Flipping through the pages of their old high school yearbook one recent morning, Jeanne Burmon and her classmate Marilyn Kudisch found one thing after another that reminded them of what it was like to go to Brookline High School at the height of World War II.
Inside the pages of the annual, called the “Murivian,” Burmon pointed out an inscription by a classmate written in the dashes and dots of Morse code. She doesn’t know what it says, but it reminds her and Kudisch about wartime meat rationing, blackouts, and different activities they did as students in the early 1940s to support the troops, such as attending dances with servicemen in Boston or going to the Red Cross to roll up bandages.
“I gave blood a number of times,” said Kudisch, who recently turned 88 years old. “Now if I went, they’d give it to me.”
This month, 70 years after the cousins graduated from Brookline High, they will be hosting a reunion for the class of 1943.
The gathering is set for noon Oct. 27 in the Holiday Inn at 1200 Beacon St. .
‘All of Europe was conquered, Americans were killed in Pearl Harbor, casualty lists were appearing in the paper — it was a very, very stressful time.’
Burmon, who now lives in Newton, said she had the idea in July to try to coordinate the reunion, but tracking down classmates from so long ago has been a challenge.
Burmon, whose maiden name is Herwitz, and Kudisch, whose maiden name is Morrill, said many of the boys in their class enlisted in the military immediately after they graduated in 1943; some signed up before they had even finished school.
The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, occurred during their junior year at the high school, and the D-Day landing of Allied troops in Normandy, France, would come a year after they graduated.
“All of Europe was conquered, Americans were killed in Pearl Harbor, casualty lists were appearing in the paper — it was a very, very stressful time,” Kudisch said.
“We were old enough to know that this was not a good thing,” Burmon said.
Several of their classmates died in the war, Burmon said, and of the ones surviving today, many are too infirm or live too far away to attend.
Burmon said of the almost 400 studentsin Brookline High’s class of ’43, she and Kudisch have found only 45 still in the area, and they are hoping to get as many as 30 to attend the reunion. She doesn’t think there will be many men among the alumni attending.
In their effort to locate their classmates, Burmon and Kudisch have worked with the Brookline High School Alumni Association, which helps coordinate reunions.
Stanley Goldberg, treasurer of the alumni association, provided Burmon and Kudisch the names of their former classmates. He said the 70th reunion is one of the oldest anniversary celebrations for a high school class since he has been involved with the association.
As Burmon and Kudisch went through their high school yearbook recently during a planning session at the Holiday Inn, they marveled at how different they looked in their senior photographs.
Kudisch, who still lives in Brookline, said that when she was in school she tried hard to have her hair styled like 1940s movie star Veronica Lake. The girls of the day wore knee-length skirts with oversized sweaters and saddle shoes, she said. Even the boys dressed nicely for school.
“We didn’t come to school looking like sloths,” Kudisch said.
Students didn’t have backpacks for their books, Kudisch said, and each day at the start of school they saluted the flag and read from the Bible.
“And you know, it didn’t kill any of us,” she said.
Burmon and Kudisch also remembered going to Coolidge Corner to go bowling or to see movies at the Coolidge Corner Theatre.
They got a chance to talk about old times with their classmates a decade ago at their 60th anniversary, and while Kudisch said some of her classmates still looked good, some of them looked much different than she remembered.
“Those people are so vividly implanted in my mind,” Kudisch said. “To me they are 18, and when I see them and they are 88 it just doesn’t seem right.”
Burmon said that any members of Brookline’s class of 1943 wishing to go to the reunion can reach her at 617-332-3387.
Brock Parker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.