'Bulkeley Boys' dedicated to keeping school's memory alive
Waterford — Some of the most vocal proponents of the Bulkeley School's success were only there for a year.
"The one year at Bulkeley was so much fun, I didn't want to go to any other school," said Blaine Loiacono, member of the Class of 1954, at a school reunion Friday.
George Mitchell, another Class of 1954 member who organized the reunion this year, said the transition from Bulkeley to New London High School was difficult because the students went from a small, tight-knit community to a school with no gym, no cafeteria and no way to get between buildings during a rainstorm without getting soaked.
Bulkeley School, an all-boys high school in New London, opened in 1873 and closed in 1951, when New London High School opened. The building that housed the school is now home to the Regional Multicultural Magnet School.
During its nearly 80-year history, the school maintained a preparatory school-like reputation for producing not only star athletes but also star students. Alumni still reminisce about memorable championships in football and basketball. The alumni association supports continued education through a scholarship fund now managed by the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut.
For many years, Harold Arkava, a member of the Class of 1944, organized both the annual reunions and the scholarship fund, which he started with $2 and helped grow to more than $1 million. He had to step down from both in recent years due to illness but fellow alumni have kept the reunions going. Mitchell said they moved the reunion last year from Ocean Beach to Langley's Restaurant at the Great Neck Country Club because Port 'N' Starboard was too big for their dwindling population.
Antonio LaLima, a member of the Class of 1949, said he's been assisting with the reunions for more than 30 years. His latest project has been working with New London High School to create a space to highlight Bulkeley School memorabilia, including yearbooks and sports trophies.
LaLima said he doesn't want the city to forget the school's history and its alumni.
One such alum, a top basketball player named Gene King, died this week. George Kanabis, a member of the Class of 1953, said King was likely the best basketball player ever to come out of New London, including recent players. He gave a dramatic retelling of the school's famous 1951 New England high school basketball championship, in which Bulkeley was losing at halftime to a team from Quincy, Mass.; King scored 19 points in the second half to lead Bulkeley's upset win.
Mitchell said players from the 1951 championship team went on to play for and win more championships for New London High School, despite the school not having a gym; they played at Ocean Beach until their senior year. He credits the championship with keeping the school's memory alive even today.
"In the dying days of the school, it gave us a lot of school spirit," he said.
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