The year is 1962 and Coronado High School (CHS) students fill the Hotel del Coronado ballroom to dance the night away and celebrate before graduation. As classmates fill out each other’s dance cards, a live band keeps a lively atmosphere in the iconic hotel. Flash forward 60 years and these CHS grads are getting ready to do it all over again this July as they celebrate their 60th class reunion.
Cynthia “Cindy” Mendoza and Robert “Bob” Buxton are both CHS graduates from the Class of 1962 who got the ball rolling on hosting their upcoming class reunion at the Hotel del Coronado. “If you’re going to have a reunion and you’re the Class of ’62, and it’s the 60th reunion? There’s only one place to have it and that’s the Del, “Buxton said matter-of-factly.
Buxton and Mendoza had both begun reaching out to the Del separately with similar thoughts in mind to recreate the dances of their high school days. “We used to have our proms at the Del when we were in high school and it was very special because it was before the bridge was built and before the hotel was quite as busy as they are now,” Mendoza explained. “The manager back then was able to offer hosting the prom for the school for free, and I do not think we took it for granted. We all loved the hotel; it was the ‘it’ destination and wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could go back and relive those memories? ”
When they found out they were both on a similar mission, Buxton and Mendoza teamed up and eventually were able to connect with Del’s current general manager and catering director and convey the idea for the reunion. “I got a hold of Harold Rapoza and we had a wonderful conversation. I gave him a bit of the background of our classes’ history with the hotel and he thought that would be great, ”Buxton told me. “Then I got in touch with Christina Canalez who was the Director of Catering at the Del and she was as pleasant as can be and Cindy and I had a good negation with her and Harold.”
“It’s going to be so fun,” Mendoza commented. “We’re going to have a wonderful band that’s going to play music from our era, songs that we’ll all remember.” In addition to live music, attendees will be able to take photos with local photographer, Kelley “Kel” Casey, during the event. “We’re going to have hors d’oeuvres and cocktails in the garden and then we move into the Coronet Room for a three course dinner, wine, and dancing,” she continued.
While the Class of ’62 is planning the big reunion dance at the Del, they’ve invited the classes of 1959, 1960, 1961, and 1963 to join them as well (all former CHS students who will remember those early Del dances and senior overnights). “We know those folks really well and thought it’d be fun to invite the classes that were close to us and were also our friends,” Mendoza mentioned. “I contacted one of the gals I know from the Class of ’60, which we’re pretty close to, and it turned out they were also planning a reunion event for that Saturday and I said, ‘You have to come to our dance ! ‘ So they switched it and they’re having something Friday and then will come to the dance on Saturday. “
“The proms were always glorious when we were growing up,” described Martha Protzman, another member of the Class of ’62 reunion committee who is local to Coronado. “You had your corsage, your dance card marked one to ten where the boys would sign up to dance with you. Your date always had hot spots one and ten. The decorations were beautiful and the music fun. ” Protzman is looking forward to the chance to walk down memory lane with her classmates. “I’m not sure the hotel truly understands what a special night this is for us,” she continued. “Coronado was such a special place to attend school. Even the teachers liked coming to the proms. It was so fun to dress in those crazy strapless dresses of the era and it will be a warm fuzzy evening for sure! ”
Both Buxton and Mendoza have fond memories of spending their teenage years in Coronado as well. “Everyone’s a little nervous when they start high school,” Buxton began, “but you’re really just embraced by the students at Coronado High School. Coronado has always been a pretty transient community with the Navy here, so it’s more than just a regular high school and has such a friendly environment because of that. “
Mendoza, herself, was the daughter of a Navy family and moved here before her sophomore year of high school, recalling how dramatic moving during high school seemed to her at that time. “But I did not know anything about Coronado and, you know, it’s a wonderful town and people are so friendly here. It’s easy to meet people, and I think it’s because they’re happy. People walk around with a smile on their face, ”Mendoza commented. “In talking to my classmates, we all feel so blessed to have been in this area for high school.”
In addition to the Navy presence with events held on North Island, ships, and officer’s clubs, the Del being the attraction it was offered unique opportunities to witness high profile individuals who visited. “Some Like It Hot was filmed at the Del in 1958 and there were some of us that saw Marilyn Monroe out on the steps of the hotel one day and that was pretty cool,” Buxton remembered.
While some of these alumni reside here in Coronado today, for many it will be their first time back in Coronado and catching up with their fellow classmates since their 50th reunion. The planning committees across the classes from ’59 to ’63 have been working to create a multitude of opportunities for everyone to get together over the Fourth of July long weekend, with the dance at the Del as the main event.
COVID has presented some difficulties in planning over the last year or so, but the Class of ’62’s reunion committee has taken things in stride and enjoyed getting to connect over Zoom. “Our Zoom meetings are a hoot,” Buxton told me. “Of course there have been challenges to work through but we get on Zoom and it’s like the reunion has already begun, we have all kinds of fun.” They’ve had a tremendous response from their fellow classmates since sending out the invitations and information for the event, and Mendoza mentioned the way in which reconnecting with people has become even more important for so many in the wake of the pandemic.
The committee has made it a goal to keep the costs as low as possible for their classmates so everyone who wants to attend is able to and the reunion committee is looking for donations from local sponsors to help make this all possible. “We’ll be giving any local sponsors huge publicity, putting that information out to everyone coming into town that Fourth of July weekend for the reunion events so we can all support them as well. It’s a plus, plus, ”Mendoza noted.
“Of course there are some changes to Coronado since we’ve graduated, but it’s still the Coronado I remember growing up in,” Buxton added. “This is something that’s more than just a high school reunion, it’s something super, super special.”
Any business or individual that would like to help out and sponsor this extraordinary Coronado reunion can contact Mendoza and Buxton by email or phone at [email protected] (650-207-0031) or [email protected] (408-335-9082 ) for more information on how to donate.
VOL. 112, NO. 18 – May 4, 2022