Fifty years ago, the world was a lot different. Lyndon B. Johnson served as president, the Vietnam War had just begun, but most importantly, WJ was surrounded by dairy farms. The school we know and love has changed and grown a lot in these past 50 years, and no one knows that change better than the graduating class of 1966.
Andrea Price Stevens is a part of the reunion committee that is gathering this class together for their 50th high school reunion. With 700+ people in each of the three classes at WJ, this task can be daunting. Nowadays, students can easily keep track of each other through social media. We follow each other on Twitter and Instagram, like statuses and watch Snapchat stories even when we’ve never met each other in real life. Social media is a platform for connecting with classmates that past graduates have never had.
Back in ‘66, however, things were different.
“If they weren’t in your homeroom or your academic group, or if they didn’t do theater, I had no idea who they were,” Stevens said.
Stevens was a big part of WJ theater– backstage– and explains that the theater group back then was just as active as it is now.
“In my senior year, I enjoyed a leadership position doing theater stuff.” She was the Vice President of “Semanon”- which is “no names” spelled backwards. Semanon was the behind-the-scenes portion of theater at WJ. As VP (actually I was Assistant Stage Manager), Stevens was the crew chief of props, lights, costumes, etc., and sher and her co-leaders took turns being the stage manager.
Stevens thrived being beyond the action– in fact, her “entire career has been behind-the-scenes.”
But first, she had to get through high school. As a WJ senior, there was “a lot of anxiety about college.” However, while the schools college advisors were helpful, the search for colleges was a lot harder without the Internet and the information about schools that were there, causing most seniors, including Stevens, to rely heavily on the college advisors at WJ because of the limited resources. She attended Denison University in Granville, Ohio, which at the time was smaller than WJ.
Luckily, after college, she got a job at the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, and became direction or publications.. Back then, the publishing process was not as easy as sending typed pages to the printer. The process was complicated and included color transparencies and proofs, laid out copies for editors corrections and hot wax on the back of the pages. However, the work was extremely interesting especially during her time as the bicentennial coordinator.
“I was the only history major in my office, and when the bicentennial came along everyone was confused– except me.” However, even with this background as a history major, Stevens wanted more credentials to be able to properly work with the series of exhibits on American culture. So she attended graduate school at George Washington University in DC. She tackled her graduate work as a part time student, however, because she had babies by then.
During graduate school, she completed her thesis on Montgomery County summer resorts. A little known topic, but an interesting one. “Montgomery County was one of Washington DC’s first bedroom suburb communities.” Most of us who have lived in Montgomery County our whole lives don’t know about its rich history. “The first thing built in Glen Echo was a hotel. The first thing built in Chevy Chase was a hotel. The first building built in Garrett Park was a hotel.” These are surprising facts about familiar places. They occurred because of the idea at the time to start new development with “ a hotel– if you make it a destination and have people become familiar with, more people will buy land.”
Stevens was surprised about how interesting her research turned out to be.
“I would encourage anybody interested in culture to look into American studies to major in. Because– who knew!” she said.
Stevens found that when “you open a window to the past, you can really make it relate to what you’re doing now.”
Stevens advises everyone to try to find a job where you can learn something new every day.