Bill Folli class of 65 wearing Mighty Mites jacket and Geoff Bender class of 68 with Bears jacket
go mano a mano at the Hometown Fracas, Oct. 5, 2007
photo © 2007 The Record (Bergen Co., NJ) / Don Smith
The crowd of more than 100 at the Bergenfield High School reunion Friday night was ready to rumble.
In one corner stood the Mighty Mites -- alumni representing Bergenfield's school nickname until about 40 years ago. Defending it were members of the Class of 1965 and 1966, many dressed in old team jackets and carrying other school memorabilia.
"I never knew what a 'mite' was, but I liked it," said Bill Folli, Class of 1965. "I'd still like to be called the Mighty Mites."
In the other corner: the Bergenfield Bears, Mighty Mites' successor. Promoting the brawnier nickname were the Class of 1968 and 1969.
"A mite you can step on -- a bear, you can't!" said Geoff Bender, Class of 1968.
The district's nickname was changed from the Mighty Mites to the Bergenfield Bears in 1966. Class of 1967 was the swing year -- the first graduating class of the Bears.
This weekend, as the class celebrated its 40th reunion at the Crowne
Plaza Hotel in Englewood, coordinators planned to have a "Hometown Fracas,"
a playful contest between the two sides.
"As Mighty Mites, we were unique -- there was no one else in the country who was the Mighty Mites except for us," he said. "It defined us, gave us our character. It was our soul. As the bears, we're nothing but another school."
Barbara Madoff Hamerling, Class of 1967, disagreed.
"I like the sound of the bears better than the mites -- instead of the little insects, being something rough and tough, even though our football team wasn't that good that year," she said. "I think people liked the idea of switching over."
"Mites are kind of parasitic," said Michael Devlin, Class of 1966. He said he has a particular disdain for the old nickname because he now runs a garden for children. "I'm glad they adopted the bears. I can't defend the mites, because they're predatory -- they suck the life out of plants."
Late Friday night, the Hometown Fracas was still going on, the result not known.
But one thing was clear: The district has grown during the last few decades to embrace itself fully as the Bergenfield Bears. Superintendent Michael Kuchar said he could not imagine why anyone would prefer the Mighty Mites.
"Who wants to be an insect? Bergenfield Cockroaches? No one wants to be a bug!" he said. "Bear is an animal that shows a lot of courage and strength. It embodies our student population -- courageous and strong. We are not a bug nor do we ever want to be!"
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