On Saturday Aug 24, the green fields of San Pablo Park will be transformed into a sea of red and gold.
That’s the day of the second Berkeley High School All-Class Reunion, an event that drew 2,000 participants on short notice in 2011.
This year organizers have been working extra hard to get the word out about the reunion. With 25,000 living alumni, it might be quite a rollicking party.
“The appeal of the event is that it is so big, and represents friendships that cross over all boundaries and time,” said Tim Cannon, one of the reunion’s organizers. “Our class of 71 stayed pretty close, and we plan to be there in full regalia and numbers. Red and Gold will rule.”
Most cities of 112,000 people have a number of public high schools. Berkeley only has one (although a few dozen students attend B-Tech). That has served as a unifying force for city residents and one the organizers intend to emphasize at the reunion.
“It’s one of those unique opportunities when everyone in town gets to meet one another and get to know one another,” said Orlando Williams, a graduate of the Class of 1985. “It’s one of those things that makes Berkeley unique, having one high school.”
Williams could be the poster boy for a dedicated alumnus as his love for Berkeley High has kept him involved long after graduation. He was one of the last groups of ninth graders to start their high school education on West Campus on Bonar, and then move to the main building on Milvia for the last three years of high school. Williams said bringing the freshman together from Berkeley’s three middle schools and having them spend time on one building solidified friendships that have edured for decades.
Williams and some friends created a club, The Mixologist DJs, to spin records at parties. They are still meeting and will play music at the All-Class Reunion. In 2008, he started to volunteer in the student activities department at Berkeley High and in 2011, he brought together hundreds of BHS students after school to set a world record for the largest “Soul Train” dance in history. (A group in Philadelphia snatched that record from Berkeley High, but Williams vows to try and get it back.) And now his daughter is about to become a freshman at the school.
There are many others like Williams, people with fond memories of Berkeley High and proud of its place in history. The school has many notable alumni, including the playwright Thornton Wilder, Billy Martin, the baseball player, David Brower, the founder of the Sierra Club, Raymond Burr, the actor, Don Barksdale, the basketball player, Bobby Seale, the co-founder of the Black Panther Party, Phil Lesh, the Grateful Deal guitarist, Ursula LeGuin, the writer, Joshua Redman, the jazz musician, Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer, the comedian-actors behind Lonely Planet, and many more.
The All-Class picnic will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at San Pablo Park. There will be vendors with food, a spirit cup rally, games for kids, a souvenir book, music, dancing, and lots of signs reading “Go Yellow Jackets!” Organizers are encouraging the classes to compete with one another for the greatest class spirit by buying a booth and decorating it. The reunion in 2011 brought alumni from the 1930s up until the 2000.
Excitement – and class rivalry – seems to be mounting, as evidenced by the chatter on Facebook.
“Missed last one!” wrote Lo Jones. “Never again God willing. Can’t wait to see old friends and make new ones! I miss Berkeley.”
“Tommie, if I didn’t love you, I’d ban your class of ’71 from the BHS Alumni Social Group…However, I have unlimited confidence in my ’79 Peepz, and I will not divulge our top secret plan to take 71 DOWN!!!!” wrote Linda Walton-Robinson.
Donations to help offset the cost of the picnic can be sent to:
Berkeley High All Class Picnic
PO Box 2280
Berkeley, CA 94710