Recently I received an invitation to attend my 62nd High School reunion. Not a typo, yes 62 years. The class of January 1950 of the Harrison Technical High School, 2300 S. Marshall Blvd, Chicago for the umpteenth reunion celebration. So, as you see in many movies the memories of past reunions started to play in my mind.
In 1955 we had our first reunion and it was exciting. So exciting that many of our friends attended; some with their wives and some with their husbands. Then there were those who were finding themselves (we never new they were lost) and ready for a commitment. There was loud music (most of us could still hear) and a large screen with our high school graduation photos flashing on and off. The hugging and kissing of our former classmates was abundant.
Now Phase one of reunions. It seemed everyone in the room was CEO of a company and the evening progressed with the greatest B.S. known to mankind. But, it was fun. Now Phase two of my reunion held ten years later. Less people came, the excitement was restrained, and we were given a picture of our high school picture to be displayed somewhere on dress or jacket. We needed the picture since it was difficult to remember who all these people are.
The jocks were heavier, there was an all city linebacker on our football team that took two minutes to get his stomach through the door before he did. But the ladies, they went from plain Janes to heavenly women. It was necessary to look at their picture so we knew to whom we were saying hello. There was much less kissing and hugging but more of a hand shake of welcome. No one cared what you did, unless you wanted to as. Now the questions were how long have you been marrried and how many children do you have. Sure, there were memories that we all got caught up in.
Then our emcee who was the President of our graduating class requested that we have a moment of silence for our friends who had passed away. It was at that moment we realized our mortality. At the time we were approximately in our early thirties and and sad to realize some of dear friends were already gone.
Now on to Phase three. Another fifteen years passed until our next reunion. The excitement was even more diminished. We were approaching 50 years of age, been married 25 years and had raised our families. But I went. There were less people but still we wore our high school graduating pix on our hello badges. I didn't recognize my own picture and said to myself "who is this young dude?"
I clearly remember talking to one of my classmates who appeared to be successful. I didn't care about anything he said and then it hit me...I looked at his high school picture and realized why I didn't take to him. I didn't like him in High School and I didn't like him now. We didn't have a moment of silence but instead we were told a memorial board was in the corner of the room. Naturally our curiosity was aroused. The list was longer and we were saddened by the loss of even more of our brothers and sisters.
Phase four: The ultimate was our class of January 1950 celebrating our 50th anniversary. It was held somewhere in Oak Brook and it was wonderful. There was still less people but surprisingly the enthusiasm was more than anticipated. After all, we were approaching our late sixties. There wasn't any way, particularly the ladies could fib about their age. Our classmates were distinguished looking. The men had gray hair, balding, and their size increased. The women were stunning.
Unlike the past reunions no one seemed to care about your career but instead the common question was how many grandchildren do you have.The emcee was again the President of our graduating class. Remarkably, he still looked as if he were still in High School until you looked at his earlier picture. There was so few left of us to attend we were requested to call our names so we could recognize and remember those we haven't seen in years. That was a memorable moment as each of us called out. Memories flooded the room. As the names were called out someone nearly shouted out to them with a tid bit of information. It was hilarious and raucous.
What could have taken ten minutes went on for an hour and everyone had a great time. And again we were asked to remember our classmates who were no longer with us. And again the list was longer but those of us that scanned the list we all said "I'm glad i didn't make the list". And then it was over. Fifty years of fantastic memories.We didn't know a group of graduates from different classes and years put together a committee to hold reunions from any year to attend every 2 years, if you could make it. But now it depended on your health, what state in which you lived, could you drive. Shall I come alone, drag my spouse again, or take one of your grown children with you.
Phase Five: Several years later I received an announcement regarding this reunion committee outlining the details that were to take place. And so, I went myself. The parking lot was jammed. their was an ambulance on stand by in case of emergenc. and the ballroom was packed full of older people. There were graduates from the early 1930's until 1983 when Harrison High School closed. We were assigned to the table of our classmates. Some had hearing aids, some had canes, some came with walkers, some had even come with grandchildren who drove them. Unlike past reunions this was held in the day time since many of us not longer were able to see in the dark. There were a handful of us that attended. But the hugs and glad to see you was too marvelous for words. In fact, at that reunion one of my classmates attended her first reunion ever. And it was worth all those years to finally see after all those years my high school crush.
Phase 6: Let's play golf.
Memories light the corners of my mind and this one really did. And I hope yours too.
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