NAPLES — Fifty years have passed since the Naples High class of 1960 received its diplomas.
With 50 years behind them, the class gathered on Saturday at the Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club, sharing stories of a town where fishing was king and the closest menswear store meant a drive to Miami.
The class of 1960, the last class that attended the old high school campus that was located where Gulfview Middle School now stands on Sixth Street South, welcomed all who attended with hugs, a colorful lei and a nametag donning their senior class picture.
“I wouldn’t recognize anyone without a nametag,” said Randy Pettit, a former football player for Naples who now resides in Inverness, Fla. “But time flies when you’re having fun.”
Pettit and teammate Peter Hathaway recalled an older Naples, where many roads were covered in dirt and Radio Road was used for more than commuting.
“Once (Radio) was paved, we used to drag race on it,” Hathaway said.
With 72 in attendance, including spouses and friends, the class of 1960 recalled high pranks, memories and Friday nights at drive-in movies, beach parties and football games.
“It was a very simple time,” said Norine Tempelman, one of the three co-chairs for the reunion. “Everyone would gather at the Tropics Drive-In, grab a soda and a burger and head to the nearest beach party.”
With three television channels and little access to many of the larger cities, Jim Goddard spoke of a town where everyone knew each other and the mosquitoes were plenty.
“It’s not nearly as nice a town as it was,” Goddard said. “People are snobbish, selfish and generally not nice.”
As stories were shared between friends, the theme of the reunion, “Water Tower” made its way into every conversation.
Former class vice president Donnie Chesser and now deceased class president John Chickering planned for over a year to paint the Naples water tower before they graduated.
“We made a promise that, at graduation time, we’d get this sign on the tower,” Chesser said. “We made good on that promise.”
For a week or so in May of 1960, the tower read, “City of Naples Class of ‘60’.”
“Our deal was to put it on the water tower so it was visible from Fifth Avenue,” he said. “So our classmates could see it.”
While there were never any actual charges pressed against the boys, with the help of his father, Harley, Chesser re-painted the water tower, avoiding an estimated $3,000 in repairs.
“While an officer did see me climbing down from the water tower, he saw my father as well,” Chesser recalled. “It was a very good deed (the officer) did by letting us go.
“We fixed that sign with no cost to the city tax payers,” he said.
Anne Langley, a resident of Naples since 1947, said each and every one of the members of the high school class was blessed to be in attendance.
“But I don’t feel old enough to be here,” she said with a smile.