Sunday, August 08, 2010

High School Reunion Blues

The photo is one of my favorite high school classroom. Funny thing, our teachers never seemed to show up...
Last night was my 35th high school reunion. Due to my recent trip West for my son’s wedding and the overwhelming demands at work right now, I was unable to attend. This saddens me, especially in the day of instant communication which allowed me to receive a text message from friends I haven’t seen in a quarter of a century as they gathered at the reunion. This afternoon, thanks to Facebook, my grief lessened as I looked at all the posted pictures and asked, “Who are those old folks?” I didn’t need a visual reminder that we’re only a decade away from qualifying for senior housing.

It’s been a long time since I joined the 700 or so other students from my high school on the football field that warm humid night of June 6, 1975. Honestly, I don’t remember a lot about the evening except that it went on and on and seemed to take forever for everyone to receive their diploma. I kept worrying I’d get the wrong diploma or wouldn’t graduate for some technical glitch like not showing up for class (which wasn’t really a technical glitch). It all worked out. I was handed the right diploma and for a few years had it framed and proudly displayed, but after graduating from college it just didn’t seem that important any more. And after several more degrees, I can now proudly say they’re all safely boxed away, somewhere. Yet, as the talk of the reunion intensified on Facebook, I began to think more and more about my high school years. Looking back brings both smiles and sadness.

Those of us in the Class of ’75 saw the world change in our twelve years of school. We had barely gotten out of the first “Dick and Jane” book when President Kennedy was shot and were struggling with geometry when another president, Nixon, resigned. There were the Gemini rockets and later the Saturns, the ones that took men to the moon. We watched David Brinkley, a hometown boy, on the evening news as he reported on battles in Vietnam and Civil Rights protests across the nation, including those in our own city. We experienced the turmoil of cross-town busing and the horrors of race riots. We listened to the Beatles as they swept the airways only to learn of their breakup before we entered high school. We were mesmerized with the horns on “Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4,” sought out the supposedly hidden meanings to Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” and were saddened as we song along with the Stone’s on their ballad, “Angie.” As we turned 18, those of us who were boys became men and had the papers to prove it as we were the last to carry a draft card. But the drafts were a thing of the past and as the cards didn’t have photos, they could be easily lent to a friend who wasn’t yet 18, the legal drinking age at the time. And then, as we were busy ordering our gowns and those silly mortar caps for graduation, we watched the fall of Saigon and witnessed the end of an American era.

A lot happened in those twelve years of schooling. They certainly weren’t the best time of my life, but for good and bad, I wouldn’t be who am I today without them. I’m glad the those old folks in those pictures had a good time last night and now, I’ll just have to avoid mirrors in order to maintain my delusion.


  1. When I went to my 30 year reunion, I wouldn't have known who 3/4 of the people were if we hadn't been wearing tame badges that included our picture at age 18. One guy had not put on his badge and stood and chatted with me for minutes and I never knew who he was. Fortunately I can produce small talk like what are you doing now and how many kids, etc. :)

    I doubt if I'll go back to another reunion - that was a rather unsettling experience.

  2. Honestly, I cannot think of anything worse that turning up to such a meeting. The athletics club would be another matter entirely of course.

  3. It really is amazing the number of momentous things our generation has witnessed. (H.S. Class of '78, here.) Yet, I wonder whether each generation feels that way.


  4. I think every generation has their memories. For me, it was the Wall coming down, Cold War facedown with the Russians, Gulf War I, space shuttles blowing up, the almost assassination of Reagan, etc.

    By the way, I still have my draft card so you didn't get one of the last.

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  6. A moment of sharing, checking, missing etc..surely a very precious moment for each to share the past, check on each others' achievements and a moment to realise that among these people, they are few we have always been thinking of. Nothing beats high school experience. That moment when energy was running high, mind gains wayward motion and hormones raging wild, ambitions imprinted in our youthful minds.

  7. i have never been to one of my reunions...i guess my 20 year is next year...perhaps....several have found me on facebook as well...ten years or so behind you, we watched the shuttle explode, wore long hair and ripped jeans, unless you wore th ones with zippers all over them...nice remembrances...

  8. I went to my 5th year reunion and none since.

  9. Lynn, the name tag at our reunion used those old photos too. It's amazing how much we change. I didn't have a beard in high school, although I've had this one for 22 years--so I'm sure i'd looked different (and I had more hair back then)

    Vince, I think it would have been okay... I wouldn't have had a lot of high expectations

    Randall, you right. I'm sure you could take a 12 year scale and run it back across our history and always find major changes that occur during any period of time

    Ed, right after I graduated, they stopped having you to register and that didn't start back until the 80s--I didn't realize you got a card with your registeration

    Cyclops, I'm not sure that I agree with "nothing beats high school experiences." Mine was tolerable, at best, I had way more fun in my late 20s and early 30s

    Brian, you'll have to write a poem about your 20 year one!

