Brooklyn Pals Reconnect in Australia Land and Sea Vacation

by Joan Shifrin

Joan, Marty, Warren and Fran at their last dinner together onboard
Joan, Marty, Warren and Fran at their last dinner together onboard

My high-school graduating class numbered 2,300 students, including a few household names. I went to Erasmus Hall High School, in the same graduating class as Barbra Streisand, but as our class was so large, I don’t think I ever met her. Neil Diamond also attended the school during my time. Brooklyn brimmed (and still does) with talent, creativity and drive.

One of my closest friends from elementary school was Warren Murray. He was the son of the popular comedian and pioneer game-show host, Jan Murray. We lived in the same building – my family on the third floor, his on the fourth. I remember how we used to lean out of the windows, talking to each other across the building’s air shaft.

We were both “goody two-shoes.” Warren went on to teach high school, where the kids could appreciate his sense of humor, while I taught first grade and nursery school. Then he moved to California and became a sitcom writer.

When I met my husband Marty, we traded stories about his life in the Bronx and mine in Brooklyn. I even told him about Warren, but despite keeping up with several school friends, I lost touch with him shortly after high school.

Fifty years and a lifetime later, Marty and I have ventured far from the boroughs of New York. We love to cruise with Princess and were taking a grand journey in December 2011, which combined a land excursion of Australia with a cruise to New Zealand aboard the cruise ship, Diamond Princess.

On the second day of the Australia land excursion, we had settled comfortably in our tour bus, when a guide came by to find the couple who was holding up everyone’s departure because they’d gotten on the wrong bus. It was us.

Red-faced, Marty and I slinked away and boarded our assigned bus. We went on to tour the Outback. On our return to the Four Seasons, we were conversing with fellow passengers when a rather loud voice boomed, “Oh, so you’re the ones who held us up this morning.” Marty and I sheepishly confessed to our crime.  

Then came the questions, starting with where we were from. “Brooklyn,” I replied. “Me, too,” he said. Then he wanted to know where in Brooklyn. “Flatbush,” I said. “What school?” came next. “Erasmus Hall High School. I graduated with Barbra Streisand.”

“So did I,” my interrogator said, continuing with “Where did you live?” I gave him the address of my building and he quickly responded, “That’s where I lived.” I was getting more curious by the second, even feeling a little antsy. “My maiden name is Joan Margolin,” I ventured, thinking that would be the end of it because I did not recognize this man at all.

“You’re Joan Margolin,” he roared. “I’m Warren Murray!”

Half a century and half a globe from our early moorings, this was an almost impossible occurrence. We hugged and kissed and shook our heads in amazement that something so perfectly amazing had just happened.

I introduced Marty and he and Warren seemed to immediately hit it off. I turned to meet Warren’s wife, Fran, and we felt like we already knew each other, so I hugged her and she hugged me. From then on, we spent as much time together as we could, catching up on old times and discovering that we clicked, all four of us, in the here and now.

We were the talk of the cruise ship. As Warren is very outgoing; word got around. People would approach us and say what a great thing it was to rediscover an old friend like that.

Now a country, not an air shaft, separates us as Marty and I live in Maryland and Warren is still in California. But we keep up. We spent a week together in Las Vegas last year, speak to each other on the phone and email back and forth.

How improbably wonderful it was to reconnect after all those years and to remain in touch since. Thanks to Princess Cruises, the past is the present and the future promises many more good times ahead with my old school pal.

Joan lives in Reisterstown, MD with her husband of 48 years. She is in her 35th year of teaching nursery school at the Jewish Community Center in Owings Mills, MD. Joan enjoys spending time with her grandchildren and traveling often with her husband.  Next trip will be on the brand new Royal Princess.