As Towle Elementary School stands idle with an uncertain future, members of the Class of 1966 remember it fondly as their high school. Among many other distinctions, they were the last class to graduate from Towle. Many of them were also the first to call the current high school home when it was a brand new Junior High back in 1960. Among the many activities planned is a tour of the high school lead by classmate and career Newport educator, Calista Teague Thurlow. Many in the class have never seen the additions that morphed into the new Newport High School after they left Towle. That and a lot more will create new memories as The Class of ’66 returns to Newport, September 9-11.
It will be a packed weekend of fun for members of the class and their families. In planning the festivities, Chairperson Gina Willey Hutchinson polled the members to see how they would like to celebrate this milestone. A cruise on Lake Sunapee was high on the list and will take place Saturday afternoon, September 10 at 1:30. Growing up on the lake was the source of many memories of sunny days at Dewey Beach or Sunapee State Park and ice cream at The Anchorage. Even the local members of the class are anxious to get out on the MV Kearsage.
Among the goals of the weekend , was to involve as many Newport area businesses as possible. The Salt Hill Pub will host a “Meet and Greet” Friday night. John Cain Golf Club will be host golf on Saturday morning. Saturday night will be the highlight of the weekend as the class returns to The Newport Opera House for a dinner dance catered by The Old Court House Restaurant. Sunday morning will find the class at The Backside Inn for brunch.
At the dinner dance, the Class will receive new diplomas from Superintendent Cindy Gallagher. In looking at her diploma, one of the class members noticed that they said “Graduate of NEWPORT HIGH SCHOOL”. Fifty years later, and in the face of the closing of their school, the class wanted a lasting reminder that they graduated from TOWLE HIGH SCHOOL. Gallagher polled the School Board , which approved as long as there was no cost to the District, which there is not. She will personally present them at the dinner.
While many of their teachers are deceased or in nursing homes, two were right out of college when they came to teach them and will be present at the dinner. Bob Howard likes to say he was a member of their class as he came to Newport , as the Band Director, in their freshman year and left when they graduated. He went on to be Director of Music for the Pentuckett School District in Groveland , Mass and was “ found” when he came to Newport to watch a football game a few years ago and to see Hutchinson’s baton twirlers. Band and Majorettes alike, remember him as a talented “band man” who could twirl batons as well. Many members of the Class of ’66 were in his band,setting up what will be a great reunion for all. Bill Thurlow, came in while the class was in high school and soon became one of the most popular teachers of all things history and current events. Debates were lively. Unlike Howard, he stayed in Newport, married Calista Teague and both have dedicated their careers to Newport children . Now retired, Thurlow is still an assistant coach for the football team while his wife is still in the classroom.
The Class of ’66 Towle High is a model for their generation in many ways. Growing up in a time of peace in a small town where everyone knew your name wasn’t just a script from “Cheers”. From school dances to proms and hoedowns, Latin class, football games and penny candy at The Midway gas station, it was a great time to be a child in Newport. Teachers were respected and getting in trouble at school meant double trouble at home. That is why the class produced at least ten career teachers, including two more, Nancy Niemi Barton and Bonnie Fortune Flint , who taught in Newport until retirement. In a survey, many in the class cited their own teachers as part of their happy memories of growing up in Newport. Clearly those teachers shaped the future for many and prepared them for college. Most, who went on to college, were first generation. Other members of the class became artists, tradesmen, technicians, real estate agents and owners of businesses. One, Terry Whitaker, was killed in Viet Nam and has his name on the Wall in Washington, DC.
Sadly, the class has lost several members including Class President Ernest Tarullo, who died of cancer a year after the 45th Reunion in 2011. Many other members have had various cancer issues over the last few years. All have dealt with aging parents as well. From the survey, most of the parents of the class of ’66 have died from either cancer or Alzheimers. Many of the parents were Towle High graduates in the 1940’s.
On September 9-11, the Class of 1966 will come together to rekindle old friendships and enjoy the fact that life’s joys and challenges have them on a level playing field. Most of all, a time to reminisce about 18 years of growing up with the great music their grandchildren think is new and amazing and some of the most important times in American history. Ask any member of this class and they can remember vividly where they were at the exact moment JFK was assassinated, or seeing on the nightly news the attempts at integration in the South.
Reunions are important. A time to reminisce, to celebrate and remember that you can go home again and still have connections in The Sunshine Town.