A No Class Reunion with old friends in a small town

It started when we began driving down to Dupo, Illinois--a small railroad town near the banks of the Mississippi. Just seeing the rows of corn stalks set against a Windex-blue sky brought back waves of nostalgia--thoughts of a simpler time without all the strife and discontent. That five hour drive was idyllic and more calming than any pill you could take.

When we arrived in Dupo (population 4000), all the memories flooded back. Happy times with my mom, attending Dupo High School, cheerleading, lunch at Dairyland, visiting my second mother Mary Lee Johnson in E. Carondelet (pop. 480) and so much more.

One night was spent with my dear friend Carolyn Teeter and her husband Wade. (They have been together since grade school and have 3 handsome boys). Her home in Columbia, Illinois, should be in a magazine. She has exquisite taste and impeccable style and I adore her. She had invited another friend, Toni York Marlen, and her husband Scotty. Carolyn, Toni and I were cheerleaders together and I think we could still shake our pom poms! Two other dear friends, Rodney Lavender and Tommy Hundley, were there too. I love them all. We talked until the wee hours with Rodney and Carolyn finishing each other's sentences after a 50 year friendship!

A dinner with my Aunt Lora, cousins Cindy and her handsome son Dillon, was held at Gallagher's, a delightful spot in the picturesque town of Waterloo, Ill.

A kick-off party for the 7th annual No Class Reunion was held the night before at Good Times, one of the few bars in town. It was packed to the gills! I remembered faces but wasn't so good with names.

The day of the reunion, it was boiling hot, but event organizer Marsha Bieber English, had thought of everything (along with her helpers), and had arranged for two large fans to be brought down to Dupo Community Park near the American Legion Hall.  Over 200 people showed up and the reminiscing was intense. There's nothing like a walk down memory lane with old friends. No one wanted to leave.

While we were there, I tried to show Chuck every single thing of interest (and relive it myself too). First stop was a drive through Dupo and, of course, past my old house at 325 Louisa Ave.--happy to report it's still standing and seems well maintained.

We stood in awe before the 227 year-old Martin Boismenue House in North Dupo. Built in the French Creole style, it was discovered hiding inside a modern home (intact!) when that house was being renovated. And, thanks to friend Rodney, a lunch at the Lemp Mansion in St. Louis opened our eyes to the brewing history there. Long before Anheuser-Busch, the Lemp brewery (that created Falstaff beer) reigned supreme.

Our next adventure was a drive through the scenic bluffs and into East Carondelet. I wanted to get Chuck as close to the river as possible so I drove over the levee on a dusty road through a soybean field but the brush had grown up so high, we couldn't get close enough. So I stopped humming Don McLean's "American Pie" and turned back around.

Another drive into a neighboring small town brought a nice surprise when we discovered a winery, the Red Bud Winery. Chuck bought elderberry wine, the house specialty, and it was delightful.

We were lucky to be there during homecoming time (don't ask the score, it wasn't pretty). But we loved the parade and watched as fire trucks and ambulances slowly drove by with lights flashing and sirens blasting. Each class had a little float and the band was trying its hardest. I admit, I shed a few tears. (To see the parade, click here and here).

When we left on Sunday, I felt deflated. I didn't realize how much I missed my old friends until we had to leave. Thomas Wolfe was wrong, you CAN go home again and you should.

I think I'll go back in October for the Pumpkin Fest.

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