valente, left, with Sue Ellen Morrison at Slainte on Friday evening.  (Photo by Regina Clarkin)

They were the only class in Peekskill’s history that had the distinction of attending their high school years in three buildings. “We started out in ninth grade in the Administration building, what we called the Annex,” recalled Elnora Austell, “because there was no room for us in the high school. Then we went to the high school building on Ringgold Street (now the middle school) for tenth and eleventh grade; and in senior year we moved into the new building on Elm Street where we graduated from.” 

That was just one of the stories told when members of the PHS Class of 1973, who gathered in Peekskill for their 50th reunion last weekend, started reminiscing about their high school days. 

The group met up at Slainte on Division Street Friday evening, and were given name tags with their high school yearbook photo to help with recognizing classmates – a task that could be challenging after 50 years. 

Gloria Blackman traveled from Barbados to attend the reunion. (Photo by Regina Clarkin)

 Bob Shulman remembers being in the marching band and playing at Peekskill Day at Shea Stadium. He has vivid memories of that because his dad was the music teacher at Drum Hill. Short on musicians, Shulman (a junior high student), was recruited to play his trombone with the high school marching band. 

Linda Adams Hathaway hadn’t been in Peekskill since 1993, when she returned for a funeral of one of her grandparents. On Friday she went up to the old football field and saw that it has been leveled to make way for a new soccer field.  She and Suzanne Phillips, who grew up on Dyckman Street and now splits her time between California and Arizona, remembered how they would spend their summers at Depew Park. Hathaway grew up on Union Avenue and had made a point to drive by the house she grew up in earlier on Friday. 

Elnora Austell, who grew up across the street from the Flatz on Park Street,  came to the reunion from Michigan. On arriving here, she immediately ditched her rental car and started walking. “I don’t know how to see Peekskill any other way. I have been walking everywhere.”   

She said walking everywhere was one of her secrets to keeping weight off as she desired a typical ‘lunch’ when she was in high school. “My friend and I would go to the Modern Bakery on South Street for a jelly donut, and then we’d eat that and stop for ice cream at the Marathon and then walk back up the hill to school – but stop at Abe’s Store on Elm Street (where DeSilva’s is now) and get some candy. 

Ken Kuritizky, who still lives nearby in Putnam Valley, spent many years in Peekskill working at the Post Office. He remembers growing up on Frost Lane when there were two farms at either end of the road (Borbley’s and Pataki’s), and he talked about the Camp Field Reservoir and how it has connections to George Washington. “As kids, we used to go up there and find all sorts of artifacts like buttons from uniforms of Revolutionary War soldiers.  I hope that area isn’t developed,” he added. 

 

Ken Kuritizky (in dark shirt and jacket) at the Class of 1973 reunion on Friday. (Photo by Regina Clarkin)

Jim Babchak remembers being a teenager, walking through the streets of downtown and seeing the businesses that members of his family owned, from the Dorsey Furniture store (now Baxter’s Pharmacy) to the Peekskill Travel Agency and Peekskill Insurance Company (run respectively by his aunts Nuncy and Mary) from their Park Street office. He referenced the line in a WLNA radio advertisement that his aunt ran:  “Peekskill Travel Bureau, Nuncy speaking” was the radio spot’s memorable opening line. 

On this trip back to Peekskill, Babchak and his classmate Chris Polhemus drove around looking for all the old haunts such as Geneva’s Bar and Grill (which has been a construction site at Hudson and Water Streets for a few years now),  and Sorrento’s on Railroad Avenue – which has been a poorly-maintained parking lot since the venerable restaurant closed in the 1990’s. 

City owned parking lot across from the train station where Sorrento’s Restaurant used to be.

The old friends also remarked that there aren’t as many pizza places downtown as there once was. 

On Saturday, the classmates gathered in the rain at the Riverfront Green Pavillion where they continued their celebration. They lit two votive candles and remembered those 49 classmates who have passed over the last half-century. Before Kevin Coons read the names of the deceased classmates he said, “close your eyes and you can see them.” 

Kevin Coons reads the names of deceased classmates as Elnora Austell, left, and Anne Valente look on. (Photo by Regina Clarkin)

Pat Bristol, who lives in Tennessee and received an award for having the most children (six) said “Peekskill hasn’t changed. The structures are the same; the Assumption, Woolworth, Kittingers. We were Peekskill back then. The streets haven’t changed, although there are more one-ways, but I still know how to get around.” 

Standing at the Pavilion at the Riverfront Green got some of the classmates remembering how the area was rundown and underdeveloped when they were in high school. “We used to come here with our girlfriends and park,” said Jim Duncan who has been married to his high school sweetheart, Suzanne for 45 years. They recalled how the Hudson would freeze and they could walk over it.   

Wences Rodriquez  left, with Larry Ritter, class of ’74 who is married to Diane Jones from class of ’73. (Photo by Regina Clarkin)

 

Riverfront Green also had significance for Darcy Leslie whose parents, John and Dorothy, were instrumental in the rehabilitation of the riverfront into the park that it is today. 

Sign at Peekskill Riverfront conveying the history of the park. Darcy Leslie’s parents are noted. (Photo by Jim Striebich)

“PHS will always be a part of my heart,” observed Linda Adams. “It was a close-knit community. This is always going to be my home, no matter where I go.” 

A special guest who visited the group was Margie Dunajski who taught the students when they were in 7th grade at Drum Hill Junior High. Dunajski, who lives in Cortlandt Manor and keeps in touch with some of the students, had heard about the reunion and took the opportunity to reconnect. 

Following the short memorial service, the group held a moment of silence for their departed classmates, then sang the PHS song, “Hail to the Crimson Blue”. But soon the mood brightened, as the Class of ‘73 recalled how they’d participated in School Spirit Week – by going barefoot for the entire week.

The group’s final event was a brunch at Cortlandt Colonial Restaurant on Sunday. David Carbone of Peekskill Today covered that event. 

About the Contributor
Regina Clarkin, Editor and Publisher
When the Peekskill Herald weekly newspaper ceased publishing in August 2000 it was the first time in the history of the city that there wasn’t a local newspaper.  The award-winning weekly was often referred to as the ‘glue’ of the community. Founded on January 9, 1986 by Regina Clarkin, Kathy Daley and Rich Zahradnik with a $7,000 credit card line, the paper filled the void created when the daily Evening Star was sold to Gannett and moved out of town. Founding publisher Regina Clarkin continued to live in the Peekskill Cortlandt area and turned her attention to other life endeavors.  Through the ensuing 19 years, Clarkin was frequently stopped in town and asked when she would start up the Herald again. In January 2019, Clarkin decided it was less labor intensive to deliver a weekly blog than a print newspaper so she began posting one story a week about life in Peekskill. After a successful crowd funding campaign in 2020, the Herald was incorporated as a non-profit corporation in July of 2021. Peekskill Herald is a digital relative of the former print edition, featuring many of the favorite aspects of the beloved Peekskill Herald such as old pictures, personality profiles and well written stories about newsworthy events. Regina Clarkin is the editor and publisher of the site. Photo by Joe Squillante