Memories of Caroling and the
W. C. Mepham High School Choirs

by Gemma Peluso Bienz '70 and others

Some wonderful traditions evolved throughout the years involving students, teachers, and graduates. There are memories of band practice, sports competitions, choir rehearsals, yearbook compilations, and artists. Roaming the hallways filled with lockers opening and closing, bells ringing for the change of classes and at the end of the day, and cafeteria lunches were daily routines enjoyed by all.

Holiday caroling is a 57-year-old tradition. Instituted by Mr. H. Walton Alderfer, the second choral director at Mepham, in 1946 the A Capella Choir caroled at the Bellmore Presbyterian Church, where Mr. Alderfer was its choirmaster. According to Eileen Bonestele Ross ('48), they then went on to carol at St. Barnabas Church and ended at Circle Drive.

Circle Drive was chosen for its unique, tall pine tree, which is situated in the center of the road. Homes were built around its perimeter, and an Alderfer friend, Mrs. Waters, lived on the block. The homeowners volunteer yearly to decorate the tree with lights, ornaments, and a nativity creche. It was, and still is, a beautiful place to sing. To this day, the residents, at their own cost, build a fire for us to be warmed by, furnish us with donuts, and supply us with hot chocolate after our caroling journey.

As years passed, many additional locations received the privilege of the choir's caroling. Visited were McCluskey's Restaurant, the Oak Chalet, the Bellmore Senior Center, principal and teachers' homes, as well as the homes of friends and family. Following are some alumni memories:

James Taratunio ('71) - Mepham's music department had a number of traditions that extended beyond the walls of the school. We would perform at the Elks Club in Freeport once or twice a year. Occasionally a small group would sing at a wedding ceremony. One of the favorite times that brings back the old town warmth and charm each year is Christmas caroling at Circle Drive, in Bellmore.

Jane Randall ('64) - We would go to Mr. Gunther's house, and they would hand out 5-pound boxes of candy to each student!

Seth Poppel ('60) - When I caroled in December 1958, 1959, and 1960, it had already been a long-standing tradition. I remember Todd Hanson ('61) moved there in the 60's and caroling with the Mepham Alumni Choir in 1980.

Lynn Randall Buttner ('61) - I first caroled in 1959. We were invited inside for hot chocolate and the BEST homemade cookies ever! Each year a different family hosted us, but the whole cul-de-sac participated.

Joanna Foster VonSeydewitz ('60) - The only family I knew well on the Circle were the Waters. The circle was already there when I was growing up in the 40's, so I don't know which came first - the houses or the tree! It's possible that the property originally belonged to the Marquering family (insurance). They lived on Beltagh, just east of Circle Drive, in a house called, "The Maples", and owned the property which was developed on Herbert Drive, off Natta Blvd.

Gemma Peluso Bienz ('70) - After we walked all over town to carol (something we no longer do!), we always journeyed to Jacob Gunther's home. There were about 80 of us, and we lined his stoop and driveway. Two women handed everyone a box of Whitman's Sampler Chocolate, and all of the girls were given a red carnation. Mr. Gunther also treated us to dinner at the Swan Club in Glenwood Landing in the Spring.

Frank Setteducati ('70) - As a member of the A Capella Choir, I remember going to both of Jake Gunther homes. He originally lived next to the greenhouses on Bellmore Avenue. We liked it when he moved to the end of Martin Avenue as it was a lot closer to walk to Circle Drive. The houses on Circle Drive have rarely, if ever, been sold on the open market. Homes have been passed to family and friends for generations. Did you know that there were no married women teachers at Mepham until World War II? Married women were thought to be too distracted to be dedicated teachers!