As the title implies, some important events occurred within a fifty-year span. In this case the following piece relates to the time block between my high school graduation and the Class of 1967’s 50 Year Reunion. My thanks to all my former classmates who participated, you made both events very special. As always, thanks for stopping by.
50 YEARS LATER
A quiet sort of boy is he. That was the caption beneath my senior yearbook picture, along with the notation Football 1. Was it an accurate portrayal of my high school accomplishments and personality? Yes, unless the yearbook staff had chosen to include my one other bit of notoriety––Took out Bill Craine’s front teeth with the back of his head. But I doubt the recap of me injuring one of our school’s star athletes would have been appreciated…especially by Bill Craine. The incident didn’t do me any good either, but that’s another story.
Because 2017 marked a half-century since my fellow graduates and I departed the hallowed halls of Affton High, this past weekend the Class of 1967 celebrated our 50 Year Reunion. As my wife and I drove home from the affair, we rehashed the evening––the atmosphere was great, the food was terrific, and the people we shared it with were amazing…which prompted me to veer into personal reflection––one of the often unanticipated benefits of age (and the inspiration for this week’s blog). Freud would have been proud. My wife dutifully listened.
“High school should have been one of the most enjoyable times in my life, but I blew it.
“In elementary school, extrovert fit my character. I was artistic, athletic, and consistently achieved high grades, which, besides being cute (and immodest), made me one of the more popular boys. While I cruised along, my two older brothers related their exploits in high school and junior high. I beamed with expectations and couldn’t wait to get there. Then seventh grade arrived.
“The transition to junior high involved merging sixth-graders from four elementary schools into one student body. Overwhelmed by the increased competition for a spot on the popular-guy pedestal, I retreated and became an introvert. Though I remained athletic and artistic (and, okay, cute, too), over the next two years, my grade point slipped.
“Freshman football afforded me the opportunity to rise again. But two years of self-inflicted mediocrity had birthed an underachiever’s attitude. Sure, natural abilities figured into obtaining a place on the team, but so did memorizing the playbook. At the first practice, coach promised “everyone will play,” but second and third string kept the bench toasty all season. I never tried out for sports again, which was my loss.
“As sophomores, my classmates and I moved to the main high school building, where I knew quite a few seniors. Greeting them in the hallways boosted my ego. Too bad my grades and relationships with my peers didn’t mimic self-esteem. But for me, none of the social cliques fit. I wasn’t a brainiac, jock, or hood. I didn’t play an instrument, or sing in the choir. Not that I disliked my classmates or deliberately ignored them. Actually, I admired most of them, but never reached out to any of them. I just wasn’t a joiner.”
And so it was until June 2, 1967.
Fifty years later, due to supreme efforts from seven former classmates, most of the Class of ‘67 reunited, some merely in memory. Folks from across the St. Louis area, the state, and the country gathered to enjoy each other’s company for a special evening. Many of us hadn’t seen one another for the entire fifty-year span. Some classmates continued to live locally and remained in contact. Social media drew other alumni together, but from afar. Sure, we’d all physically changed, but our spirits––our common bond to school, community, and each other remained strong. The only cliques were imagined. Barriers didn’t exist. Meeting and greeting with smiles, hugs, handshakes, and face-to-face conversation was the norm. Everyone was pleased to have the opportunity to share time together once more. Ahhhh.
Though reserved remains a part of my demeanor, various employment and life choices I’ve made helped restore the extrovert hiding within. Still, compared to what they might have been, I can’t help but believe the four years from 1963 to 1967 were a bust. I was surrounded by great people but failed to become one of them. Too bad it took me fifty years to realize how much I regret that mistake. My grandchildren won’t make the same error.