At the weekend, a class reunion in Berlin will bring together 240 former students from the John F. Kennedy School in Berlin. Everyone who graduated from high school there in the 1980s is invited.
Interest in participation far exceeded expectations. Finally, organizer Marla Mackay had to point out the limited space at the event.
Due to the locations where the meeting takes place, the number of participants is limited and the willingness to travel long distances is surprisingly high. “One of us actually just wanted to go to Hawaii to surf,” she says. He stayed there and opened a surf school.
Alumni also travel from South Africa, from Shanghai, from other European countries and several from California.
Being a student at the John F. Kennedy School has always been special. In old West Berlin, a place was so desirable that in 1988 the admission procedure had to be changed.
Only children with one parent from the USA or Canada were given preferential school enrolment. Previously, it was enough for a child to grow up speaking English and German bilingually. “I had to take an English language test for pre-school when I was four years old,” says Mackay. That wasn’t a problem for her.
Her father was an American businessman and was then married to her mother, the late rally driver Heidi Hetzer. She stayed at school until she graduated from high school in 1987 and later moved to Schleswig-Holstein. Children of Pan Am employees often only stayed a few years, she recalls.
For the school dance, which is part of the reunion program, some of the students are supposed to drive up in an original BVG bus from the 1980s – perhaps an inspiration from the mother, who drove around the world in the vintage car.
At that time they drove to school in American military buses. “Many of us don’t even know Berlin without the Wall,” she says.
Getting all the addresses together wasn’t easy, she says on the phone. The yearbooks that are common in American schools would have been a great help, and siblings and other alumni could also give tips. Shortly before Christmas she almost gave up, but on the quiet holidays the former classmates found opportunities to rummage through old papers, find addresses and get in touch with each other.
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“A number of artists and writers are also coming.” The entrepreneur Yoram Roth is also one of the alumni, which is why a meeting is to take place in his historic restaurant “Clärchens Ballhaus”, which was on the east side of the Wall until 1989.
The school dance “just like in the auditorium of the JFK school” will bring back some memories, perhaps also of early flirtations and love affairs. A brunch is also planned in the Harnack House, the former US officers’ casino, which now once again houses the Max Planck Institute. The school was also so popular because the students had access to institutions that at the time were highly symbolic of the freedom of West Berlin.
[We report weekly from the twelve districts of Berlin in our People newsletter. Free and compact: leute.tagesspiegel.de] The JFK school was also known for its highly acclaimed, excellent musical and theater performances, some of which were open to the public.
The John F. Kennedy School was founded in 1960 as a German-American institution. In 1983, the Tagesspiegel printed the Abitur speech by the then tutor Jochen Pfeifer, which still sounds surprisingly up-to-date today. It says: “Taking the Abitur in 1983 means starting at a difficult time. But therein also lies an opportunity. The poles of your new situation are freedom and responsibility.”