1952. Harry S. Truman was president of the United States and the Yankees took the World Series title over the Brooklyn Dodgers. Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea was published and Gary Cooper won an Oscar for High Noon. A gallon of gasoline cost $.20 (yes, twenty cents). Comedian Robin Williams was born this year, and there was another, noteworthy arrival, especially to Port Washington. The Gambol came into being in 1952, the distinctive graduation party created and given by parents of graduating seniors, community members, merchants, school personnel, and other friends, for its senior class, right in their own school. For every one of the past 50 years, a dedicated team of volunteers has devoted countless hours to transform the high school gymnasium into everything from NYC's hottest nightspots to fantasy tropical isles. .
In 1952, the reason for creating a celebration for Schreiber seniors right at home was simple: to offer a safe, secure and wonderful party for Port's graduates. And 50 years later, that has not changed. It was and is, always, a labor of love, a gift to the graduating class.
But many aspects of the Gambol have changed, as the years have gone by. Musically, the entertainment evolved from big band style orchestras and parental performances to rock and roll groups and disk jockeys. While food was prepared by the mothers of graduating seniors in the early years of the Gambol, in later years graduates dined buffet-style on food donated by local restaurants. Parents, particularly fathers, served as waiters in the earliest Gambols, dressing in theme-related costumes, like astronauts or Vikings. And of course, the themes of the Gambols have spanned diverse historical periods and locations; they've ventured into the realms of cinema, literature, and pure fantasy. Since 1952, the Gambol has traveled around the world many times, and even taken trips to the moon and stars.
In honor of this unique event and its anniversary, we offer a bit of Gambol history, a Gambol pastiche. While it would be impossible to include the details of each one or the names of those who devoted so much to making each gala possible, please know there are thousands of Schreiber graduates who thank you. We hope to provide a sense of what has become a warm, exciting, and wonderful tradition in a unique LI town. Happy 50th Anniversary, Gambol!
1952...The Rainbow Room
1953...A Night in Paris
1954...South of the Border
1959...Le Moulin Rouge
1961...Cruise to Capri
1962...Le Cabaret Francais
1963...Beyond the Reef/Polynesian
1964...Roma Di Notte
1965...Fiesta in Seville
1966...Olde Central Park
1968...Viking Farewell/Valhalla Hall
1969...Gambol to the Moon
1971...Galaxy Gambol to a Mystical Isle
1972...Here Comes the Sun
1975...Old New Orleans
1977...A Summer Night's Dream/Great Gatsby
1978...Beyond the Stars
1979...An Evening in Venice
1980...On the Town
1981...A Thousand and One Nights
1982...Night on Mount Olympus
1983...The Magic of Camelot
1984...A Touch of Class
1986...Tropical Paradise in Port
1987...Night of a Thousand Stars
1994...Monte Carlo (Live the Legend)
1995...The Crystal Ball
1998...New York Rocks
1999...Puttin on the Ritz
2000...Magical Mystery Tour
For the 1954 Gambol, prizes included a record player, luggage, dinner for two at the Village Bath Club, and four bottles of cologne from Hunold's Pharmacy. Ralph Bellamy, an actor, was master of ceremonies...Ray Goulding of the radio and television team, Bob and Ray, was master of ceremonies for the 1956 Gambol...Dr. Arthur Levine was the president of the PW Men's Association and chairman of the 1956 Gambol. Knowing previous Gambols ran at a financial loss, Dr. Levine had valedictorian Ann Loveland type more than 200 individual letters requesting donations from parents. And it worked: that year, the Gambol was in the black (from Thomas Levine '56)...Thomas Levine, Class of 1956, remembers being very impressed with the Gambol design, "the lighting, the whole ambiance." At that time, semi-formal attire was worn...Tie clips and compacts were the party favors at the 1956 Gambol...According to the Port News, Bobby and His Orbits, a rock and roll combo, performed at the 1959 Gambol and "brought down the house"...
Parents of graduating students and the High School Men's Association created an erupting volcano for the 1960 "Mayan Indian Culture" Gambol. Tables were set with Schick razors for the boys and lipsticks for the girls. According to a newspaper account, "The evening's festivities closed at 4 am with graduates, guests, and parents joining in the singing of Auld Lange Syne"..The 1961 Gambol boasted musical entertainment provided by the Shirelles...The Chubby Checkers Twisters performed during the 1962 "Le Cabaret Francais" Gambol. Inspired, the graduates staged a twisting exhibition and contest of their own. Winning first prize in the dance contest were Roger Winter and Rosa Ross...For Gambol '65, Kathi Brooks, a professional dancer, opened the show with a brief Flamenco followed by a routine of dances like the frug, and the watusi with partner Freddie Von Meyer. The next act was a surprise: four teachers sang a medley with original lyrics, satirizing Port teachers. The educators/performers were David Bork, David Cook, Blaine Bocarde, and Paul Martinez...Nipsy Russell entertained at the 1967 "Circus" Gambol...The fathers of graduates who served as waiters for the 1969 Gambol, all wore moon suits, suitably attired since the theme was "Gambol to the Moon"...This same Gambol transformed the gym into a moon landscape, with "a fog blowing mysterious vapor...and the planet earth glowing brilliantly in the distance," said a newspaper account. That year, the top prizes were water skis and transistor radios...
