A small town reunion with a big heart

I went back home to Dupo, Illinois, for my first class reunion this weekend. This small railroad town, population 3000, sits near the banks of the Mississippi River and is within spitting distance from St. Louis (home of the dreaded Cardinals). The get-together was dubbed the “No-Class Reunion” since event organizers wanted to include ALL classes in the festivities but still, this title brought a great many chuckles.

I always have mixed feelings about returning home. On the one hand, I just can’t wait to see my old friends again and I love the peace and quiet of my small town. I’ve probably romanticized it a bit in my mind from what it really was when I lived there, but then it’s my story so that’s that.

As we drove down Route 3, I remembered all the little businesses that dotted Main Street way back when before the big highway cut off the traffic and, basically, nearly killed our little town. My mom and stepdad used to play cards and have a drink or two at Beason’s Tavern, now vacant. Walter Nolte and his brother Fred owned the two grocery stores in Dupo, now a dental office and a pharmacy. It was good to see that Dairyland still exists. We all used to go there for lunch in high school, play the jukebox and look at the cute boys with moon eyes over a hamburger.

The high school looks more grand and elegant than I remembered. (See video here) When we drove by, the cicadas were in full voice and it made me so proud to be a Dupo Tiger, even though during my valedictory speech in 1972, I skewered anyone who was in power at that time. I felt the “powers that be” were treating us like kids who didn’t have a clue instead of trying to instill a sense of responsibility and trust. I’m proud to say that people still talk about it to this day.

On our first night, we visited with dear friends in Columbia who were also Dupo High alums. Carolyn Teeter and I were cheerleaders together and her husband Wade was a sports star. They were childhood sweethearts and it made me so happy to spend time with them and Rod Lavender, another HS friend. His sisters, Donna and Dana, were high school chums too so it was great to reminisce over cocktails and homemade gumbo.

Dancing and more cocktails followed at Good Tymes Bar back in Dupo. Rod and Carolyn owned the dance floor (see video here) enjoying another high school friend’s (Mark “Mo” Mullins) band Boulderdash.

And, of course, a visit back home always includes stopping by my old house at 325 Louisa Ave. (See video here). This house had been in our family for many years, having originally been purchased by my grandparents. It held many happy, and many sad, memories for me but I was thrilled to see it so well taken care of. New owner (of 3 years) is Cathy Roy. After seeing my Facebook post featuring my childhood home, she sent me the sweetest email. “We are truly blessed to have this home and have amazing memories already, and every day brings more,” she shared. I wish her and her family the best and plan on meeting them the next time we visit.

The day of the reunion was a whirlwind. So many familiar faces, but a lot had changed. Namely, we were all a little older so the name tags certainly helped. Marsha Bieber English organized this 6th reunion and did a great job. More than 300 people showed up representing 34 classes ranging in dates from 1940 through 2013!

The weekend also included our homecoming (we lost), a Hills and Hollows 5K run in Valmeyer, tractor rides (see video here), a “Shop with a Cop” parade, hot dogs (sold by the junior class), music by Brad Noe and his band and more. The Dupo Educator’s Hall of Fame, led by Davie Sue Raker, inducted Rita Cindrell, James Crouch and JoAnn Godare.

Marsha welcomed the crowd and explained how this fun-filled weekend came about. (See video here). Nearly 6 years ago, she and Susie Price Sager had made plans to meet up. For one reason or another, this didn’t happen, so they both agreed to get together the next time. Well, there wasn’t a next time as dear Susie passed away suddenly and unexpectedly at age 55 on June 3, 2011. Marsha vowed this would never happen again to her or her friends.

Now, the reunion is always held the last Saturday in September. Here’s to meeting up again with good friends this time next year. You can always go home again and should.

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