The Miami Beach High Class of 1958 reunited on the field of Hard Rock Stadium last weekend. They had a good reason for that: One of their classmates owns the Miami Dolphins.
Stephen Ross hosted the stadium gathering for his classmates, one in a series of reunion events to celebrate their 65th class reunion.
At Miami Beach High, the senior Class of 1958 had 429 students. They shared history, religion and culture, and that led to an uncommonly close bond for the entire class.
“Where I grew up, nobody had to lock their doors,” said Howard Halpern, a businessman and a member of the Class of ‘58. “You could even leave your key in the car.
, “We weren’t terribly good in sports, but we had a lot of smart guys and gals.”
That was evident this past weekend as Halpern and several dozen members of that Beach High class attended their reunion. And that reunion for this group of 83-year-olds included lunch at Joe’s Stone Crab in South Beach on Saturday afternoon, a party at Miami Shores Country Club later that evening, and club-level seats at Sunday’s Dolphins-Raiders game.
Dolphins owner Ross, who is also a member of Beach High’s Class of ’58, hosted his classmates on the field before Sunday’s game against the Las Vegas Raiders at the stadium in Miami Gardens.
“We couldn’t stop smiling, hugging, laughing and story-telling,” said Stanley Schwartz, the chairman of the Class ’58 reunion committee. “Some of our friends used canes or walkers, but nobody wanted to leave. We were having too much fun, and we knew that when the weekend was over we had to return to the reality of being 83 years old after feeling 17 for the past three days.”
Ross is far from the only success story from that Class of ’58.
▪ George Solomon, for example, was an assistant managing editor of the Washington Post.
▪ Howard Halpern, who turned 83 just three days before the start of the reunion, created and then sold two start-ups to billion-dollar companies.
▪ Stuart Blumin, who has written eight books, is an emeritus history professor at Cornell University.
The class also includes 24 former Beach High students who became physicians.
Miami Beach High, originally named after the pioneer Fisher family, opened in 1926. Miami High is the only high school in the county older.
Back in ’58, Beach High was located at 1424 Drexel Ave., and the school’s nickname was the Typhoons. But after moving to its current location of 2231 Prairie Avenue in 1960, the nickname was changed to Hi-Tides. The colors were also changed, from blue and gold to scarlet and silver.
Regardless of the changes, the Beach High spirit lives on through these classmates.
“A lot of people in our class have done well,” said Blumin, noting that 15 members of the Class of ’58 are in Beach High’s Hall of Fame, more than any other class. “It was a good community, and a high percentage of us went to college.
“Nearly all of us came from immigrant parents or grandparents,” he said, “and our student body was pretty ambitious. Not in a greedy way, but we wanted to make the most out of our lives.”
They’ve done that, and they’ve also kept in touch with each other through the decades.
Of the 429 graduates, about 200 are still alive. Seventy class members took part in this past weekend’s events, and some of them came from afar to share in the festivities.
Blumin made the trip from New York to be with his Beach High classmates. Barry Shein, the founder of an investment management firm, flew in from Indiana.
The reunion clearly means a ton to the graduates of ‘58.
“You never know, for many of us, this could be our last reunion,” Blumin said. “Who knows how many of us will be around for the 70-year reunion?”
That “borrowed time” sentiment is not lost on Dr. Richard Berger, another graduate of ’58.
Berger, who was the first board-certified cardiologist in Key West and still has practices in Key Largo and in Miami, said the reunion was bittersweet.
“The guys and girls I hung out with at Beach High … a majority of them have passed,” Berger said. “Those were a lot of my dearest and closest friends.”
Berger, though, still has a lot of friends. And he continues to treat some of his high school classmates, who call him “anytime they get sick.”
But back in his Beach High days, Berger was known as the best athlete in the school.
As a basketball player, he made first-team All-County as a senior, averaging 25.5 points and 15 rebounds.
At six-foot-three, Berger was also an all-county baseball catcher. The New York Giants once offered him $3,000 to sign a pro baseball contract, but he turned it down to play college basketball.
Berger said basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain once wrote him a letter, inviting him to his alma mater, Kansas, on a recruiting trip. Berger rejected that offer, too, and instead played for Tulane University.
Through it all, Beach High has remained close to his heart.
“A lot of the kids had lost their fathers in World War II,” Berger said of his classmates. “We bonded with each other. Rich kids, poor kids — everybody liked each other.”
Halpern, a first-generation American, agrees.
He had been to 14 schools before coming to Miami Beach High. His parents — his father from Hungary and his mother from Poland — worked in restaurants and bars, and they moved around to try to find a better life.
“But once I got to Beach High, it was like finding an instant home,” Halpern said. “I’m blessed to be a part of this class.”