We met at 5 o'clock for a reception in the entrance hall of the small Aula. Petra Linke and Claudia Peters had set up Prosecco so we could toast our 30th reunion. About a quarter of those attending were not here last time - for a couple this was the first time even. Principal Dr. Jürgen Schürmann welcomed us as well. Unfortunately he was the only faculty member who joined us this evening. (Seems there had been a problem for the invitations to be forwarded by the school administration.) But we were quite happy that Karsten Peters and Oliver Remme joined us. We didn't have their current addresses anymore, but somebody was able to contact each of them after all. Karsten just found out about the reunion today! Otherwise people came from far and wide to be with us: Irini Piacos came the furthest from Athens. And André Galeitner coming from Vienna didn't want to miss the occasion either. Roy Gerstenberger also came from Austria and Kaspar von Hammerstein came from Switzerland.
I passed out copies of the updated class list (also available upon request) and a brochure with short biographies of class members. A folder was presented as well that contained some greetings from those who couldn't attend.
Dr. Schürmann then took us who wanted to go off on a tour of the campus. Many of us had not seen the significant reconstruction and new buildings since we left school. One guest came along for the tour who had graduated two years ahead of us: Stuart Wolfe.
First we went down the adjacent arts and music wing and saw the orchestra rooms with all the instruments. Next we passed the back stage of the Aula into the familiar Aula and cafeteria area. In the Aula's entrance hall we viewed the big portrait of John F Kennedy. A golden sign commemorated Kennedy's 90th birthday, which would have been last month.
In the lower halls of the elementary school then we discovered water leaking across the floor in a couple of places. It had rained heavily last night. Puzzling how the water gets to these parts. Strange "old" building.
Dr. Schürmann unlocked a couple of class rooms on the second floor. These were rooms in which we attended 5th grade when the building was first opened. Remember those sliding blackboards covering the shelves of the side walls? We looked into the library across the hall then. The late afternoon sun warmed the rooms to give them that distinctive library-book smell.
We wanted to take the passageway from the old red elementary school to the new white high school science wing. Unfortunately the door was locked, so instead we crossed the old play ground to the new gym. The gym now has a bronze plaque students had put up dedicating the building as "Nieguth's Gym". We remember our sport teacher Nieguth; he's retired now too.
Looked at the track and soccer field then, which is now covered with rubber. We entered the administration area next and scanned the faculty picture poster board in the teacher's room for any familiar faces. The only member left from our times was, besides Dr. Schürmann, Frau Stockmann. She now takes care of Abitur coordination.
Over in the new HS library then there was a special display of Kennedy for his birthday. After that we entered the quite familiar high school hall. Every year the graduating class gets to paint a theme mural on a section of wall. Not much space left.
We assembled on the grand staircase to take our first group picture. Then we looked into a couple of former science rooms on the second floor. Dr. Schürmann pointed out where you could see traces of where the former elevated seating platforms were. And in one corner he said there was graffiti on the wall that must go back to our times. I looked and sure enough there was something - from my youngest brother though.
Dr. Schürmann concluded the tour by taking us through the Hausmeister's office, which had a switchboard displaying the school's layout. He used it to point out which were the old buildings and which were the new ones. Back in the small Aula we were treated to some entertainment. The high school girls "Treble Trouble" serenaded us with a selection of barber shop, gospel, and pop songs. In thanking them afterwards I pointed out that at least two generation have passed between them and us and that we wish that they would keep their class connected so that they in turn would get such a nice concert when their thirtieth reunion comes up.
Fedor Ernst had set up his video projector and laptop so we could enjoy a number of pictures people submitted for a slide show. As each picture was displayed the respective person had to speak up and give a brief explanation for this "show and tell"; mostly pictures of family. Some who came from far away (Claudia and André) said we are most welcome to visit them.
André had a surprise for our entertainment. It was a copy of an 8mm home movie his parents had made on our first day of school; Schultüten and all. He had taped it on video and played it for us over the video projector. Amazingly he was able to identify many of the first graders in the movie. Likewise he named almost everyone on other grade-school class pictures that were projected. He pointed out that you could zoom into these digitized pictures to find clues as to when the pictures were taken and even decipher lists on the blackboard of students who hadn't returned books or turn in their homework (guess who).
After one more group picture in front of the school we all drove over to the Greek Symposion restaurant. Incedently, the old ramp everyone had been driving up and parking on will be sealed off soon. Absolutely no traffic will be permitted there anymore unfortunately due to security worries.
We had reserved a nice room in the back of the restaurant with the access to the terrace wide open on this beautifully mild evening. Petra and Claudia had ordered a fine buffet for us. Irini confirmed that it was all genuine Greek cuisine. Some more guys who hadn't made to the school joined us there, so that we were 32 people altogether then.
