Laughter echoed off the walls of the ballroom in the Westford Regency as alumni of Pepperell High School, graduating classes of 1957 and 1958, exchanged precious and generally hilarious high school memories during their 55th and 54th combined class reunion.

Like when someone scared Cally Lingley and she ran through the set of the school play with her arms outstretched.

"We worked so hard on that scenery," said Lingley.

Or when the Groton police pulled over Gary Wilkins for driving a hay baler down the street.

"They asked me, 'Are you old enough to drive?' I was about 14," said Wilkins.

Or when Mary Holland, now Mary Deno, had a fender bender in the drivers' education car on the bridge into Groton.

"It was a brand new car and I was the first to put a dent in it," said Deno.

"I remember; I was in the car. The instructor made me drive it after and I thought, 'What are you punishing me for?'" said Arlene Martin.

A total of 35 alumni attended the joint class reunion: 20 from the class of '57, and 15 from the class of '58, according the event organizer Frank Williams. Each class had 39 graduates. The class of 1957 has been gathering for a reunion every five years since they graduated; however the class of 1958 has never had one.

"So we decided to include their class, as well," said Ginger Pillsbury, another of the event's organizers.

Years before North Middlesex Regional High School ever existed, Pepperell students gathered in the Pepperell High School for three-hour school days.


"It was probably the best of times. The country was prospering. Almost everyone was able to go to college," said Williams.

At that time, the towns that now make up North Middlesex were bitter sports rivals.

"Townsend and Pepperell were practically arch enemies," said Elaine Shattuck Kirkpatrick.

Each class was divided between two rooms, because with the small numbers, that was all they needed.

"There were roughly 150 or 160 people in the whole school," said Williams.

The school atmosphere was different than what high schoolers experience now, said the alumni.

"We didn't have any cliques. Everybody knew everybody. I didn't know anyone I didn't like," said Williams.

Ed Condra, whose father was in the military, had come from a school in Indiana with 450 students. When he came to Pepperell, he said he had never felt more welcome.

"When I came here, they made it feel like home," he said.

The only issue, according to Kirkpatrick: "There were 13 boys and 26 girls," she said. "There weren't enough to go around."

Regardless, alumni described their high school years as idyllic: Attending Friday night high school dances, variety shows, ice skating on the pond in the winter, bike-riding to Dr. Davis Ice Cream in the summer.

"We grew up in small town Americana," said Marilyn Milan Kab. "I grew up in a Norman Rockwell atmosphere, although I didn't know it at the time...It was a gift."

Some students, like Martha Winch Minehan, Claire Sherwood Place, Roberta Small Robinson and Paula Scharch Taggart remained close friends throughout the years, exchanging Christmas cards and visiting with each other. For others, it was the first time to have seen their classmates in decades. This was Deno's first class reunion in 55 years.

"Some of us haven't seen each other in years," said Kab. "Mostly we're telling each other how great we look."

Kab is one of many of her classmates who have relocated across the country. She now resides in San Diego, but she said she still makes the trip every five years for the reunions.

"I travel 3,000 miles to come, 6,000 round trip, and it's worth every penny just to see these wonderful people I grew up with," she said.