These last three days have been a whirlwind. What fun I had seeing so many old friends; people that I grew up with but had not seen during the last 50 years. Little did I know during the end of summer in 1968, when my buddy, Steve, drove me over to Ann Arbor and helped me move into my dorm room at the University of Michigan, that I would not be seeing my high school classmates for 50 years.
50 Years Ago
This weekend was the 50th reunion of our East Lansing High School 1968 graduating class and it was a hoot! The organization committee did a fantastic job in putting together 5 venues covering this three-day event.
The first event was a mixer at the Dublin Pub in the shadows of Michigan State University. Starting at 6PM, it lasted into the wee hours. I was in a daze, seeing so many old friends and catching up with their remarkable lives. I had been told that about 150 people would be attending one or more of the five scheduled events and it looked like about 100 had showed up to kick the reunion off.
I saw one old friend after another, and with most of them, was amazed how little they had changed. Oh sure, we all had put on a few pounds, and some, like myself, have put on more than just a few, but their faces had not changed a bit. It was so easy to recognize many that I had not seen for so many years.
I was in seventh heaven, listening to what my old friends had been doing over the years and learning about the families they had raised. What was so remarkable was that each person I talked with was so modest in talking about themselves and I had to poke and pry to learn about their accomplishments. I was impressed to find out that so many of my classmates had become educators, a profession that I so respect and admire. Many had gone into medicine, law, the arts, science and engineering. A few became architects or builders and others started their careers working on the line in manufacturing plants and then worked and earned their way up into management. An old friend, Joe, had earned a Bronze Star, a rare armed services award presented for heroic or meritorious achievement.
For the last three months or so, names of various school friends had randomly and unexpectedly popped up in my mind. Each time this happened, I thought: “This is the first time in 50 years I have thought of this person!” Then, a story about that person came to mind. It was great remembering these fun times. I was fortunate in that I had a wonderful childhood, growing up in a loving family and surrounded with childhood friends. We rode bikes all day during the summer, played capture the flag in backyards, kick the can in the street, played organized Kiwanis baseball and when school was in session, literally walked a mile each way to grade school. During the winter we walked to school through snow and sleet storms and did not thinking twice about it. That was just the way things were. Then, in junior high school and during our high school years, I slowly discovered girls and the magic they possessed. I was a bit shy around girls during those days but did have a few girlfriends. They prepared me for the day I was to meet my lifemate in college… and the rest is history.
The reunion’s second venue was Saturday morning. It was a tour of our high school and was led by the present-day principal. During the tour, I learned that Paula, one of our classmates who was also taking the tour, had been the principal of our high school and had that position for 11 years. She just oozed excitement and shared with me how wonderful those years were. That was pretty remarkable since I knew that being a principal is a very stressful job and most people burn out after 5 or so years of having this exalted position.
Our high school was pretty amazing during our 4 years but now was spectacular. State of the art improvements had recently been made and we were in awe of its music, science, art, theater, classroom and sports facilities. It has changed so much that we could hardly recognize the school we had gone to. Its operating budget is now about $2 million each year. This is just for maintenance and operations of the facility and does not include landscaping. The new swimming pool cost $7.8 million to build! Back in 1968, we had about 1400 students, now there are about 1100 students.
The third venue was held right after the high school tour and was at Reno’s, a grill and bar, where we had lunch. Once again, we had time to meet and catch up with old chums, toasting the great times we had during those wonder years of youth. I had a chance to sit and enjoy lunch with Jim and his wife, Robbie. Jim and I played football together for a couple of years. However, he was really good and went on to play for Bo Schembechler, the great coach of the University of Michigan football team during our college days. He has since become the voice of Michigan football, doing the play by play announcing for the Michigan Football Network. I shared with him how much I enjoyed listening to him call the football games during our sailing years, many times getting up at 3 AM due to the time changes between Ann Arbor and where we were sailing on the other side of the world. I also enjoyed talking with Robbie, Jim’s wife. She had a distinguished career as a TV news anchor in Detroit.
The fourth venue was the reunion’s main event. A gala dinner and dance were held at the University Club. This afforded us additional time of meeting with more classmates and reminiscing about old times. Laughs, hugs and slaps on the back made this a very special event. I had a chance to go from table to table, telling stories and hearing old tales of days gone by. Vicky and I spent some time together, reminiscing about how we used to play together as kids growing up, living just a few houses from each other. Bill H. and Bill D. joined us as we all went to grade school together and the stories we shared were so great to recall.
The fifth and last venue was Sunday morning brunch at Coral Gables. I remember when my parents would take us to this restaurant for a special dinner out. The brunch started at 10 AM and by 2 PM, we were asked to move to another room since the 4 hours that were reserved for our reunion was over. Many of us spent another hour talking as we just could not bring ourselves to say goodbye. Alas, when the end finally came we all hugged and kissed with eyes wet with love and happiness. Such a great time!
On the way out, I just had to see Bill H’s 1964 Olds Toronado! I remember how this beast would burn rubber down the street.
As Mary Margaret and I drove back to our RV home, we just had to stop at Tasty Twist. It was known during my childhood as Tasty Freeze and where I enjoyed Brown Cows (root beer floats) and tin roofs (a chocolate sundae covered with peanuts). Mary Margaret went for a hot fudge sundae and I asked if the server knew what a tin roof was. She did and served me a large one. Ooooooh, so good!
We will be resting up for a few days before we continue our way to the Pacific Northwest. During these days, I will be driving around the old neighborhood to see the old house and recall the wonderful childhood I had in the Okemos/East Lansing area.