LEWISTON — Lewiston High School Class President Henry Santos seemed just as popular Tuesday as he was in 1945.

Twenty classmates, ages 86 to 89, met at Marco’s Restaurant for their 70th reunion. 

Santos, the only black student in the school at the time, said music helped him become popular with his classmates. When he played boogie-woogie and jazz on the piano, “kids would like it and come around and clap. It was a way I had of relating, I suppose. It got to be a trademark of mine.”

Teachers in Lewiston gave him an excellent beginning in music, he said. It became his career and passion. After graduating from Boston University, Santos became an accomplished pianist. He played in Paris and for years taught music in the Boston area.

In college, Santos met Martin Luther King Jr. at a party. They became friends and shared an apartment. Santos and his future wife double-dated with King.

“I remember Martin saying, ‘An unearned suffering was redemptive,'” Santos said.

Years later, Martin used that phrase in his “I Have a Dream” speech. “It was quite an experience being with Martin,” Santos said.

While Santos escaped racism, students of French heritage did not.

Cecile Burgoyne, who spoke French, recalled how a teacher laughed at her because of her language. After that, she spoke very little.

“When someone asked me a question, I said, ‘I don’t know,’” even if she did know, Burgoyne said.

While high school wasn’t fun for her, she liked bookkeeping. “French or English, numbers are the same,” she said. “An eight is still an eight.” 

A teacher took her aside and explained things like credits versus debits. After graduation, Burgoyne worked in banks, lived in California and traveled the country.

Jeanine (Morin) Chabot of Auburn, said, “because I knew French, people thought I wouldn’t do well.” She graduated in the top 10. “So there you go,” Chabot said with a smile. “I had the best training and a long career” working as a bank executive secretary.

In the 1940s many boys joined the military. The 1945 yearbook has a “Boys in the Service” page with their military photos.

Bob Maroon enlisted in the U.S. Air Force at the end of his junior year, finishing school after the war.

“I was anxious to pay (Japan) back for what they did to us,” he said. “I was in Okinawa and Iwo Jima.”

Gary Tiner of Greene, said in high school boys took military training instead of physical education. In one of his classes a teacher gave students a Morse code instructional record. “We put on earphones and learned the Morse code.”

It was an advantage when he served in the Army. “They put me as an instructor. I was advanced for that,” Tiner said. After the military, he continued his education and became a teacher in Lewiston schools for 25 years.

Reunion organizer Normand Demers of Lewiston enlisted in the U.S. Navy in December of his senior year. He served on a destroyer in the Philippines. “There was a war on. Everybody has to serve,” he said.

 One of the first things Demers did when he returned home was go to the Lewiston superintendent of schools’ office and ask, “’What do I have to do to get my diploma?’ They were ready for me.” He filled out forms and took a test. “In a few weeks, I had my diploma.”

His career was in the shoe industry. He worked at the Lumbard-Watson shoe factory all through high school. Because of the war, labor was scarce, he said. After the war, he worked as an Etonic shoe factory supervisor in Richmond. Eventually, he became president.

“We bought the factory in Auburn,” he said.

Now retired, he and his wife, Lauretta, recently celebrated their 65th anniversary.

Before the reunion ended, classmates gave Santos a gift basket and applause. “We’re very happy you’re here with us today,” one said.

“Awww geeze, thank you,” he said. A classmate shared a Santos memory from physics class: A teacher left the room. Students went to the window to get fresh air. The teacher returned and asked what they were doing.

“You said, ‘We’re counting the molecules in the air,'” a woman said to Santos as everyone laughed.

There was talk Tuesday about the Class of ’45’s next reunion in five years.

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LEWISTON — Twenty members of the Lewiston High School Class of 1945 attended their 70th reunion Tuesday at Marco’s Restaurant.

They were: Betty Haines, Sue (Small) Shanahan, Faith (Shaw) Rogers, Sue (Murphy) Feehan, Cecile Burgoyne, Normand Demers, Henry Santos, Elizabeth (Tufts) Goodrich, Milton Lown, Robert Waterman, Romeo Isabel, Eva Ladouceur, Dot (Christian) Galgovitch, Donald Doyon, Phyllis (Walker) Splain, Gary Tiner, Marge (Ashton) Cormier, Rosemary (Gagnon) Cunion, Bob Maroon and Jeanine (Morin) Chabot.

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