The conventional wisdom is that attending your 50th high school class reunion should make you pause and realize how old you are. I recently attended my 50-year reunion from Tonawanda High School, class of 1963, after serving on the planning committee for almost a year, and now I feel young at heart.
Beginning with the casual mixer, the first glimpse of each classmate was a shocker. Some looked just as they did in the yearbook, while others were unidentifiable even after hearing their name. Identifying the women was easier because most of them retained their youthful hair color, but the men’s hair – what they had left of it – was gray. Luckily, we were all wearing name tags with our senior picture and our name printed in a large font.
The open microphone provided many laughs that evening. One classmate read out of the Student Handbook all the rules we obeyed – rules that our grandchildren would now ignore and scoff at.
We learned from another classmate why she was suspended three times by the principal, and how her mother’s discipline ensured that she did not enjoy her time off. Perhaps 1963 was the last year that children were more afraid of what their parents would say than of the discipline they received at school.
One woman interrogated her classmates about who had conspired to lock the substitute teacher in the closet, while others threw his nerdy briefcase out the window. All mouths are still sealed on that one!
Our main event was dinner the next evening, planned as carefully as we had planned our children’s weddings. With everyone still wearing name tags, and more spouses in tow, it was also a night to remember. The music was provided on an iPod loaded with more than 1,000 tunes from the ’60s.
A classmate gave each of us an envelope of clippings from the Tonawanda News about ourselves, covering stories about school, college, marriage and careers for many years.
We also chatted with the handful of former teachers in attendance, calling them by their first names. It made me realize just how young they were when they handled our class, and from all accounts, we were a handful.
For one teacher, our class was memorable because she taught for only two years before raising her family. That was quite a shame, because she was an excellent math teacher. The men really had stories to share, since two of the teachers in attendance were also their coaches, in the time before Title IX, and those males bonded with their sports teams in ways the women never knew.
The dinner invocation was given by a female classmate, who recounted in her prayer the number of wars our class had lived through and been influenced by growing up. That was chilling.
The benediction was given by another classmate, who left our school on a football scholarship to Nichols, but has always considered us his class of choice. He ended our dinner with prayer after the reading of the names and a moment of silence for the 37 members of our class who had passed away. That was perhaps the only sad moment of the weekend.
If you have an invitation to attend your class reunion, go. It will erase 50 years of your life.