A well-known rock band, Ten Wheel Drive, performed at the 1970 Gambol...The Gambol of 1971, called the "Galaxy Gambol to a Mystical Isle," with its zodiac theme, featured three bands, and a palm reader. One of the musical groups, Mandrill, had recently performed at the famous Filmore East...Bob Carroll, the star of the national company of Fiddler on the Roof, was the master of ceremonies of the 1973 Gambol. Chubby Checker was also on the program...Graduates were treated to the melodic sounds of the Drifters at the 1977 "A Summer Night's Dream/Great Gatsby Gambol"...
Jim Cowles recalled that the wife of Jack Rininger was so determined that all seniors attend the 1978 Gambol, that she helped arrange for dates and escorts! These included recruits from the Merchant Marine Academy, juniors, and even blind dates. Reportedly, many seniors that year took advantage of this dating service...
At the 1980 Gambol, parents provided entertainment a la the Rockettes: a kickline! (From Gambol co-chair Nancy Wright)...The 1984 "Touch of Class" Gambol included an entire walking tour of NYC - from downtown to uptown - and featured a subway entrance with a turnstile. "Chandeliers" were created from hula hoops and Christmas lights (from Jim Cowles and Aaron Morgan)...Gifts and prizes at the 1986 Gambol included a color television, an electric typewriter, two alarm clock/radios, two small refrigerators, and baseball tickets...And if the refrigerators and televisions weren't enough, the 1987 "Night of 1,000 Stars" Gambol gave away a weekend at the Plaza Hotel and fittingly, airline tickets to Hollywood for two boys and two girls...Sandy Lipset, who co-chaired the Gambols of 1984, 1988, and 1995, wrote, "It is a challenge to keep the seniors from leaving the Gambol before it ends, and many clever ways have been devised to do so. The year of "Solid Gold" (1988), we decided to offer a sunrise boat ride down the East River and handed out tickets for it at 4 am. At 5:30 am, over 140 seniors and their guests set sail on the Dolly Madison for a three hour cruise. Breakfast was served and DJs kept the dancing going. Co-chair Eileen Brotman and I still remember standing at the dock greeting the tired but beaming Class of 1988 as they returned to shore..."
Those entering the portals of the 1994 "Monte Carlo" Gambol were issued passports by two fifth graders, dressed in costumes, and then checked by "Customs officers"...Sally Glasser, who co-chaired two Gambols, said the 1996 "Casablanca" themed gala featured "one-half of an antique airplane, with a propellor, coming out of the front of the building." Constructed by John Olszewski, the plane was "large enough that a person could have sat in the pilot's seat." Of course, there was a piano player inside the building, and parents were the croupiers in the gambling room. Wildly popular, "We had to send the kids home at 5 and 6 in the morning," she recalled...Schreiber graduate Rachel Glasser, Class of 1996, said she "had no idea what was in store" before attending the Casablanca Gambol. "They transformed the entire school." The thrills began before even entering, she recalled. "Pulling up in the limousine, having your name announced, was quite a big deal - Cinderella-esque," she said. "There was a belly dancer too, and really cool prizes"...Sydell Glasser, Schreiber class of 1999, said her "Puttin' on the Ritz" Gambol was amazing. "The outside was the front of the Chrysler building, and inside it looked like a hotel lobby." The pianist of the musical group Country Joe and the Fish was playing in the lobby, and she couldn't get over how the gym "didn't look like the gym at all." Getting to the prom was also memorable for Sydell. She traveled through town by horse and carriage and when she arrived at the high school, she found "I was overwhelmed by walking down a red carpet and being announced. It was great! " In short, "It was a really great way to end things" for this graduate, and most likely, that sentiment is nearly unanimous.
The years since the first Gambol have seen changes in fashions and popular music, but certain constants have remained. The commitment of the entire community to create and offer a stellar, local, safe, extravaganza for it's young people is one, and its one reason that Port Washington has gained a reputation for being an outstanding community. Nancy Cowles spoke for many when she recalled that "for months after, kids come up to thank you, and tell you what a wonderful time they had...people work harmoniously on a common cause, and you get to know new people...it's been a wonderful experience." Here's to 50 more terrific years.