In the past couple of weeks, I have seen and heard from a lot of folks from my class. Some I see on Facebook. I ran into Marilyn McLaughlin Gallagher in Walmart. She will forever be the mayor of the Munchkin City to me, in the county of the land of Oz. She played the character in a play I directed when our junior class presented a Villa Maria version of the Wizard of Oz. Or maybe she was the coroner.
Our Oz story concentrated on “no place like Villa.” We substituted plain brown loafers for ruby slippers — we were pretty stuck on plain brown loafers in those days, and by “we,” I mean the uniform police under the jurisdiction of the good sisters of St. Joseph. Our class was blessed with a uniform of heather blue skirts, cardigan sweaters that buttoned to the chin and matching knee socks. For dress day, we wore suit jackets, jewel neckline blouses that buttoned up the back and plain stockings.
We were blessed because the class ahead of us had invested in brown tweed skirts and sweaters. Not many girls looked good in brown tweed skirts with white Peter Pan collar blouses and plain brown cardigans. Even Mr. Rogers wore red, and his had a flashy zipper.
I often drove my car — a 1965 Chevy Bel Air — over the double-lane sidewalk that connected to the West Erie Plaza to the VMA parking lot. It was a big sidewalk and a perfect shortcut because waiting for the light on Pittsburgh Avenue or trying to gain entrance into the parking lot via a left-hand turn from West Eighth Street could take minutes — many minutes, precious minutes. I made a movie of one of those rides, and poles were promptly installed in that driveway, rather sidewalk. I think they are still there.
I haven’t attended reunion events in a very long time. But when the Party on the Patio kicks up on July 19, I will be there to share memories of Sports Days, Oz and listen to the laughter of women who are still my closest friends. A 1973 group will also gather at the beach on July 6.
Some of the best advice I ever received came at our commencement (where we all wore white dresses — try finding one of those when 100 plus other girls are looking for one). The speaker advised, “Make new friends; keep the old. One is silver, the other gold.” Thanks to the Scouts for the message, I have plenty of silver and gold to cherish. Here’s to the Villa Victors.
Pam Parker, a proud graduate of Villa Maria Academy, is the editor of Lake Erie LifeStyle, Her Times and House to Home at the Erie Times-News in Erie, Pa. She is the mom of three and stepmom to three.