When Sandra Pou Pulliam first contacted Catholic New York about her 50-year high school reunion, she suggested taking out an advertisement. Colleagues in our advertising department felt she might be better served with an Out and About listing, which is how she got in touch with the editorial department. When she and I spoke in March, I learned a couple of things: She was very enthusiastic about her school’s alumnae gathering and she also had a story worth telling, two facts reinforced by her occasional check-ins over the next couple of months.
With graduation season winding down, the timing was also right for Ms. Pou Pulliam. Maybe the best part of the story was that the reunion took place at a noon Mass followed by a reception at St. Patrick’s Cathedral June 16. Before you get visions of a large-scale high school reunion, you should know that the number of people attending was a dozen, including seven graduates, one teacher and four other guests, either relatives or friends who accompanied the graduates and teacher.
If that number doesn’t sound very impressive, it might be more so if you consider that the graduates attended the all-girls’ Pallotti High School in Belize City, Belize. There were 36 graduates in the Class of 1968; seven are no longer alive.
They were taught by Pallottine Sisters and a group of lay teachers, including many who were serving in the Peace Corps. Class sizes were small, perhaps 15 on average, with a mix of academic and business subjects, Ms. Pou Pulliam recalls.
“We learned a lot of home economics,” with the preparation of meals and proper place settings a prime focus, Ms. Pou Pulliam said. Each girl also learned how to sew, and she remembers one of her teachers, Sister Henrietta, instructing students how to make their cap and gown for graduation. “They showed us a lot of ways to economize and not spend a lot on stuff,” Ms. Pou Pulliam said.
“We learned how to get along with others. We were well educated for our life,” said Ms. Pou Pulliam, 69, a parishioner of St. Francis of Assisi on 31st Street in Manhattan, who often attends Mass at St. Malachy’s, the Actors’ Chapel.
Ms. Pou Pulliam, who has an adult daughter and two grandchildren, worked in the accounting field on Wall Street and also lived in California and Texas for 10 years apiece.
St. Patrick’s was chosen because of its “centralized” location, Ms. Pou Pulliam said. Although that may be so, she especially enjoyed catching up with two classmates who live in Belize—Sylvia Young-Diaz, one of the members of the reunion committee who retired to her native country after living in New York, and Enoe Vasquez, whom she had not seen in 50 years. “I was so excited to see her,” she said.
The graduates also were quite happy to reconnect with their typing/shorthand teacher Janette Buller Parrish, now in her 80s, who traveled from California with a cousin to join them.
Three other members of the reunion committee who made it to St. Patrick’s were Joycelyn Payne, Maureen Diaz-Wright and Elizabeth Small, all of whom live in the New York or New Jersey. Another graduate, Consuelo Foreman of Yonkers, also was present.
Ms. Payne, a parishioner of Queen of Angels in Sunnyside, Queens, said it was nice to catch up with her fellow alumni at a Champagne reception with food held after Mass in a meeting room on the cathedral’s lower level. “We had a wonderful time,” she said.
Ms. Payne credited the lessons on the values for life taught by the nuns at Pallotti High School with preparing graduates for the future. “They are why we are the people we are now,” she said.