Looking Back

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Pictured (from left): Polly Justice, Nancy Schelkopf, Kirby Kotler and Honore Kotler

A joyous night of nostalgia and camaraderie was celebrated Saturday at a reunion for Malibu Park Junior High. Three-hundred-fifty people packed Casa Escobar for the multiyear reunion that spanned the school’s existence from 1963 to 1988, when the school expanded and changed names to what is now Malibu High School.

There were plenty of embraces and smiles among the alumni, many of whom travelled from out of state to join the sold-out event. While a deejay blasted music from the ‘60s and ‘70s, attendees were able to view their old yearbook pictures and candid shots provided by alumnus Kirk Bachman.

“We wanted to bring back the old locals,” one of the event’s organizers, Kirby Kotler, a 1976 graduate, said. “We formed a committee, created a list, started a website, sent out emails and if they actually went to the school, they were invited.” Kotler and his two sisters attended MPJH and he said there were a lot of siblings at the event. 

Many long-ago, tight-knit friendships were revisited during the party. Karen Brookes-Redondo, a 1981 graduate said, “It’s really great to see all the people that you haven’t seen in a long time. It’s great to see families who have stayed, but it’s neat that the people who moved away have stayed in touch. After 30, 40 years you pick up where you left off.”

Ingrid Miller, class of ‘83, told The Malibu Times, “It’s kind of surreal. It’s a blast to the past. It’s really cool because I moved away to Northern California. I miss it for sure.”

Local Realtor Shen Shulz, also class of ‘83, exuberantly reminisced.

“Miss Schelkopf, my seventh-grade home economics teacher taught me how to sew,” Shulz recalled. “We made a pushpin tomato and some sort of animal. We had cooking lessons and I think she taught me about balancing a checkbook. That was all in seventh grade, so those are pretty good life skills.”

Nancy Schelkopf started teaching at MPJH in 1970 and left in 2010. She explained how things were different early on, saying, “After school dances and sports nights, we had to bring in pay phones because in those days there was no other way to communicate to home other than the desk phone in the principal’s office.

“We brought horse shows, surfing contests and tennis tournaments because there was nothing else for kids to do out here,” Schelkopf continued. “We relied on each other and we were close friends. There was something special about the early days. There were 11 teachers, very few students. We were close.”

Other close relationships developed at the junior high school that served grades seven to nine. The Malibu Times caught up with three married couples who met as children in Malibu.

Jenny Phelps-Rouse, class of ‘73, and Bill Rouse, class of ‘71, travelled from Utah for the event. They’ve been married 25 years and have three kids. 

“When our kids were growing up, we had to be careful about how we talked about our childhood because it was so unique and magical that we didn’t want them to think theirs wasn’t,” the couple admitted.

Betsy Robinson Melber and Chuck Melber both graduated MPJH in 1971. They first met in sixth grade at Point Dume Elementary and have been married for 37 years. 

Sean McAfee, class of ‘73, and Randi Lovaas-McAfee, ‘72, met at age nine. 

“Our families were friends. We played together. At about 14, we realized we liked each other,” Randi recalled. “He brought a lego house to the beach, put it in the sand and said, ‘This is going to be our house.’ I was smitten. 

“Even though he was a grade younger, I thought he was cute. We were boyfriend and girlfriend through junior high,” Randi said. The McAfees have been married 38 years and have two daughters and four grandkids.

The reunion started Saturday morning with a pancake breakfast for 300 former students and family at a blufftop estate, sponsored by Kotler and alumni Chris, Danny, and Patricia Cortazzo. Three hundred were expected again Sunday afternoon for a Malibu Makos party at Zuma Beach sponsored by alumnus Tom Corliss. 

Some former students who stayed in Malibu have children who also attended Malibu High School. One parent, Kari Cole, whose three sons have attended the school, remarked, “It’s a nuclear environment, and it was nice to give our kids the same experience we had going to Malibu Park Junior High.”

 “It’s interesting to reflect back and to see what they’ve done with their lives — sharing,” Schelkopf added. “Nothing’s more important than family and friends.”