Sunday, July 14, 2013

50 YEARS LATER . . .

Looking back, of course we were good and moral, but we were also irresponsible, mad, forlorn, and idiotic. My town in those years was a place with a lot of opportunity for mischief, but fewer opportunities for real trouble.  I did learn from our all-night poker games that if you don't take chances, then you'll seldom have a winning hand. - JLF

Recently I found myself embarking on a 1500 mile road trip to the 50th year reunion of my high school class; a fairly small affair of the surviving 60+ fellow graduates of Slaton High School ("63 in '63".).   I did this with some trepidation. First, I had not been going to school with the same classmates and friends for 12 years like most of the group, having started school in Spur, TX and transferred to Slaton for completion of high school. Second, when I left Slaton, I left permanently. My folks moved to new jobs, there was no family or home there any more, and I was fully occupied with work and college in Ft Worth.  I only returned as a side trip on two, brief occasions; once with Barbara as a drive through to my mom's in Oklahoma and once on a road trip with my son, not attempting to contact anyone on either occasion.

This permanent departure was not so much due to any animosity for the locale, but was simply because my life took me in a different direction (see my previous post "The Days are Getting Shorter.").  Barbara was urging me to go to this reunion, but why should I now return to a place to which I felt no strong attachment, to visit with people with whom, with scant exception, I had maintained no connection?  There was one classmate I had reconnected with on facebook, but we coincidentally had a common city where we would likely meet in the future. The deciding moment was when my best friend (and best man in 1966 and again in 1971) sent me a letter and expressed hope I was going to be there; that tipped the scale.

The girls (it will always be the "girls") did a great job of managing to bring 80% of the surviving  members of the class of 1963 together.  The dinner of July 3rd and the party in the park the morning of July 4th worked brilliantly.

I do think that the 50th high school reunion is different from the 10th, 25th, or even 40th reunions.  Although I have scant experience, from what little I have seen and from most of what I have heard, the early high school reunions, particularly the 25th, are heavily weighted toward those who have accomplished (in their own eyes) a lot, and are eager to tell their other classmates about their (successful) life.  As this population approaches 70 years in age, there is much less egocentrism, jealousy, and insecurity. Simply surviving to this age is a common thread among all.  Was it good to hug with affection people one has not seen in 50 years? Of course; it was more than that, it was wonderful, especially if the one hugging you was one of your best friends that you had not seen for so long.  

I was surprised at the number of divorces.

I was also surprised at the suicides; not how many, but who.

I was a bit envious of the people who had many grandchildren and even great-grandchildren, I was also a bit jealous of those who were surrounded geographically by large numbers of their family members. Some of us simply had no locus of family, and for those who chose to wander far and not look back, it was a choice made and, I suspect for most, not regretted.

Looking back on the reunion, it was good to go back, but it was good to have left 50 years ago.

The pictures that follow (all simple iPhone photos) do not always show the town in it's best light, but a booming suburb it is not. They are only a vignette of two or three people and some places that have some significance for me.

(For some reason, in some browsers, the pictures are lightly cropped.  Click on any picture to see full-frame.)

Slaton High School.  Some additions, but essentially the same.

Same Football field

Same Brick streets.  New wall mural.

Corner building was the newspaper office of the second paper in town (interesting since these days most large cities have only one or no daily papers) and where I learned offset printing and was a staff photographer.

 Cottonseed oil mill in Lubbock where during one night shift I had an accident and came very close to losing my right leg and life.

City Park.  Site of flag (and occasionally tackle) co-ed football games, swimming  pool with climbable fence, and the yellow building on the left which in the '60s was the venue for post-game dances - "Tiger Town." 

Another occasional site of High School dances was the Catholic Church Hall.  My first more or less romantic kiss was outside this building one night.

A bit shocking to find our class picture poster in the local history museum!

 Yup, that's me. 

11-man football with 16 players; a lot of us played both ways.  I (#74) only went out for the team my senior year.  We were 1/1/8 that year; pretty bad.
Unfortunately, #64 on my right and #52 on my left are deceased by suicide.  There are some very close boyhood friends in this photo.

I played trombone in the band, even during my senior year along with football.  My best friend Bill is between the middle two tubas; I am between the two tubas on the right.  We were a 2AA sweepstakes band that year; sort of made up for the football record.

Soda fountain from the drug store; in the Slaton History Museum

Printing press.  According to the provenance provided with this exhibit, I'm fairly sure I was trained on this machine and printed a run or two of announcements on my own.

 I have visited Harvey Houses before, but interestingly enough I never knew Slaton had its own Harvey house until the reunion.  It has been well restored.
Harvey House.

Bill, my best friend in high school, and my best man . . . twice.

 The venue and some of my classmates.

 FB pen pal Areta, on the right, has perhaps traveled the longest, most interesting road of us all.  She is currently master of an international school  in Colombo, Siri Lanka.

 Robert, on the left, is a high-powered finance lawyer in Dallas but seems to take most pleasure participating in national table suffleboard tournaments.  David was a nationally ranked swimmer in high school, and still looks it.

Rumor was that the police had ringed the water tower with barbed wire on hearing of the upcoming reunion of the class of '63, not wanting to risk defacement by paint-wielding senior citizens.

To be able to look back upon one's past life with satisfaction is to live twice.  - Lord Acton