Friday, August 21, 2015

High School Reunions

Cheryl Deroy Lee, Vic Kelley & Elaine 
       High school reunions are great levelers. Folks who wouldn't give you the time of day as teenagers grab you in a big bear hug, like a long-lost friend. The cliques and popularity contests disappear, and it doesn't matter who was a cheerleader or who played football. As alumni, you’re all on the same playing field.
My 50th took place in Birmingham the weekend of August 14-15. My Beach-Boys-and- Beatles-buddy Annette Vining Greaves flew down from Chicago, and we rented a room at the headquarters hotel so we wouldn't have to drive the 45 miles back and forth to my house.
Kathy Bailey Dobson &
Annette Vinning Greaves
  Of the 700 or so who graduated from Woodlawn High School in January and May of 1965,  about 140 attended, plus 100 or so guests. Many folks were quite recognizable, many weren't. While most of us were skinny back then, we aren’t anymore. Lots of the men have receding hairlines and paunch bellies. Most of the women have gray or white hair, while a few are still clinging to that bottle of Miss Clairol. But everyone was beautiful.
Coy Lowery Hughey, Sandra Moreland Barfield,
Kay Merrill Miller & Jenny Adams Atkinson
  Several elementary schools fed into Woodlawn during the 1960s. I went to Kennedy with folks like Vic Kelly, Coy Lowery Hughey, Jerry Dean, Sandra Moreland Barfield, Kay Merrill Miller, Virginia Strock Moseley, Patsy Swafford Rhoades, Carmen Coulombe Allcorn, and Jenny Adams Atkinson, who couldn’t have gained more than five pounds since our grammar school days. I grew up on the same street with James "Booty" Graves, who says he got his nickname from an early love of wearing cowboy boots. 
James & Linda Graves
While a handful were already grandparents by our 25th reunion, many are now great-grandparents. Several are widowed. I have heard of folks hooking up with old boyfriends or making new ones at reunions, but the only guy I talked to who was single lost his wife last September and is engaged already. "I can't be alone for 15 minutes," he admitted, which seems to be more true of widowers than widows.
"Where did the 50 years go?" was a phrase heard often, but the most common conversation opener was, “Do you remember…?” Jim Nix, head of the reunion committee, insists we had a long conversation in my Volkswagen one night in 1966, but I can’t recall it. I don't think I had my VW until 1968, my senior year of college. This has been a running conversation between Jim and me at every reunion we've attended and in emails, too. He admits he was bummed out that whole year over a breakup with his girlfriend, so his memory may be cloudy. "If it wasn't you, then who did I talk with for hours in a VW that night?" he asked recently. We still laugh about that.
Sharon Blice Mikula & Elaine
The highlight was the tour of our alma mater on Saturday. The WPA mural in the auditorium has been restored,  the boys and girls gyms are gone, and there is a new addition. The outside of the addition blends so well architecturally that you can't tell it from the original.
Along the hallways, fellow classmates were commenting on who taught in which classroom and where the boys' and girls' advisors offices were. Their memories are much better than mine, because I couldn't recall anything but the main entrance, the auditorium and the old stadium, which is also gone. I had many classes under that stadium, such as speech with Rose B. Johnson and history with Tall Paul Caudle.
During the Saturday night dinner, a video I took at the 25th reunion played in one of the rooms. Being a reporter, I interviewed folks up close and personal, asking each one to identify himself and tell where he lived and what he was doing. Several of those folks have died since then, making the interviews bittersweet. I wish I had done something similar at our 50th, because who knows who will be gone by the time the 55th rolls around.

Annette & Elaine at WHS
Meanwhile, I'm thankful for the renewal of old acquaintances and the forging of new friendships. Several of us vowed to keep in touch, and I believe we will, starting with a get-together at a local restaurant Saturday night. There should be folks there who weren't at the "formal" 50th reunion. I can't wait!

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