The power of memory: Scarsdale grads reconnect with a little help from Facebook

Scarsdale might have one of the smaller large school populations in Westchester County, clocking in at around 18,000 residents, but that hasn’t stopped social media from doing its job of reconnecting people who might have lost touch.

The Facebook Group “Scarsdale — Growing up in the ’70s and ’80s” boasts a membership of almost 3,000 followers doing exactly what its title describes — reconnecting a generation.

The group, started by 1981 Scarsdale High School graduate Rich Lieberman, was created in October 2008, but only recently gained the traction that got it to its current size. Originally, Lieberman knew every member of the group personally, but as time passed and friends invited friends and word spread, it became a group almost like a high school reunion — but better.

“I’m very proud of how this group has grown and brought people together from around the town we all know and love from our childhood to today,” Lieberman told the Inquirer.

The page is described in its “about” section as being primarily about social interaction: all members are within or directly related to the demographic described in the title, and all photos, news pieces and other content have a direct Scarsdale connection. The group serves like a digital time capsule, filled with hundreds of photos dating back to the ’60s or earlier: black and white yearbook spreads featuring big hair and striped sweaters, a tattered “Bye Bye Birdie” program from Heathcote Elementary, washed out photos of lanky teenagers in bell-bottoms posing in Scarsdale neighborhoods, even a milk bottle saved from a front porch delivery of years past.

“We are friends and acquaintances from years ago, many we haven’t seen in years,” said Isobel Ehrenhaus from the class of 1977. “We remember teachers, streets that we walked, the cars we drove, music that we loved. We can recall what was good about Scarsdale; how we lived, and what we liked.”

“We didn’t realize how good we had it back then,” said another member, Janet Carozza. “But by seeing what people say and remember, it shows the gratitude for the past we were lucky to have.”

Christina Galiardi Sutter said the group is different from others that are class-specific because it’s generational and shows how some memories remained the same across different decades. On any given post there are comments remembering that a recent poster was another member’s lockermate or a question about who is the sister of the person who sat behind them in math class. Others use the group to share their successes or simply to satisfy the curiosity of where the people they knew 40 or 50 years ago are today.

1981 grad Jeff Hodaba talked about leaving Scarsdale shortly after graduation and traveling the world after joining the military. Mary Goodman of the 1974 graduating class mentioned living in Ecuador to teach ESL and many other members stayed in Scarsdale to start their own businesses or even work in the schools themselves.

“Due to military and other obligations, I have never made a reunion and this group lets me keep in touch with everyone that I normally could not or would probably have a hard time finding,” Hodaba said.

Other members, like Terri Anne Di Cintio, class of ’83, said they would have never even thought of reconnecting with their peers until finding out about the group.

“I have enjoyed reconnecting with old friends and former classmates, and even ended up attending my 30th SHS reunion as a result — something I never thought I would do,” she said. “I have gotten together with people when [I’m] in Westchester visiting my parents, and have also met up with old Scarsdale friends in other places, including being visited by some where I live in Virginia.”

The group also gives members a space specifically to talk about their experiences in the Scarsdale school system, which started a trend earlier in the summer of members posting messages about teachers who impacted their lives.

“It is just wonderful to post something about, say, Mr. Ladensack or Mr. Cauble and realize that other people remember the things you remember,” Gish Jen said. “Mr. L. galloping around the room to demonstrate what dactylic meter was, and making us all make playbills, for example. Or Mr. Cauble explaining what was so great about the opening of ‘Pride and Prejudice.’”

“It is an excellent school system with so many great teachers who genuinely cared for and connected with their students,” said 1990 grad Alex Duncanson. “To name a few, Rashid Silvera, Bob Caie and Eric Rothschild. A lot of my opportunities came as a result of my Scarsdale upbringing.”

Posts about teachers and the school system have rolled in by the hundreds, with one asking for the correct spelling of a teacher’s name so a former student could tell them that he had moved to Spain years after dropping the teacher’s Spanish class and to thank them for their tutelage. Another said an AP bio class changed her life, while another congratulated a classmate who’s credited on a successful HBO production.

One post asked members to think of one thing they would have video recorded for the group if smartphones had existed while they were growing up, and a member wrote in reply, “My entry is Dave Smith, the kind janitor at Greenacres Elementary School, who I remember had a pacemaker, singing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ I vaguely remember we were all stunned — he had a beautiful voice.”

In a time when many are getting lost in the abyss of social media, an entire generation is finding itself once again.

“It’s a collective memory of our youth, a simpler time,” Ehrenhaus said. “We can go home for just a little while and know that we had a great time together.”


(1) comment

Thank you Mary Walrath, excellent story.

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