Forever Friendships Stand the Test of Time
For the last 55 years, the seventh-grade Margaret Mitchell Elementary School class of Mr. Charles Pepe and Miss Elna Ray has gathered for a class reunion.
For the last 55 years — 56, actually, because of a COVID delay — the seventh-grade Margaret Mitchell Elementary School class of Mr. Charles Pepe and Miss Elna Ray has gathered for a class reunion.
From near and far, our childhood friends have stayed in touch since kindergarten and on. We are united as a tribute and testament to cherished friendships that defy time. No matter where we roam, we all return to this place called home. This year also happened to be the 50th reunion of our 1971 graduating class of Northside High, now called North Atlanta High.
The Margaret Mitchell students were organized with the help of Gail Goldstein Heyman, who opens her home and backyard to the reunions after many years of gathering at the former home of her parents, Leon and Betty Goldstein.
“There’s nothing like friends from the past, getting together in the present and realizing all the life moments you have shared,” Heyman told the AJT.
Margaret Mitchell Elementary, which opened in 1954, had recently closed. While not all of our classmates were Jewish, the majority were and attended Ahavath Achim and The Temple growing up. Jewish geography started early, as we stuck together over the years, embracing these reunions as a precious way to cling to our childhoods. Many of our parents were friendly with each other, and the neighborhood surrounding the school was tightly knit.
We referred to the old neighborhood as Northwest Atlanta, aka Little Israel. Back in those days, many of us who convened at the old Atlanta Jewish Community Center on Peachtree lived either Northeast or Northwest. My family moved to Wesley Park Way Northwest from the Peachtree Battle area when I was in second grade. Those were the days of walking to school, paper sales, safety patrols and schools closing for the North Georgia Fair. Our beloved teacher, Mr. Pepe, used to attend all the bar and bat mitzvahs.
While reunions are part of life, our elementary school gatherings are special. To this day, we remember the littles things. I asked my friends about the most meaningful part of our get-together. The answer, clearly, was emotionally charged.
We felt as if we could touch the past. To be a kid again, with our parents and siblings and a simpler life. There were no cell phones. No computers. No COVID. Just a good, old-fashioned sore throat or cold and Campbell’s tomato soup and comic books or watching Ed Sullivan as a family.
“To me, the reunion is like going back home and revisiting people that felt like my siblings,” said Linda Goldstein Reisman, who lived on Margaret Mitchell Drive. “I knew them almost as long. It was an innocent time in life. Our lives were open to each other and our homes were open as well. We rode our bikes everywhere we wanted to go. We just melded. It doesn’t matter whether we see each other every day or hardly at all, we are bonded. It’s an emotional connection that brings us back to a time in our life when we felt safe and there are no airs, as we are all ourselves.”
Reisman’s next door neighbor, Howard Perlman, recalled, “Attending Margaret Mitchell for all eight grades and living right across the street from it, MM was something ‘all-consuming’ in my childhood. In school, I moved down the hall one room every year until I hit the end of [the] hallway in seventh grade. After school, I’d play on the fields and explore the surrounding woods. And anyone even near my age that I saw was a fellow student throughout all those years and beyond.”
Wendy Rich Light, who grew up on Ridge Valley, echoed the sentiment.
“The reunion was happy times with special people,” she said. “Lots of wonderful memories. It was a great celebration of life with special friends.”
Another classmate, Terry Weissmann Spector, lived on Sequoyah Drive.
“Getting together with our elementary schools is so warm, comforting and touched the feeling I have in my heart,” she said. “It’s that feeling that reminds me of a wonderful childhood. Those days were priceless.”
Susan Simon Silber traveled to the reunion from Knoxville, Tenn., where she and her husband, Harold, now live. “It was so great to be together again. We have made such fun memories together and will continue to do so,” she said.
Shortly following the reunion, emails flew back and forth to begin planning our 60th reunion. This group is unstoppable in our stick-togetherness. And yes, just as the song goes … friends, friends, friends, we will always be.
It’s elementary, my dear!
- Robyn Spizman Gerson
- Simcha Spotlight
- Margaret Mitchell Elementary
- Northside High School
- North Atlanta High School
- Class of 1971
- Gail Goldstein Heyman
- Leon and Betty Goldstein
- Ahavath Achim
- The Temple
- Northwest Atlanta
- Little Israel
- Atlanta Jewish Community Center
- Peachtree Battle
- North Georgia Fair.
- Howard Perlman
- Terry Weissmann Spector
- Susan Simon Silber
- Wendy Rich Light