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My High School You Will Be Forever

By Rebecca Price Janney, May 17 2017 12:33PM

Last week I had the pleasure of addressing two large groups of English class students at my alma mater, Phillipsburg High School in, you guessed it, Phillipsburg, New Jersey. Several people have asked me what it was like to return to the place of such formative years, which holds so many memories. Actually, I have no memories of the place at all! You see, last September a brand new high school opened on a hill overlooking the Forks of the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers, an impressive, sprawling place looking more like a community college than a high school.

The old P’burg High, the one I attended down the road, now serves as a middle school, and that building is the repository of my remembrances, of friendships and classes loved (history and current events) and loathed (biology and geometry), of school plays, the newspaper and literary magazine, dances, proms, and football games. The classic red brick building with the elegant clock tower and iconic football stadium is where I went and where three generations of my family once stood on the front lawn for my mother’s graduation photo.

Nevertheless, I joyfully went to last week to see the new high school and forge fresh memories with librarian Kathleen Servielo, who arranged my appearance, several staff and teachers, and about 200 students. I spoke about how I became a writer, some of the joys and challenges I’ve faced over the years, and how I was inspired to write Easton at the Forks. After each session, the students asked some really good questions. A few were serious, like what do I consider to be an ideal relationship between an editor and an author, and how did I balance my school work with all the writing I was doing as a teenager? Other questions were funny – how did I handle the intense rivalry between Easton and Phillipsburg High Schools while growing up in a family claiming both sides of the river as home? Did I participate in the rivalry? (You bet! Think bonfires and walking over the bridge to games.) I loved seeing their fresh faces and hearing about some of their dreams to become writers.

I so enjoyed being back in P’burg and part of the high school scene if only for a few hours. To paraphrase some of the theme song from the old TV show “Welcome Back Kotter,” although my dreams were my ticket out, the Easton – P’burg area will always be “home” for me.

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