I could tell that a very pleasant atmosphere was developing. Everyone tried to mingle as widely as possible and catch up on each other's development. Dorothea Goldschmidt noted that many were much more relaxed now than compared to five or ten years ago. Personal job or marital crises seamed to have been resolved. Life is good now. Some guys have just become fathers (e.g. Peter Zuriel) and one, Joachim Pohl, will even be father of twins soon. On the other end of the spectrum several of us have released their eldest children into adulthood by now; but there are no grandparents among us yet. Someone also noted that "...auch sehr erstaunlich und erfreulich wie vertraut man sich noch nach so langer Zeit ist."
André had another surprise for us: He distributed color photocopies of get-well letters he had received from his classmates when he was hospitalized for a while in 5th grade. Each letter writer got to see how and what he or she wrote back then.
A scrap book and a couple copies of the ol' black yearbook circled the room as well. (old class picture) Comments were heard about how dumb some of the faculty members pictured in the album were. And of course people were wondering about what become of those who were not in attendance tonight. Seems for example that Ulrike Rockmann has had quite a career to become the director of the Landesamt für Statistik for Berlin and Brandenburg (picture here).
There were so many interesting stories shared; couldn't print them all here though. But the time did seem to fly. Most people stayed well after midnight and it wasn't till after two o'clock when the last of us paid for our drinks as we left. (The costs for the reunion mostly covered the dinner with the remaining money going to the JFK Verein as a donation.)
On Sunday morning a group of us, including Dorothea's mother, met across from the Brandenburg Gate on the Pariser Platz in front of the new The Kennedys Museum. We had booked a tour of the exhibition for half past 10. The museum features mostly photographs of John F Kennedy, his career and his family. A non-stop movie shows his exuberant tour of Berlin, including scenes of his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech.
Several special artifacts were on display such as his hand-written notes on how to pronounce those famous words in German and the crocodile leather briefcase he carried those notes in. In a display case we found a yearbook opened to JFK's entry. Seems it was also of interest how tall and heavy people were back then.
We concluded our reunion finally with coffee at Starbucks on the corner. Dorothea's mother shared with us how the school was founded in the early 60s with Dorothea's sister being one of the first students.
I'd like to thank the planning team - especially Petra and Claudia - once more for their part into putting this great reunion together. Thanks also to Dorothea, Iris Gamradt, and Peter Reich for their input. All this effort is worth it if you classmates enjoy and treasure keeping up the contact amongst yourselves as well. Please do keep in touch and keep the Kennedy school spirit alive as well.
We will meet at 5 p.m. for the initial reception with a welcome toast. Herr Schürmann, the principal will then give us a tour of the campus. If there are any rooms you would like to visit in particular, please let us know. Invitations are being sent to many of our old teachers as well. We hope to be serenaded by some entertainment provided by an ensemble of singing JFK students.
At around 7 p.m. we will head for Symposion, a Greek restaurant in down-town Zehlendorf (Martin-Buber-Str. corner of Potsdamerstr.), for the rest of the evening. A fine buffet will await us there. The hall and terrace has been reserved for us.
A highlight for the evening will be a show-and-tell presentation. What we ask of you - if you want to participate - is a picture or two that we can project with a beamer (any suggestions as to where to borrow one?). The picture should show something important for or about you and when your picture is displayed, please stand up and say something for a minute or two.
What we would really like from each and every one is a brief biography of about a paragraph, which we can put into a booklet to pass out at the party. Please submit this by the end of May even if you cannot attend. We'll also have a CD-cassette player available so you can bring music from our teen-age years. Label what you bring with your name please, so that it won't get lost.
What you also could bring along again is some high school memorabilia, such as a school project, report, artwork, or the like, which can be displayed and serve as conversation pieces. Alumni mouse pads will be on sale too.
Sunday morning we plan on visiting the new John-F-Kennedy exhibit that is on permanent display on Pariser Platz near the Brandenburg Gate. Meeting time there is 10:30 a.m., which should leave us time for further sightseeing and/or travel home.
Please transfer 30.- euros to Claudia Peter's account with the Dresdner Bank Berlin, BLZ 10080000, Kontonr. 0521206608, Kontorinhaber: Claudia Peter Veranstaltungen, Verwendungszweck: Reunion JFK. by May 30th (easy to remember: 30 years - 30€ - 30th of May). This will go for instance to cover the costs for dinner - drinks need to be paid extra - as well as part of a donation to the Kennedy Schule Verein for the use of the hall and the entertainment provided.
Please do let us hear from you in any case; whether you can come or not. Confirm your attendance to one of us by the end of March, please. Let us know your current e-mail address too. If you do not want it published in the class list, which will be distributed at the reunion, please let us know so. If you can't come, it would be nice then to get a letter from you to present in a folder of greetings, which will be displayed at the reunion.
And finally: Do you need a room? Petra and Alan offer several guest rooms. If any other "Berliners" can also provide accommodation, we'll be glad to pass on your offer as well.
Note that Mark Schippert has recently died in Berlin. We will miss him at the reunion. And new on the list is Joschi Buhlan.
In the meantime do check out these two Websites: