September 20, 2012My 40th high school reunion has come and gone. My graduating class is not that good at reunions – this was our third – so it's a pretty safe bet the Walter Hines Page High School Class of 1972 won't gather again until 2022, which seems to be incredibly far off in the future at the moment, but from experience I realize it will be here before I know it.
Our reunion on Saturday, Sept. 15, had a little drama because it was held at the NewBridge Bank stadium, and if the Grasshoppers had won on Friday night, there would have been a baseball game at the stadium on Saturday night. Fortunately for us the Grasshoppers lost so we had the stadium all to ourselves. It turns out a baseball stadium is a good place to have a class reunion. We sat in the stands for the group picture, which would have been impossible without some kind of raised seating or bleachers, and we had plenty of space to move around, but not so much that we got lost.
We had gathered at the Page–Western football game at Marion Kirby Stadium at Page and at Ham's Lakeside on Friday night. Of course, 40 years ago there was a Ham's but it was on Friendly Avenue; and Page home games were played at Grimsley, because Page didn't have a stadium; and Marion Kirby had never coached at Page much less been so successful that the stadium was named for him. Where the stadium is now was just a steep grassy bank with trails worn down to the red clay where those of us who were late for practice or committed some other infraction had to run hills so we would remember to be on time in the future. It didn't work for me, so I developed some familiarity with the hill.
But there was a reminder of our years at Page at the game and that was our principal, R.A. Clendenin, who attended the game in a wheelchair and said that it felt like home to be back at Page.
I wondered if I really needed to go to both nights, but it was good to get together more informally the first night and kind of get into the swing of things. When I stepped back and looked out at my high school classmates, at times it looked like our first week at Page because people were grouped according to their junior high schools – Mendenhall in one corner, Proximity in the middle of the room, Aycock to the left, and over against the wall were the St. Pius boys who mostly went to Mendenhall for one year.
At other times someone with a great memory could have picked out the Junior Exchange Club, the civinettes, the orchestra or Mrs. Lupo's homeroom gathered in different areas.
A couple of times I looked around and the room looked like a junior high school dance with the girls all in little groups talking a mile a minute and the boys standing around laughing at dumb jokes. Except a lot of the girls were grandmoms and a lot of the boys granddads.
Also, at times all the blacks were at one table, which made it look like we hadn't advanced very far in 40 years.
When Dink Boulware and I introduced ourselves, she asked me if I remembered who she was, and before I could say anything, she said, "I was the only black chick in the class. I guess you do." It was exactly what I was thinking because for years she was the only black girl in our class at St. Pius. She had come from her home north of Oakland, California, for the reunion.
At the beginning of the evening on Saturday night, the reunion committee had put together a program in memory of our classmates who had died. Everybody, it seemed, walked around for a little while afterwards shocked at how many from our class had died. One person a year doesn't sound like that many, but that would be 40. And to see them one right after another was startling. I think for most of us, there were people on the list we didn't realize had died or once knew but over the years had forgotten.
Those in the class who had gone to work for the government at any level, and some for major corporations, were retired. Those who work for or own small businesses were all complaining about the economy.
But mostly people talked about their families, how much college tuition they were paying or how much they had finally gotten to stop paying. And of course dragging up old memories from 40 years ago. I wrecked my mother's Ford station wagon chock full of classmates on the way to the beach on beach weekend in 1972. I didn't consider it the height of my high school career, but three or four of the people in that car remembered the details.
By my 50th reunion I plan to have figured out what I want to do with my life, but since that gives me ten full years, I don't think I'll worry about it for a while.
Special thanks to Robin Moore Stiles, who chaired the reunion committee, and everybody that worked with her. Everything worked out great, and if you are on your own reunion planning committee you might want to consider NewBridge Bank stadium. It's a good venue for a reunion, as long as there isn't a playoff game.