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Healdsburg High School Class of 1940 Reunion

I wasn't around then, but I sorta feel like I was 'cause I can tell a story or two on these guys! Bob Mascherini was clearly the class "hunk" and athlete (he still claims to be--read on). Marion "Bill" Walker was the bad boy and takes great pride in it. Mabel Ferrero Baiocchi was a kick! Had to be, though she denies being the class clown--says she was more like a nun. Louise DiPiero Buchignani was the sweetest and still is. I can just imagine "2 good 2 be 4 gotten" scribbled all over her yearbook. Ernie Palmieri is just the best all around guy, period. And Gladys Richards Engelke and June Maher Smith have the scoop on all of them.

For me it all started when Norma Cousins showed me her 1940 HHS yearbook. She told me about the reunion and before you could say 'Sotoyoman', I'd agreed to come. Now I'm walking up to Mary Brandt's private picnic area at the end of Brandt Road over-looking one of the most beautiful spots on the river. White haired men and women are gathered in small groups, sipping drinks and laughing. Norma, looking exuberant in a bright red dress, rushes over to greet me and introduce me to some of the others. I learn that the 1940 reunion's been infiltrated by the classes of 1938, 1939, and 1942, among others. Oh, no! How am I going to recognize the class of 1940? Well, we're lucky. I just happen to carry blank name tags around in the trunk of my car. So I grab a handful and start mingling.

I find myself magnetically gravitating towards the hunks. Bill Walker and Bob "Mash" Mascherini are sitting on a bench telling stories which Bill labels unfit for print-- but I will tell you that these guys are still whispering about their female classmates.

Playing it safe, figuring I must be the censor, Bob tells me, "We were the first class that graduated from the present Healdsburg Elementary." Yeah, yeah, I know. I've heard that story at least four times and will most likely hear it again many times today.

"Mash Drive by the golf course was named after me," Bob now boasts. "I won the Greyhound trophy for being an outstanding athlete, outstanding student and outstanding something else I can't remember..."

The two men begin reminiscing about the wonderful dances at Palomar, Rio Nido and The Grove in Guerneville where they danced to Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Bob even performed in jitterbug exhibitions at various service clubs while dancing to Glenn Miller!

"All the girls liked you best," Bill tells him.

"Who was your girlfriend back then, Bob?" I ask.

"Just write 'em all down," Bill answers for him, as Bob points across several white heads to Gladys Engelke.

"He was only married four times... He ain't that innocent," Bill whispers to me.

"Bill was the tough guy," Bob retorts. "I was afraid of him and so were the teachers. He was a force."

Prodded by me for a "bad boy" story, Bill says: "We spiked the punch at the Senior picnic and got the teachers going pretty good. Years later my wife told one particular teacher that it was me. The teacher laughed, 'So he's the one!'"

Now we're joined by "Slug" Mc Minn and Walter Eagan (former Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools), both class of '39 infiltrators.

June Maher Smith, noticing the hunks and listening in from a short distance, calls out:

"So many girlfriends, so little time!" directed mainly at Bob I suppose.

It's a tough call but I decide to leave the guys for now to mingle with Gladys and her good buddy, Helendale Autry Barrett.

"My husband John Barrett and I were the only ones in our class who got married to each other," Helen tells me.

"But first Helen had a crush on my brother Berwin Richards that wouldn't quit!" Gladys remarks.

"And it didn't hurt that your mother told me he liked me too," Helen adds.

"Helen's house was right up river from here," Gladys points over her shoulder. "All the kids came by there to swim and stop off on their way to Palomar. My favorite memories? Dancing at Palomar and swimming at Helen's!"

"Guys came up from the city and we had summer flings," Helendale reminisces.

"Yeah, she had her summer fling with a guy named John who turned out to be her husband," Gladys adds as a reality check.

As the ladies sit down to eat, still arguing whether people actually threw money at them while they jitterbugged, I mosey over to Leo and Louise Buchignani who are sitting with Mabel Ferrero Baiocchi and her husband Nello. Louise and Mabel have been friends since first grade.

"Louise was a big flirt!" Mabel suddenly proclaims, seemingly out of nowhere.

"Mabel was always the boss," Louise counters.

"She flirted with anybody!" Mabel continues, ignoring Louise.

So Louise, looking right at her, now asks: "Didn't your mother bake bread? On the way home from school we'd always have to stop at the bakery and you'd make my brother and I each carry home several loaves of bread or you'd get a stick after me!"

"I did not!"

"Did too!"

Enus Pucconi, another 39er, now intervenes, politely asking Louise:

"Did you know that Leo and I were first cousins?"

"He and I were kissing cousins!" Mabel interjects.

Enough of this. I'm returning to the hunks' table because I've heard a rumor that Bob may not want to admit his age.

"How old are you, Bob?" I inquire.

He hesitates for awhile. Then admits, "I'm 80."

"You're 81!" Gladys insists from her end of the table.

"Own up to your age, Robert!" instructs Walter from several seats down in the other direction.

"I was a child graduate," Bob contends. "And besides, how could I be over 80 with this body?"

Have they changed at all? I'm wondering, as I serve myself some egg, grab a sausage and squeeze onto the bench between Gladys and Mary Brandt and across from George Hinkle, yet another '39er.

"Milt (Brandt) and I had a double date in my dad's Model A Ford," George reminisces to Mary. "We were driving all the way to Windsor to pick up these girls, so Milt disconnected the odometer. When we got back, the odometer cable was gone. My dad found the cable hanging out on the ground--it drug on the concrete for six miles! I blamed it on the other kids, but Dad knew damn well what had happened!"

Well, you think that's a story... Gladys says she can beat that:

"We lived on a farm in the hills. My mother and father were both gone one day when I was about eleven. My cousins and the Hinkles came over and we got in a huge pillow fight with feathers flying everywhere. My father heard us from the barn and returned. We all froze. He shouted, 'Everybody out!' George's brother got his crew back in that borrowed Model A so fast and they were gone!"

George is now chatting about boarding the school bus in Windsor and then riding all the way to Lytton Springs before arriving in Healdsburg. And Gladys recalls that they used to sing on the bus. So Sue Yavorsky (who's filming the reunion for AH!TV) asks them to please sing a few of their old favorites...

We all join in on "How much is that doggie in the window? arf, arf! The one with the waggily tail... How much is that doggie in the window? I do hope that doggie's for sale..." Followed by: "Three little fishies swimming in the sea; da, da, da, da, da, de..." Oops, I guess I forgot the words to this one. Just a bit before my time.


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