Fifty-five years since the Baltimore City College class of June 1963 – my class – took its final leave from the place we called “the Castle on the Hill,” we’re set to gather this weekend, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Pikesville, to say hello again to old classmates and pretend none of us has aged even slightly.
And then we’ll get the prescriptions on our eyeglasses updated.
We were a pretty noteworthy group. Rep. Charles “Dutch” Ruppersberger (D-Md.) was a classmate. We produced a remarkable 12 National Merit Scholar finalists. Over three years, our varsity sports teams won a stunning 14 city championships.
Some people would call that an “elitist” high school, but I never thought of it that way at all. The great thing about City College was its diversity (despite the fact that our “diversity” back then consisted of only one gender – males).
We drew kids from every neighborhood in town, every racial and religious and economic background. And that mix – as much as anything learned by memorizing grammar rules or calculating geometric angles – was the real education.
We learned to see each other as individuals, and not as ethnic stereotypes. In our class of roughly 750 graduates, it’s been calculated, were about 200 Jewish and approximately 200 African-American students.
Today, you don’t have 200 Jewish high school students in the entire Baltimore City Public Schools system. And that long-ago era that was briefly integrated has faded back to a system essentially re-segregated, with the flight of white families to suburbia and to private and parochial schools.
So my generation can pat itself on the back a little. The Supreme Court ordered the country to try integration, which many still believe to be the American ideal — and it worked for us. Learning of all kinds took place. Friendships were made across old lines that once seemed daunting, and some of those friendships still touch our hearts.
And rebirthed, alas, some old insecurities – about how smart some guys were, and how some of us were not. A few weeks ago, I caught up with a classmate named David Myerowitz, now retired and living in Montana, to see if he might attend the reunion.
“What have you been doing for the last half-century?” I asked.
“Well,” he said, “I was chief of cardiac surgery at Ohio State University Hospital, and I wrote the first textbook on heart transplants,” he said. “What about you?”
“Well,” I said, “I blog for Jmore.”
Don’t get me wrong. I love the job. But it ain’t exactly open-heart surgery.
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books. His most recent, “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age,” published by the Johns Hopkins University Press, is now in paperback.