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22 October 2011

Tracking Down Old School Chums

More than a few years ago, one of my high school friends - whom I knew as far back as elementary school - contacted me via Classmates.com.  I had seen an obituary, years ago, of someone with his name and thought it must have been him.  As a result, I challenged this fellow and asked him what elementary school he attended.  Had it not been him, he would never have guessed Allapattah Elementary, which is in Miami, Florida.

That started me thinking about tracking down old classmates, myself, and I actually started with my elementary school.  Allapattah Elementary published a sort of yearbook with photos of everyone going there in the school year 1960-61, but it did not include names with the photos.  Some of my classmates in 4th grade signed my yearbook and some did not.  Some included their surnames and others did not.

As I located each person, I would ask him/her to help me identify other photographs in the yearbook and I would then attempt to locate those people.

The photographs were at least placed by class and teacher.   I uploaded the entire yearbook to my Yahoo Briefcase, but Yahoo eventually did away with that feature.

I did not limit myself to only seeking my 4th Grade schoolmates, but worked on finding anyone from 1st through 7th grades, all pictured in the yearbook.  I may or may not have known those in other grades, back then, but it didn't matter much.   Most people, when signing up for Classmates.com, only listed their high schools, so everyone was amazed that I found them and knew they went to Allapattah.

I am also in touch with my 4th Grade teacher and my Cub Scout Den Mother.  I regularly correspond with some of my Allapattah schoolmates.  Some of those from Allapattah also attended high school with me, although I didn't always realize it until somewhat recently.

One of the 7th Graders at that time volunteered to bankroll the printing of 500 duplicates of my own yearbook.  We've been giving them away, for free, to whomever lost theirs or perhaps never had one.  A few hundred were damaged by a water leak at this fellow's house, but he managed to save some of them.  I still have some left, as well, but we don't have many takers anymore.  I've about run out of names of people to research and there are perhaps hundreds I'll never locate, for various reasons.

I do know of some deaths, but it's very difficult to find that information, as oposed to searching for a live person.

There were less than half a dozen negative contacts from all of those with whom I got in touch.   Most everyone has been very nice and helpful, if at all possible, in helping me ID their classmates (and sometimes siblings) and had a good time reminiscing about our childhood in the old Allapattah neighborhood.

The Miami Herald sometimes has articles about the old neighborhood and I'll often scan the article and email it off to at least my 4th Grade classmates and a few of the others with whom I correspond.  We were too young to know about many of the things that occurred back then and it's nice to learn about them all these years later.  {Cassius Clay lived a few blocks from our school before he became Mohammed Ali and many of the kids knew him, which is another story.}

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