I have never been one of those who goes along with this nonsense that high school is the best time of your life. If that's the case, you haven't been doing much living.
That being said, I remember the excitement I felt in the summer of 1984 when a 10-year reunion was scheduled for my East Newton High School Class of 1974. I planned my entire vacation around it. I was looking forward to seeing old friends and renewing friendships with people whom I had not seen for a decade.
It would have helped if I had scheduled my vacation around the right date. Somehow, I misunderstood when the reunion was being held and when I showed up, I was one week late and I was the only one there. Classmate Randy Hopkins was the one who broke the news to me about my mistake.
I can't say I was devastated, but one reason for that was I held out the thought that I would definitely make sure about the next reunion and I would see everyone then. We would have even more news to catch up on.
A quarter of a century has passed and I am still waiting for the next reunion of the East Newton High School Class of 1974. I never quite found out what happened during that first reunion, but my understanding is there were some conflicts between some of the people who organized it and those conflicts have prevented us from having another reunion.
And that is a shame. Since that time, a number of our classmates have died and others have moved far away. Our class president, Terry Shepherd, died in an accident several years. Old friend Butch Fullerton died after a valiant battle against cancer. Patty Renfro, who handled my makeup for the productions of "Anything Goes," "Little Moon of Alban," and "The Mouse That Roared," died recently. To allow personality differences to fritter away our chances of renewing old friendships seems such a needless expenditure of energy.
Thankfully, another classmate decided something needed to be done. Penny Stewart was not one of our class officers. No one expected her to step in to fill the breach, but that is exactly what she did. Even better than that, her vision was not limited to a reunion of the Class of '74. She set out to bring together an entire generation of former Patriots.
For the last several months, Penny has done yeoman work to try to contact every student from the East Newton classes of 1969 through 1976. She has worked her telephone overtime, and used the technological marvels that have helped us to retain friendships even when the distances are enormous. She used e-mail and her Facebook account to contact all but a handful of those who received their diplomas (and even those who were in our halls for a few brief moments then graduated elsewhere) at East Newton during those years.
All of that preparation came to fruition Saturday when more than 400 former students, as well as teachers and administrators once again got their kicks on Route 86. I was a bit concerned when the clock showed only 15 minutes remaining before the scheduled 3 p.m. starting time and people were just trickling in, but that trickle turned into a steady downpour and soon the lobby was overflowing.
I saw my former eighth grade coach Kenny Shippy, who gave me my first (and last) shot at track and helped me letter that year.
I once again saw my Anything Goes castmates Jill Sears and Mike Camerer, Mark Knight, who was the ace pitcher on the first Little League team I coached, Teddy Johnson, who was Student Council president when I was vice president, Bill Dalbom, who was vice president when I was president, old Newtonia friends Brad and Tim Letts, Robin Robbins, and Paul Richardson, Granby friends Pete Babb, Pam Stipp Babb, and Randy Hopkins, Stark City friends Dwayne Dabbs, Sherry Dabbs, and Carla Biddlecome, and that was just for starters.
One classmate, whose name I will not mention (because she has exhibited much better taste since that time) reminisced about the fact that I was her first boyfriend (we were in first grade.
I saw Becky Hildebrand, who was my leading lady in "The Mouse that Roared," was my duet acting partner when we went to state my senior year, and also served on Student Council with me.
And there were so many more. I am sure everyone who attended has a lengthy list of renewed acquaintances.
Behind the scenes, people like Penny Stewart, Cindy Atteberry, Debbie Kruse, and Janice Haskins were working to keep up the sign-in book, and the refreshments.
In the gymnasium, two Class of '74 members, Richard Taylor and I, had a great time playing music with our group Natural Disaster.
When the scheduled end of the reunion came at 6 p.m. there were still large groups of alumni circulating in the lobby and talking in the parking lot.
The reunion was a resounding success.
Sadly, there were many members of those classes, people who live a short distance from East Newton High School, who did not take a few moments out of their time to stop by. Some, I am sure, had good reasons. Time does not stand still and family activities are the number one priority. Others, I am just as sure, just did not fit the event into their schedules.
Probably the one memory that nearly everyone who attended the reunion shares is the display in the center of the lobby, showing the long list of classmates who are no longer with us, old friends that we will never see again in this life.
Thankfully, we were all able to get together before more names are added to that list. A big thanks to Penny Stewart for giving us that opportunity.