The joyous ‘Junior Debs’


Celebrating a lifetime of friendships

Nine of the 10 “Junior Debs” celebrate their 75th birthdays aboard a cruise ship.  In front, from left, are Wilma Polofsky Walter and Reyna Cohen Katt; back row, from left, Dorothy Eisenberg Carlin, Fredda    Gordon Chauvette, Harriet Diamond Adelberg, Naomi Wolk Goodell, Sondra Smith Meyer, Elaine Siegel Ades and Marian Gilbert Knapp. Rona Namerow Nachbar was unable to go on the cruise.  /Soni smith meyerSACRAMENTO, Calif. – A group of 75-year-old Jewish women is still getting together, even after all these years.

We grew up in the South Side and Elmwood neighborhoods of Providence and called ourselves “The Junior Debs” way back in junior high school in the early 1950s. Ever since we turned 50 – in 1988 – we get together every year or two, and meet all over the United States.

This year, we celebrated turning 75 with a cruise to the Caribbean aboard the Carnival “Victory”  – no spouses allowed. Nine of the 10 Debs met in Miami for the 5-day cruise. It was a wonderful reunion, again, and we all so look forward to the next reunion, possibly another cruise.

The Junior Debs formed at Roger Williams Junior High School around 1951.  Some of us were already good friends from Lexington Avenue Elementary School, some from Sackett Street Elementary School and some from Broad Street Elementary School.  We all formed a tight group of Jewish friends at Roger Williams and called ourselves, for reasons unknown or unrecalled, the Junior Debs.  We all transferred to Hope High School from which we graduated in January 1956.

As Junior Debs, we volunteered at various organizations, had teen parties at our homes, formed Kozy Korner (a Jewish teens’ group that held dances and parties) at Sons of Abraham Synagogue on Prairie Avenue in South Providence, and generally had great times together. After we graduated from Hope, we all went off to college, married and started families. Those of us who moved out of state saw one another from time to time when we returned to Rhode Island to visit relatives.  Today, only two of the Junior Debs still live in Rhode Island.

We feel like family because we all knew each other’s siblings and parents as we were growing up, and we attended Jewish summer camps (Camp JORI and Camp Centerland), Sunday schools and Hebrew schools, Girl Scouts and high school sorority functions together.

When we turned 50, one Junior Deb contacted another, and suggested we all get together to celebrate in Newport.  All 13 of us agreed; it was the beginning of regular, joyous and sometimes rambunctious reunions ever since! (Three of the original Debs have died since that first reunion in 1988.)

Since then, we have vacationed at Tanglewood and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.; Sanibel Island, Fla.; Chicago, Ill.; Savannah, Ga.; Napa, Calif.; Tucson, Ariz.; San Antonio, Texas and Rhode Island.

It’s like family when we get together, picking up the conversation where we left off, like we’ve never been away. We appreciate and love one another as sisters.

SONI SMITH MEYER ( now lives in Sacramento.