Tilden HS Class of 1942 holds 70th reunion, its last

June 20, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Right after graduating from the South Side High School, many in their class served in World War II. For those remaining of the Class of '42, Wednesday was their final time to gather together to share their stories and remember times gone by.

The men of Tilden Technical High School Class of 1942 formed quite a bond.

"We grew up in the Depression," said Frank Barbaric. "Didn't even know we were underprivileged. But we enjoyed one another's company."

The Class of '42 has held 25, 50, 60 and 65 year reunions.

"At the 25 anniversary, we had something like 250 people who came," said Vic Mesco, "and even then, we had so much fun, we said, 'Let's do it again.' "

But this, their 70th year reunion, will be their last. For a class where everyone is in their late 80s, reality sets in each time they get together, and the group is a little smaller.

Reunion organizers estimate that there are 62 members remaining out of a graduating class of 667. And, out of those still living, only half are well enough to attend.

"When you lived to this age you're so thankful," said Milton Olson. "What more can you ask for? I see these like me. It makes you want to cry sometimes."

There have been a lot of changes to their alma mater over the years. Tilden, on the Southwest Side, used to be an all-boys school back in their day.

They were seniors when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and many were drafted into the military upon graduation, like Barbaric, who was stationed in Italy during World War II. He was injured by shrapnel while seeking shelter from bombs dropped by the Germans.

"One of the shells landed close to me, and I tried to get into the command post, and they said there wasn't enough room for us," said Barbaric.

Barbaric says that post took a direct hit and everyone inside was killed.

Other classmates who died in the war were remembered at the reunion.

Some alumni who still live in the Chicago area plan to hold unofficial reunions every year.

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