Memories of Gaudineer Junior High

fmg_lgGaudineer, Oh let us honor, honor thee today….

Fifty years ago this week, I began attending 6th grade at Florence M. Gaudineer Junior High (now called Middle School) in Springfield, NJ, a northern New Jersey suburb roughly 25 miles from New York City. Many of my classmates, now all 60+, have become lifelong friends. It was a wonderful 3 year period of my life.

How is it that I still know my junior high song from 50 years ago? I can also say with confidence that most of my roughly 250 classmates also know this song. They taught it to us. We were bright kids. Most of those same people graduated from Jonathon Dayton High School a few years later, and yet I suspect virtually none of them remember Dayton’s song.

Gaudineer was a special place in a special time for me. I attended Gaudineer for 6th-8th grades from September 1963-June 1966. I was a young boy who would turn 11 early in 6th grade and would graduate (a little) more mature age 13 in 1966. We had moved to Springfield in 1962 and Gaudineer was the sole “junior high” in a town of then 4 elementary schools, so I made many new friends once I began attending Gaudineer. Many are still friends today, and there are many successful industry leaders, and top professionals. Industry leaders or not my classmates were a group of smart, accomplished individuals.

Almost all of my classmates had moved to Springfield, a growing suburb, in the late 50s and early 60s. There were friends galore in my neighborhood and once I started attending Gaudineer, I met kids throughout my town.

I remember being in Mrs. McGarrah’s homeroom in 6th grade Gaudineer and I remember many of the teachers during my junior high years. None are teachers at Gaudineer any longer at Gaudineer and many have passed away. But I remember respecting the teachers as being really smart authority figures. I remember being challenged, and taking pride in learning.

I also remember that fateful Friday afternoon in November 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated. I was in shop class with “Mr. Ski” when we heard the news. The world was a scary place then (as it is now), and the assassination of the President was a national tragedy, but somehow living in Springfield I felt that everything would be OK.

I have many wonderful memories from my Gaudineer years in Springfield including:

–playing football, baseball, basketball with my friends almost daily

–Springfield Bowl where bowled every Friday after school (Fridays were a really good day since they served English Muffin pizzas at the Gaudineer cafeteria)

–sleigh riding at the famous Baltusrol golf course (I lived a block away). I also remember playing ice hockey on the famous 4th hole, the par 3 hole with no fairway, only a pond and the elevated green.

–The Community Pool, “The Springfield Pool”, which opened in the summer of 1963 just prior to attending Gaudineer. If memory serves me right, it cost $40 for the family for the summer.

–roller skating at Gaudineer on Friday nights (loved the Sadie Hawkins skate where the girls asked the boys to skate—my first appreciation about the power of information)

–Conti’s, Colonial, Stanley’s, J.J. Newberries and many other Springfield institutions, alas all long gone

Springfield was a wonderful place to grow up in the 60s and my junior high years were wonderful, happy years. My world would change in 1967 during my sophomore year of high school at Jonathan Dayton High when my dad would die of a heart attack at age 46. I now appreciate at a far deeper level my mother’s efforts in taking care of me and my two sisters. She was a widow at age 44 and continued to live in Springfield until her death in 1996. Springfield would continue to be a warm place for me to grow up, though obviously never the same.

Nothing stays the same. Springfield still seems like a nice town when I occasionally visit. Those new homes in the ‘50s/’60s housing developments are no longer new, many are now dated, though most have been renovated nicely. I still have some friends in Springfield and really enjoyed attending my 40th High School reunion 3 years ago.

Seems like yesterday when I was in 6th grade in Mrs. McGarrah’s homeroom. That fall Louie, Louie by the Kingsmen was #1 on WABC and WMCA. And in a few months the Beatles would invade, though I thought the Dave Clark Five were better. Missed it on that one.

Nothing compares to my years at Gaudineer.

In our hearts will be your memories. There they’ll always stay.

More Strumings

Leave a Reply