About half of the Ursuline Academy Class of 1964 will be back in Bethesda next weekend, taking a yellow school bus up Old Georgetown Road as part of a three-day long 50th reunion celebration.
Over the past year, organizers have researched maiden names, written letters and tried to track down each of the roughly 60 members of the class.
The all-girls Catholic high school closed in 1975. It is now home to the Lycee Rochambeau French International School at 9600 Forest Road.
On Saturday, April 26, the Class of ’64 will hop on a bus at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Bethesda and head to the school for a tour that’s likely to evoke memories of a very different time.
“When we moved to Bethesda in 1957, it was about as close to Mayberry as you could possibly hope for,” said Mary Ellen Schattman, a Class of ’64 grad and one of the main organizers of the reunion. “It was a small town.”
Schattman’s family lived on Rosedale Avenue. She rode her bike to the Bethesda Farm Women’s Market on Saturday mornings to buy sausage to cook for breakfast. She took sewing at Singer Sewing, ate at the Hot Shoppes at Wisconsin Avenue and East-West Highway and remembers a change machine behind the police station kids used to play like a slot machine, hoping for leftover nickels.
It was also a “very difficult time,” Schattman said. Resistance to integration caused strife. Bethesda’s Hiser Theatre closed rather than allow black customers.
In November of the Class of ’64′s senior year, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
The school was one of many Catholic high schools that dotted the landscape. The six children in Schattman’s family went to five different Catholic high schools, normal back then.
Ursuline was more academic-oriented than others, Schattman said. She won her school’s Betty Crocker Homemakers of Tomorrow scholarship — despite the fact the school didn’t have a Home Economics class. Latin, French and the sciences were the focus.
Boys weren’t allowed to pick up Ursuline students at the school. Many of the students worked at Camp Shriver — the summer camp Eunice Shriver started in 1962 to match up special needs students with students from area high schools.
Some members of the class of ’64 have died. Others live as far away as Europe. About 25 have made reservations for the Hyatt next weekend and Schattman expected more who remained local to show.
The group is still looking for three members of the class: Barbara Peg Hence, Mary Patricia Flan and Carol Jeanne Aldrich.
The reunion will last the length of the weekend, with a dinner on Friday, lunch on Saturday, tour of the old Academy grounds and a brunch on Sunday.
“We expect to have more fun than anyone who has ever had a high school reunion has had,” Schattman said. “My husband’s jealous.”