When I was in high school, I heard people of my grandparents generation talking about fifty year reunions. It seemed impossible to image. Fifty years was so far into the future.
The future arrived last week-end when I attended the Santa Rosa High School Class of 1962 Fifty Year Reunion.
High school reunions are a part of life. Like family reunions, they are important because they connect us to our past, reminding us of who we are and from where we come. A fifty year reunion is a significant rite of passage because we’ve pretty much arrived at where we were going, or thought we might go. It’s an opportunity to celebrate our common history, to remember and to be reminded of the things we did and the plans we had.
Many of my classmates agree that we were fortunate to have grown up in a Father-Knows-Best-Leave-It-to-Beaver world. We hadn’t heard of Viet Nam, Iraq, or Afghanistan. We had all seen The Man With the Golden Arm and though we knew about marijuana and heroin, there was no drug problem. Guys went off to college, got a job, or enlisted in the military because it was an excellent way to learn a trade or to make a career. Girls went to college or to work, but in those days their choices were limited by the expectation that they would grow up to be June Cleaver.
I’ve known some of the members of the class of 1962 since the fifth grade. I’ve stayed in contact with a few of them all those years. Having lost contact with many, I reconnected with some at the ten and twenty year reunions. I missed the thirty year reunion. We didn’t have a forty year reunion.
With Susie and Sheri, friends since junior high days.
The reunion week-end festivities began with a reception Friday evening. Lots of hugs, kisses, laughter, and tears as classmates reminisced and caught up with each other. My friend, Sheri, and I had talked about and planned for the reunion for months. We were thrilled when one of the first people we ran into was our good friend Susie. I invited my sister to come with me as she knows many of the people in my class. She was delighted to run into a couple of her colleagues she hadn’t seen since she retired last year.
A happy and long overdue reunion with my friend Jim.
A high point of the evening was seeing my friend, Jim, who I haven’t seen in about forty years. Jim and I had plans to bicycle through Europe after graduation. I purchased ruck sacks and a copy of Frommer’s Europe on $5 a Day. The Navy, the Army, and college thwarted our plans. We talked about the possibility of a future trip to Europe. “Probably not on bicycles.” I said. Jim’s wife, Tessa, reminded me that three of my DeMolay brothers and I escorted her to a program/dance because Jim was too sick with the mumps to take her. “You were all such perfect gentlemen,” said Tessa.
Saturday morning, members of the Santa Rosa High School Foundation conducted a tour of the school. The main building, built in 1934, was extensively remodeled the year following our graduation. New buildings and landscaping create an inviting campus environment. A thriving Career Technical Education program includes Agriculture, Viticulture, Veterinary Technician, and Welding Technology programs. The school has a vineyard and makes wine from its own grapes. Many of the traditions we remembered are alive and well. At the end of the tour, we enjoyed singing the Santa Rosa High School Fight Song that dates from 1936. Santa Rosa High School enrollment crossed the 2,000 mark at the beginning of this year’s fall semester.
Saturday evening included dinner and dancing at Fountain Grove Inn. Class members were invited to introduce themselves, their spouses/partners, and to summarize the past fifty years in twenty-five words or less. The class is spread across the country, represents an amazing array of careers and achievements, and an impressive number of marriages in the forty to fifty year range. I didn’t hear an actual count, but I estimate between 100 and 120 people attended. The actual number of class members was probably about 60-80.
Seventy-seven of our classmates are no longer living. Shocked by the number—about twenty percent of our class—on my return home, I sat with the list of the deceased and paged through the yearbook stopping to look at the graduation photo of each deceased member. It was an emotional experience, but one I felt I owed to the memory of those people who were a part of my life for so many years.
Leaving for home on Sunday morning, there was a flood of memories and emotions. I felt like the little kid who, having enjoyed a marvelous adventure, feels overwhelmed with joy and yet is on the verge of tears and sobs because it’s over.
The Class of 1962 Fifty Year Reunion was a thrilling and heartfelt celebration of who we are as classmates and friends and as alumni of the school that brought us together. I am grateful I could be a part of the celebration.