Mumford High School’s 50th reunion will take place on Friday, Nov. 17, from 6 p.m. until midnight at Glen Oaks Country Club in Farmington Hills. There is a reunion page on Facebook as well as information on www.Classmates.com. A registration form can be downloaded from the Mumford 50th Reunion page. For further information or questions, call Elissa Kline at (248) 851-2505.
On Nov. 17, 2017, the class of 1967’s 50-year Mumford High School reunion will be celebrated. I have been keeping abreast of the developments of this reunion and am struck by how many people from that era have remained friends for all this time and how many people I no longer remember from those times. Although I may not remember all the names and faces, I do remember that period fairly well.
I attended Mumford High School from the fall of 1964 through June 1967. At the time I attended Mumford, the northwest Detroit area was a racial blend that did not exist when my brother attended Mumford (class of 1962) nor when my sister was there (class of 1958). Nor did it exist at the elementary school that I came from (Schulze).
Strange as it may sound, Mumford marked the first time I was interacting with black people on a daily basis. Being brought up in the liberal milieu of many Jewish families in the northwest Detroit area, I embraced the mixture at Mumford as did many students. All this was occurring at a time when the legendary Motown artists rose to national acclaim, and Detroit seemed to me to be on the map at last for something other than the automobile industry. Little Stevie Wonder lived in the Mumford area. (Some famed alumni are jazz musician Earl Klugh, Grammy-winning songwriter Allee Willis, and film and the great TV producer Jerry Bruckheimer, whose credits include the Pirates of the Caribbean film series and Beverly Hills Cop. Also, alum Tebe Horne who was part of the first class of 1953, designed the Mumford High T-shirt that Eddie Murphy wore in Beverly Hills Cop.)
During the time between classes when students filled the halls, the stairwells with their spacious tiled walls acting as echo chambers became showcases for aspiring future Motown stars to sing the hits of the times. Amidst the melodious stairwells and crowded hallways was a school that had prided itself on strict academic standards, which were still in existence in 1967.
For those who may remember, to get an A in class, your average had to be 95 percent or better on tests, quizzes and assignments. This didn’t leave much room for exceptions. Grade point averages higher than 4.0 were not yet in existence. Getting a grade point of 3.7 or higher certainly increased one’s chances of getting into a top-notch university. (These days, you need at least a 4.0 and to have taken several AP classes.)
In addition to strict academic standards, there was a strict dress code: Girls could only wear a skirt or a dress that was at knee length. Some girls had to get on their knees and if the skirt was shorter than hitting the floor, they were sent home. Guys were forbidden to wear shorts. The code was enforced — rather vigorously — by the assistant principal William Koloff who would often be heard shouting and seen running down hallways in hot pursuit of violators.
Talk to any Mumford High School alumnus from that era and you will hear stories about teachers putting students through their own paces. In my experience, I benefited greatly from the teachers and experiences. One teacher I recall was Mr. Saporsky, the physics teacher, and his no-nonsense approach to science. He explained physics in an “either it is or it isn’t” kind of way, and it was on the student to make sense of the principles to know the difference.
During one lab session, for example, a student explained to Mr. Saporsky that “When I released the marble from the chamber it veered left instead of right. Was that supposed to happen?” Mr. Saporsky gave his famous blank stare and the following dialogue took place:
Saporsky: Did it happen?
Student: (Hesitant) Uh, yes.
Saporsky: Then it was supposed to happen.
I remember thinking at the time, “Wow, that is just so deep!” And I suppose it was. Are we observing what is happening or what we think should be happening?
The old Mumford High School is no longer in existence; physically, that is. More than 60 years old, this school was built in the Art Deco style and known for its exterior blue limestone block with its marvelous interior of creative burgundy, pink and blue tiles. It was demolished in 2012 to make way for a rebuilt version of the school. The demolition was part of a $500 million Detroit Public Schools Capital Improvement Program started in 2009. Because of a shrinking student population and poor student outcomes, the state is now in the process of shutting down many schools in Detroit. Whether Mumford will be part of this shutdown is not yet known.
Those celebrating the 50th reunion of our 1967 graduating class represent a different school from a different time. I believe I speak for many when I say we are grateful for the education we received at Mumford and that it is our hope that Detroit can rebuild the great public school system it once had, in which Mumford played a leading role.
Barry Garelick is a math educator who has been published in many education journals.