Letter to The Editor
The 40th reunion of the GHS and Corpus Christi classes of 1964 was held this past July. My wife and I graduated from Galesburg High that year, so we agreed to serve on the reunion committee. Actually, the other members of the committee worked hard while I admired their efforts, so maybe this letter will provide a little restitution for my taking credit not deserved. The fact is, more than a 40th reunion, it was an event.
Now I confess, my comments about that weekend are not based on firsthand experience; unfortunately, an important family commitment took us out of town, and we missed a wonderful time. So, instead of relying on my experience, I mainly use the testimony of classmates who did attend, along with a few of my observations. Reunions conjure up emotions that, for me at least, have changed with time.
Like many of our classmates, my wife and I avoided the first couple of reunions. To paraphrase the adult Kevin Arnold from the TV show the "Wonder Years": "In high school, you are what people say your are - whether you are or not." I wasn't a great student or an athlete, and I was nowhere near the core of influence in the class of '64. For sure, I didn't fit my 18-year old definition of a failure, but I was equally certain my classmates didn't view me as a success either. Probably I dreaded the idea of going to the fifth and tenth reunions because, whether accurate or not, I determined some classmates would judge me by what they thought of me in high school, rather than by what I thought I had become.
However, by our 20th and 25th reunions, life had taken me around the block enough that curiosity had replaced any dread. I was curious about who would come and what they were doing, as well as who wouldn't show up and why. We went to both reunions, and yes I suppose some curiosities were satisfied. Mostly, though, I just recall having a good time with people I was glad to see again.
As this 40th approached, what I felt was anticipation; the anticipation of reconnecting with as many of my classmates as possible. After all, these are the people with whom I shared my first experience of community - school. In fact, some are people with whom I spent a fifth of my 58 years - from Farnham Elementary through GHS. We laughed and cried together, shared triumphs and failures, and sometimes fought, then made up. Mostly, though, we learned from one another how to be friends and good citizens.
My guess is, that like me, by the 40th most of my classmates didn't care much about what others looked like, how many times they had been divorced, or whether or not they had lots of money. Raines Productions from California made a video of the reunion, showing the great time everyone was having and highlighting the two evenings with comments by many. One of the questions asked on the video was, "What has been your greatest accomplishment since graduating in 1964?" It's interesting that nearly no one mentioned career accomplishments, money, academic achievements, or any of the things we used to measure success and failure when we were 18. Instead, the vast majority identified having a family, marrying their spouse, or raising children as their most important accomplishment. Maybe that's because by the 40th reunion a person's definition of success is not measured in the size of a bank account, by college degrees, or by things that are essentially about him or her, but rather by one's relationship with others.
Another question asked was, "How have you changed since high school?" The men didn't seem to think they had changed much, but I found it interesting and encouraging that almost to a woman, the response was: "I am more outgoing now" or "I have more confidence now." Obviously, something positive has taken place in the lives of my women classmates over the past four decades; and with that kind of collective increase in self-esteem, something positive has taken place in society.
There's no doubt that the older one gets, the more high school reunions become about our common frailty and mortality. A classmate said to me recently, "I don't feel that different, except when I try to get out of bed in the morning."
Yes, we're getting older. We aren't what we were when we left GHS or Corpus in 1964, nor do most of us want to be. Certainly I don't want to go back; I am where I want to be, and my wife tells me she feels the same way. We can't relive the past; yet we should remember and share a common history. This is why we have centennials, holidays - and class reunions.
Reunions are about reminiscing and mostly about having fun, as they should be.
And from the laughter and the way everyone was dancing to the classic rock 'n roll numbers on the video, those attending this 40th reunion were, as the old saying goes, having so much fun they should have been arrested.
But the evidence tells me our 40th was more than a nostalgia trip. I can also tell from the comments, emails, notes, and letters that the committee has received, this reunion had an element of empathy: time has brought sickness, death, and sorrow into our lives, but the common experience we share makes most of us care about the problems our classmates have faced, whether or not we knew them well, thought they were a success at 18, or cruised with them up and down Main and Henderson forty years ago. They were in the class of 1964, and that is enough for concern. This it seems is because we are now old enough to realize that as well as sharing our school experience, we also share with these folks the experience of life, especially growing old.
My wife and I know we missed something special - couldn't be helped. As I said earlier, the 40th reunion of the GHS and Corpus classes of 1964 was an event.
In fact, a member of the band 2nd Mortgage, which played for the reunion, said to me: "That class of 1964 really knows how to have a good time." This from a "kid" of 30.
Credit for the success of this event goes to the committee, most notably to the following:
Graduates of Corpus Christi worked hand in hand with those of GHS. Present at most of the meetings were Joan (Semande) Kistler, Mary (Mangieri) Burgland, and Diana (Theilbert) Long. My thanks to all of the Corpus committee members.
Corpus, like GHS, had a great turnout.
The GHS committee members never missed a beat putting it together. Rita (Harvey) Sandborg, Dave and Jackie (Carlson) Uhlmann, and George Peterson gave assistance. My wife helped at every meeting, and I thank her for talking me into going. If I forgot anyone else who lent a hand, just chalk it up to age.
Now, for my GHS classmates who are largely responsible for the success of our 40th reunion: Stewart Fuller drove from LaSalle-Peru every month to offer valuable input. For more than a year, Betty (Reinschmidt) Nelson opened her home for monthly meetings, which were more like mini reunions. Betty also did an impeccable job of handling the money. Marty (Goshert) Smith and Janet (Higgins) Albert set up all of the arrangements at Knox College. Both are geniuses for detail. Kris (Skillman) Wenstrom came up with the idea of "memory boards": montages of years gone by, from grade school to the present. Displayed in the hall at Knox, they were a brilliant idea that sparked both nostalgia of the "old days" and an appreciation for the journey we are traveling.
Finally, Frank Johnson began work on this 40th reunion about five years ago. Frank is a modest guy who is also a technology wizard and a natural leader. He designed and set up our class website at www.classof64.net. Frank also guided the committee toward consensus on a number of issues which led to this 40th being a great event. In short, Frank was the driving force.
Planning has already started for the 45th. My hope is that everyone can make it. I can't wait.
© www.Classof64.net, 2004