What DHS was like 50 years ago: Giving a tour to the Class of 1968
October 5, 2018
On September 15, I had the opportunity to give a tour of Darien High School to the class of 1968 for their 50th high school reunion. I and three other members of the National Honor Society welcomed about 30 alumni to the incredibly modern DHS. We began the tour in the message center, where there was the heartwarming sight of old friends reuniting after 50 years. Each person had a name tag with their senior portrait, giving us a glimpse into the year 1968.
I began my tour by the front desk, and made my way towards the library. The alumni were in awe at the number of computers and the expanse of the silent section. Their school had been where the oval is now, and this was their first time seeing the ‘new school’. Construction of the new school began in 2003 and ended in 2005. Within the two year span, the entire DHS campus moved from the upper oval, to where it is now.
I took them to the art wing, where we passed Amina Mobarik’s moving art piece, depicting an American flag with headlines about police and gun brutality. They stopped and stared, while my stomach knotted up, expecting criticism. Instead, I was met with appreciation, and concern about shootings in our schools. A few women approached me, and asked if we ever had a threat at DHS. I explained to them that we had a threat two years ago, when someone wrote “I’m gonna shoot up the school during 5th period” on a bathroom stall. They expressed empathy, and told me how sorry they were that we have to go through this.
I then took my group to the enormous trophy case near the upper gym. The members of my group were amazed to see that womens sports had become an official sport, because when they were in high school, all they had was intramural. They could not believe that the girls swimming team and lacrosse team had won so many state titles.
At the end of the tour, I conducted an interview with the dozen members of my group.
What were your initial reactions when you returned to the new DHS?
- I was blown away.
- It seems awfully dark, there is not enough natural light around here, but it is obviously impressive.
- It is very sterile, very septic.
- And women’s sports? Fantastically, wonderfully bigger. There weren’t many women’s sports when we were in high school.
What was your favorite year of high school and why?
- Probably would have been because of whatever boyfriend I had.
- 1968 was when MLK and Bobby Kennedy… you know, it was very vivid.
- 8th grade was when JFK… you know, we remember where we all were.
1968 was a very eventful and tumultuous year in politics: MLK and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated, the Vietnam War was raging, so what where your memories of that? Can you compare how things were 50 years ago to now? Are you able to draw any parallels?
- I can draw a parallel. I think that time was very divisive because of the war. I mean, it was the war. And I think today is very divisive too.
- Military was treated so differently back then. The military wasn’t respected like they are now.
- The violence, we weren’t aware of violence like that. I don’t want to say we have become numb to it, but, those were the first times you know, you saw people get assassinated. It was dramatic.
Were there ever any protests in Darien?
- Oh no. I think it began in 69. The Tet Offensive really kicked it off.
- We had a classmate, Kathy Smith, who went to Kent State. So when all that happened, we were all like, “Is she okay?”.
- Kent State is where you can draw an equivalent parallel, would be the first school shooting. Just, it changed everything.
- Your world wasn’t safe.
- Americans were killing fellow Americans. It was never an issue, and all of a sudden, now it is. Now what the hell was that all about? I really feel sorry for you kids, with all these school shootings going on. What an environment to be in. It’s terrible.
Do you have any recollection of segregation in Darien?
- Are you kidding?
- There were no black people in Darien.
- Most of the people that were Jewish, often didn’t even admit it.
- The only guy in Darien who I knew that was black, was an English teacher at Mather, Mr. Guy. The first black man I ever met.
- I was a senior in high school before I met a black person, or a Jewish person.
- The legislation for segregation, you know, I don’t think anybody felt a change.
- Well because, there was nobody here!
- When I was in college, my first boyfriend was from New Orleans, and when you would go down there, black people literally backed away from you if you were in line to go for the bus, they would back away so that you could go first. The colored signs and white signs were all over the place. Black people just knew, if there was a white person there… you know.
As a senior in high school, what advice do you have for me?
- You will find wonderful people wherever you go.
- Go out of your comfort zone.
The tour finally came to an end, and I shook everyone’s hand, thanking them for coming back to their school. They wished me luck in my college process and said goodbye. I was left with a new insight into the history of DHS, and the people who were here before me.