CAMPBELL Alumni pay last visit to school
Members and friends of the class of '54 told memories of the building, which will be torn down next spring.
By MARALINE KUBIK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CAMPBELL -- Squeals of delight, warm handshakes and hugs prevailed as former schoolmates gleefully greeted one another in the auditorium of Campbell Memorial High School.
The women left lipstick marks on one another's cheeks and marked a few men that way, too.
The men eagerly accepted the kisses and hugged one another like they used to hug their teammates after scoring big on the basketball court or baseball field.
The members of the class of 1954 first assembled in the auditorium to pick up their class schedules the first day of their freshman year. Saturday, they gathered with spouses and friends for a final tour of their school, more than 50 years later.
The old Campbell Memorial High School opened in 1925. It will be torn down next spring. The new school will open in January.
"Oh my God," gasped Julie Vargo Centofante of Canfield as she entered the dimly lighted auditorium and unfolded a squeaky seat in the front row. "I was a cheerleader and we used to put on the assemblies on that stage."
She is a member of the class of '55 and turned out for the tour with her high school sweetheart and husband, Dr. Don Centofante, class of '54.
His dad was a chemistry teacher at the school in the 1950s, and Julie remembers signing up for his class just because he was so good-looking. "Who would have guessed that I'd end up marrying his son?" she chuckled. "Now I have a granddaughter who looks just like my father-in-law."
"Donny, go see your dad's room," one of Centofante's classmates hollered as he bounded down a flight of stairs to the hallway, where the high school sweethearts were getting reacquainted with a couple of old schoolmates.
"I guess I should go see it," Centofante said, heading for the stairs.
At the top of the stairs, down the hallway a bit and off to the right, Centofante entered the chemistry lab.
"This is the same," he said, looking around the room. Dark green counters with tiny sinks, arching water spigots and Bunsen burners stretch in rows from one side of the room to the other.
"We used to go in alphabetical order. I was at one of these two tables," he said. "These rooms used to seem like they were so big."
Many of the schoolmates seem a bit dazed, stepping back into time and the classrooms and hallways they once roamed on a daily basis.
"I was the only girl in physics class, and I remember the teacher asked me why it is hotter at the center of the earth," said Bert Machuga deVarennes, class of '52. "I said, 'Because it's closer to hell?' "
Her schoolmates burst into laughter.
"This is where we got in trouble. I was pulling her up the stairs like she was crippled," said Florence Katula Galida, class of '52, pointing to deVarennes, her longtime friend.
DeVarennes, a former mayor of Tega Cay, S.C., where Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker once lived, was in town for the 50th anniversary reunion of her class.
"C'mon. Show us how you did it," a male schoolmate coaxed.
"I'll probably kill her, but c'mon, Bert," Galida said, running to the bottom of the stairs.
Her friend followed.
The two women, both in their 60s, clasped hands and attempted to climb the stairs as they had decades before: deVarennes facing forward with stiff legs pretending they wouldn't bend, and Galida climbing backwards tugging her friend over every step. Those watching broke into laughter.
"We loved this school," deVarennes said.
"We hate to see it go down," Galida added.
A family legacy
Four generations of Joe Matrey's family graduated from Campbell. "My family's been in Campbell since 1904," he said. "My father, my uncles, my sons all graduated from here."
His mother went to school with the mother of his friend and classmate, George Vasile. Vasile resides in Akron and made a special trip to Campbell to tour his old school with his classmates. It was the first time he'd been back to the school since he graduated.
"It feels really great," Vasile said. "We did a lot of damage here," he chuckled, surveying his old chemistry lab. "We mixed the wrong chemicals on purpose to get smoke or a bad smell, and then we'd blame the girls."
A lot of good people have come out of Campbell Memorial, Matrey said. Many graduates have gone on to become Major League ballplayers, doctors or other professionals.
"Just on my street we have two doctors, four chiropractors, two attorneys, my son's a CPA, and," he joked, "we have one hooker."
Tony Valerio, class of '54, has even greater boasting rights. His daughter, also a Campbell graduate and a swimmer, won a gold medal in Atlanta in the 1996 Olympics.