A 40th high school reunion is a milestone for any class. But when Richard Kee, a alumnus of the Class of 1970, couldn't attend his reunion almost two years ago, he was still involved with the trip down Memory Lane through his old school chums who did make the trip.
The reunion committee had used a professional event planner, and the results were, as Kee said, "a little disappointing."
He and his friends, who had kept in touch with one another, didn't want the reunion enthusiasm to vanish, so they collaborated on the idea of getting together a list of email addresses of their classmates.
The thirty-five email addresses they got from the party planner soon mushroomed into 150. Now what to do with the contacts now that they made them?
And so a blog was born. But not just any blog.
The Barrons Class of 1970 Blog (on blogspot), so named for the Barrons athletic teams, soon took on a life of its own.
Kee, a professional photographer who went to college in California "and just kind of stayed there," he said, was working with fellow classmates Cindy Hathaway Prokop, Chris Boland O'Keefe, and Diane Sharrie Gambetta. Prokop, who lives in Utah, collaborates with Kee, while O'Keefe and Gambetter - who both still reside in the Woodbridge area - do the local research the Barrons Class of 1970 blog needs.
Because while the blog is about the life and times of the Class of 1970 - it's not just about that.
"In addition to highlighting various memorabilia and stories of our entire school experience, we try to incorporate interviews with iconic public personalities from our area/generation while growing up," Kee said.
Some of those who have lent their time to the blog have been Bruce Morrow, aka "Cousin Brucie" disc jockey of WABC AM radio fame; daytime television host and comic Chuck McCann; and former New York Yankee and member of the first WABC Eye Witness News team, Jim Bouton.
Most recently, Kee interviewed the most famous child star from the early days of television, Keith Thiboldeaux, better known as "Little Ricky" from the I Love Lucy TV show from the 1950s.
"These interviews represent a part of our lives and usually have a tie-in with a message to our class directly or their experience with the metropolitan area," Kee explained..
There are pictures of the old Stewart's hot dog stand on Amboy Avenue; photos of a parade honoring returning World War 2 veterans, taken right across the street from the world famous Reo Diner; pictures of the old drive-in where the ShopRite Shopping Center now stands.
There are even snapshots of teachers and classes from the 1930s, an era that predates the Class of 1970 by decades.
"When we started to do the blog, we got emails and comments from people who weren't from our class, but who wanted to talk about Woodbridge and days gone by, about the things they remembered, and about what things are like in Woodbridge now," Kee said.
The well-written blog is clever and sometimes gently tongue-in-cheek, but always amusing and warm hearted towards the readers.
They're doing something right. Not only are they getting attention from WHS graduates from all years, but they've made 11,000 hits to their site, something of which Kee is proud.
Kee and his blogging compatriots have tried to open up the format by profiling people in their graduating class. They don't want just moguls and captains of industry, Kee said.
"We want housewives, average people, to profile," he said.
More than anything, though, the Class of 1970 Barron bloggers want to hear from any classmates they may have missed. The email address of all four owners of the blog is on the site to the right under 'Blog Administrators.'
Two things Kee doesn't want visitors to miss is that readers can access the older posts by going to the bottom of the page under the last entry, and clicking 'Older Posts.'
The link is right over the other thing Kee thinks classmates will want to see: a list of the fellow students who have passed away.
The whole thing has been "a fun, ongoing project for the four of us," Kee said.
"The reward is knowing that our efforts are appreciated and are keeping the Barron spirit going a little bit stronger as a result."
Days ago, Kee got an email from a current WHS teacher whom he didn't know. It said:
"Your blog and all of its updates are amazing! I have been a teacher at WHS since 1987 and as one originally not from Woodbridge I have learned a lot about this town and school district from your site. Also, as a 1972 high school graduate myself, some of your references ring true no matter where one went to school. Thanks for the memories."
Kee has a right to be proud of a blog that's become a touchstone for expatriate Woodbridge High graduates from days of yore.
While he himself occasionally makes it back to Woodbridge and his old haunts, he said a few days in the township are enough to fulfill his nostalgia craving - "Getting in touch with my roots," he said - and then he's good to go.
"We're keeping the class together. We've kept the camraderie going and the interest that would've faded otherwise."
Visit the Barrons Class of 1970 Blog on Blogspot at this link.