By Jano Tantongco
Members of the Huntington High School Class of 1951 gathered at Tutto Pazzo restaurant last Thursday to reminisce and keep up with each other’s lives.
Carmella Donnino, one of the original 159 graduates of the class, flew up from Delray Beach, Florida to join her former classmates. She said the major reunions stopped after the 50th, but this year’s marked a milestone.
“We always had a little reunion, but I thought this was a special one, 65 years. Nobody reaches that,” she said.
Donnino married a builder hailing from Italy, the late Tony Donnino, and the couple spent 46 years together. She helped run his business as a secretary. When Tony lost his leg, becoming disabled, the couple moved down to the Sunshine State. Donnino also celebrated her 83rd birthday on July 12.
Antoinette Brink, another member of the class, thanked Donnino for hosting the event since she was no longer part of the organizing committee.
“It’s because of her that we have this,” she said.
Brink attended with her husband Dean, who’s also a graduate of the same class. She looked to Angel Schmitt, a member of the Class of 1952, and joked that they had “adopted” her.
Schmitt, who graduated in January of 1952, said some classes ran until January, hence the later graduation.
After graduation, Schmitt worked for the New York Telephone Company over the summer before heading to Cortland State Teacher’s College. She later went on to teach physical education in upstate Richfield Springs.
“When I found out, at the age of 12, that you could get paid for telling people what to do, I decided that’s what I wanted to do,” she said.
Schmitt added that she used to live on Mill Lane in Huntington, which was just a dirt road at the time. She said her father arrived to Huntington in 1928 on a motorcycle, with her mother in the sidecar.
“I used to live there when the cows came down from Brush’s Dairy,” she said, adding that they would graze right across the street.
Today, Schmitt works in real estate as a licensed associate broker for Signature Premier Properties in Huntington.
“Johnny Cash is the one that said ‘I’ve been everywhere,’” she said. “I’ve been with every real estate company on Long Island.”
At the opposite end of the table was Dolores Auletta, who lived in Huntington Station and said she walked to Huntington High School, which was then situated where Huntington Town Hall stands today. The school relocated to its current home on Oakwood Road in 1958.
Auletta called the class of ‘51 “pretty close knit.” They would bowl, having to set up their own pins; enjoyed athletics; and occasionally let loose at dances at the local YMCA.
Auletta added that she was married at 20 years old and worked at a local bank. Her granddaughter, Jennifer Kielawa, now teaches as a full-time substitute teacher at
Oakwood Primary Center in Huntington.
Living nearby Auletta was Marylou Mohlenhoff, who called herself a “Huntington Station girl.” She was part of the Class of 1951, along with her late husband Jack Mohlenhoff, whom she met in kindergarten. She said they were betrothed by 21, and enjoyed a happy marriage for 56 years.
Together, the couple ran the Mohlenhoff’s Florist Nursery Garden Center on West Rogues Path in Huntington for 67 years. They sold the property in 2006.
“My husband and I could have gone anywhere, anywhere in the world. We had no ties,” she said. But “we didn’t want to leave Huntington… We moved two miles across town.”
Mohlenhoff also recounted the rural origins of Huntington.
“When I first moved in out there, Oakwood Road was just a cowpath, wandering its way down to Huntington. No street lights,” she said. “So much of Greenlawn was farmland. Melville was all farmland.”