    Charles, that bad, eh? I went to my 10th and questioned if I'd ever want to go again

  10. Hey, I made it to my 50th (Class of 1959) and needed those grad pics pinned to classmates to recognize 95% of them. In my memory they had stayed about 20 years old all these years.

    I supposed I'd recommend that. Wait until the 50th to go back, when most everyone's kind of mellowed out and not trying to prove anything anymore. You hear some moving stories about the highlights of people's lives as they look back. You also realize that while people LOOK old, there's still the spirit of their young years in them. That maybe is the most poignant thing about reunions.

  11. I didn't bother with my 10th and I'm not sure I'll make the 20 either. Outside of my band life, high school just wasn't that great.

    Love your classroom pic!

  12. I didn't go to my 5- or 10-year reunion. And am in complete denial that 20 is next year.

    One of my friends had a "who are those old folks" moment recently. He was telling me about running into a girl from his high school class and that "She looks OLD. There's no way I look that old." I said I hated to break it to him, but...

    Darn good post, by the way.

  13. I'm really sorry you couldn't go, Sage. I suspect you would have had a great time. I just attended a "decade" reunion - nearly everyone looked old!

  14. Great post.
    My 30 year reunion was last Sept. I didnt attend,I wanted to but the only friend I knew from then wasn't going. I was new to the country and remember very little of my senior year.
    "Those were the days my friend>>>"

  15. I'm sure you were missed. I haven't been to a one of mine and I truly regret it! I will be dead or AT the next one for sure! I've been told if I miss it there will be a hit put out on me!


  16. Never saw much point in going to one of those reunions but now that I turned 56 and finally am no longer a teenager I suppose I will be mature enough to attend an event with a bunch of geezers.

  17. I kept worrying I’d get the wrong diploma or wouldn’t graduate for some technical glitch like not showing up for class (which wasn’t really a technical glitch).


    Love it.

    Also, I read this in Reader, so imagine my surprise at the photo when I came over to comment, lol.

    Great post, Sage.

  18. I'm still recovering from my reunion and it was the first weekend in May. We were the class of 68 so we literally were at the cusp of history and we (the girls) had to go to school in skirts or dresses--next year no dress code. began college with a 10:30 PM curfew--two years later coed dorms
    All the rules changed on us and nobody bothered to explain the new codes so if our lives have been confusing....

  19. Sage.... Since I'm of the class of '67' many were still being drafted right after graduation and sent to Vietnam; the Beatles were drawing record-breaking crowds and San Francisco was the Love City. The murder of JFK happened while I entering High School, and I was sitting in Study Hall when the announcement came over the loudspeaker; for a only a short time before that we were crouching under our middle school desks, practicing for what would happen if neither Russia nor the U.S. winked and a nuclear war was upon us. In the conservative home and community in which I grew up, we anticipated our 18th birthday so that we could go to the polls and vote for 'tricky Dick!' ... back then [at least in our place] that wasn't so much a negative term as smart term; boy, how we were deceived. I've been fortunate enough to make the last three reunions, and will do everything possible to make the next one - our 45th!.

  20. I haven't yet gone to a highschool reunion - not sure I would know anyone from there anymore. Usually though, they're held at expensive locations - too much money.

  21. Know how you feel, sage, because next summer will be my 50th class reunion and guess what day they picked for it... July 16th which will also be hubby and my 45th wedding anniversary!! Needless to say, hubby does not want to spend our 45th wedding anniversary at my 50th class reunion. *sigh*

  22. It does not seem as if it should be 35 years since 1975. Or 37 years since I was born.

  23. Ron, you're right about people staying young in our minds!

    Bone, go to your 20th, just so you can give us a report!

    Kenju, I like the decade reunion that your class has--there were lots of friends in the class of 74 and 76 that I would have liked to have seen

    Just because, "we thought they'd never end..." :)

    John, you'll have to write about it and humor us with your observations

    Walking Guy, I sometimes feel like I should still be a teenager

    TC, having the beach close by was a temptation

    Pia, the class of '68 had a lot of baggage too!

    Sleepy Head, your classmates got to see the worst of Vietnam! Glad you've enjoyed your reunions

    Tim, until facebook, I had only talked to one of my classmates since my 10 year reunion--and she's my sister-in-law!

    Karen, That's a bummer--having reunion and anniversary on the same day. Congratulations, 45 years!

    Bone #2, thanks! That makes me feel a lot better about the years that have past...