Where Are The Snows Of Yesteryear . . . and why should we care?


Ray Peterson, ‘62


Hello to all Tottenville High School graduates and particularly to those of the great class of 1962!  Werner Feldhaeusser lived just up the street from me in Great Kills but we lost contact for almost 40 years.  Through the help of Jim Baur and the miracle of the Internet, I was able to contact him.  It was very enjoyable to rehash old memories with Werner.


He also made me aware of this website.  I thought it was very well done and asked him if other classes could make use of this resource. He has graciously agreed to this. I volunteered to serve as the coordinator for our class.


So who am I?  Hopefully, some of you remember me!

I was a Bear Mountain Boy (so were Jim Baur, Alan Hassell, Rich Patten, Hugh Gilchrist, Stewart Davey, Tom Crenshaw, and Chuck Parness).  I worked on the Lab Squad.


Today I'm in the computer applications development field.  I work full time at the University of North Carolina and also do part-time consulting work in the Research Triangle Park area.  I never thought I would leave New York, but thirty years ago the road suddenly veered south and I ended up first in Florida, then in North Carolina.  I'm a Staten Island Yankee in King Bubba's Court!  Actually, it’s not so bad in the Triangle area - but venture 10 miles outside of its perimeter and you might as well be in another country.


Anyway, I've been thinking about what is it that impels us, during our relentless march to oblivion, to seek out high school classmates and resurrect the names of teachers and friends that haven't been seen or heard from in thirty or forty years.


I’ve thought of several reasons:  I think going to Tottenville High School was a unique experience for our time. The 50’s and 60’s graduates actually learned to read and write.  We made efforts to learn.  There was no such thing as social/political promotion.  There was less peer pressure to dumb down.  Certainly we were the last generation to experience an adolescence of relative innocence and optimism.  The isolation and village quality of the town of Tottenville enhanced that experience.


We were not as “worldly” as Curtis, Port Richmond or New Dorp.  Those schools had certified, card-carrying juvenile delinquents.  Tottenville had some tough guys, and girls rumored to be wild, but they were not seriously dangerous characters.  Looking back, it was, as the cliché goes, a magical time.  But adolescence is also filled with uncertainty and anxiety.  Who wants to relive that?  Not me – that’s for sure!


Many of us have no doubt discovered that short-term memory makes last week’s events beyond recall.  But we can remember who sat next to us in the second grade.  So maybe it is partly the strength of selective long term memory, warming, polishing and recasting events of long ago, that makes these nostalgic journeys pleasurable.  At least as long as inconvenient realities can be held at bay!  It is certainly that for me, but there is something more.


I want to find out what others have learned about life.  Not many actually write anything about this in their messages on other alumni sites.  One must read between the lines.  When we were together we were all just starting the journey into the unknown.  We were “blank slates” and no one outside our families knew us at this vulnerable time.  What have we learned?  How have we dealt with making a place for ourselves in the world, with love, with loss, with knowing what is important?  I have had a very strong, almost mystical sense of starting a new phase or cycle in my life this year.


I'm not sure why. I'm not planning on retiring anytime soon.  No children or grandchildren are in the works.  I'm sure as heck not going to get married again.  In some numerology systems the number forty has special significance.  Forty is the number of trial, testing and privation, possibly starting when the Babylonians observed the forty-day disappearance of the Pleiades which coincided with the rainy season, storms and floods, trial, and danger. The class of 1962 has now almost completed that cycle (whew!) and it is time to take a breath, look around and think about what we have accomplished and what we still need to do.


We are drawn together to share and compare experiences so that we might find some empathy and validation from people who knew us when we were young and the world was before us.  I can tell you that my journey has been difficult and I'm still learning, a mere work in progress.


Is this too serious?  Would we all just rather write and read about our prom night experiences or our favorite teachers?  I think there is a place here for reflective thought along with the less serious.  I see this site as a place where road weary travelers can return, shake the dust off their clothes and tell stories, some serious, some not, about what it's like out there.  We might learn something in a world where life-long learning is as possible (thanks to the Internet) as it is necessary.  And since we are only in our fifties and sixties we still have plenty of time to find and build meaning into our lives and to have some fun along the way.


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