Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Reflections: My 50th Class Reunion ~ Pueblo East High School Class of '63

My inner processor has been on overload this week.
Sometimes I wish I could be like my husband and just attend an event and then be done with it.
That would not be me.
I must process the entire event to make full meaning of it.

Fifty years ago, I graduated from high school.
Just writing those words causes me great disbelief.
How can that be?
Where did the time go?
I will be attending two high school reunions this year because I moved just prior to my senior year.
Pueblo East High School in Pueblo, Colorado was my high school home
 for grades nine through eleven.
It was here where I met the high school sweetheart whom I would marry thirty years after high school.
The girlfriends from this class are among my dearest and closest friends.
I have written often about this wonderful group of women.  
We meet every three months for lunch, so I am well versed on the lives of these girlfriends who live nearby, but I had not seen many from this class for at least 50 years.

I was instructed by my dear friend, Donna to take good notes,

Donna & Sally 2010
so, Donna, here you go...

First of all, I missed you.  
I wish you could have been at the reunion with us.
I loved your response to the question I posed on whether or not you would be attending.  
You said,
Pity the girl that leaves the party early.
That certainly may have been true in high school, but
I found that all of us were so happy to see each other again that the pettiness that may have been there in high school seemed to melt away.  
I think you would have been happy to know that the reunion was a wonderful success that left us all basking in the glow of friendship.  We truly missed all who were unable to attend. 

Friday Night

I'm afraid, I didn't take many photos. I was having too good of a time just catching up with all of my classmates to take a photo.  Our first night of the reunion, we all gathered on the patio of Gray's Coors Tavern , home of the famous Pueblo slopper. (click on the link to read about the slopper)  Judiciously, I did not eat a slopper.  I did overhear a lot of conversations regarding those who chose to eat a slopper.  "I hope I don't have a gall bladder attack tonight."  I guess our age was showing when it came to food choices.  
A Pueblo Slopper
Gray's Coors Tavern

It was a hot Friday night in Pueblo.  The town was hopping.  There was a very big football game in town.  Central and Centennial were playing for the Bell.  Many were stopping by Coors on their way to the game for a quick hamburger.  Traffic was heavy.  It was hard to find a parking place.  Some things never change.  Friday night football games between the town rivals still create a sense of excitement.  Already, as we walked towards the reunion, I felt the years begin to fall away.  I was off to see my high school buddies.  

As soon as I walked onto the patio to register, I was asked to remove my sunglasses so those at the registration table could see who I was.  "The eyes don't change," I was told.  "You won't be recognized if we can't see your eyes."  True.  I found us all looking deeply into each others' eyes and seeing the girl or guy from long ago.  Also, some of us still had good enough eyesight to read the large letter name tags from a distance.  That helped too!  

My husband had thought he might skip out of the reunion early, go to the football game, and then return later to pick me up.  It was my reunion after all.  I sent him over to a table where other spouses were sitting and went off to connect with my friends.  Soon, I saw he was drawing his own crowd.  The underclassmen went over to see a favorite upperclassman, my hubby Jim.  He had as good a time as I did.  

Time after time, I found myself being spun around by a guy or gal I had not seen in 50 years.  "Sally French.  How long has it been?"  Someone asked me where a certain guy was.  I answered with, "He's that one over there that looks like an old Fonzie."  I was told to remove the adjective "old" from my description.  "Where is so and so?" was another often asked question.  "What, she has short gray hair now???"  "Yes, don't we all?"  

The evening was way too short.  I left thinking to myself, "We had the nicest group of people in the whole world in our class."  Truly I just could not get enough time with these people.  They were all so nice!
Saturday Recap

Many spent Saturday morning and early afternoon touring the old hometown.  I met up with my dear friends Dove and Eileen and Dove's husband David who heading toward the old Denver and Rio Grande Railroad Depot.  There were joined by Dennis, former class president, who was here from out of state.  He and I discovered our mutual history:  our father's both worked for the railroad at the same time.  He had even worked at the depot in as a baggage handler during his years in high school.  
Eileen, Dove, Dennis, Sally
Oh the memories this old depot held for me.  It was great sharing stories with my friends of their memories of the building.  We sat on an old railroad station bench for our photo.  We then posed in front of the building for another photo.  

Sally, Dove, David, Eileen

Somehow, Dennis and I started discussing the work of William Stegner.  I imagine it began when I told of recently reading Angle of Repose.  From there, we then began to discuss what I am currently reading, Crossing to Safety.  I could not help but draw parallels from that book to the weekend.

Saturday Night Recap
"The Trajectory of Our Lives"

Again, I didn't end up taking many photos on Saturday night.  (Dear Blogging Friends, aren't you glad?) I was having too good of a time chatting and catching up with friends to take photos.  

Here are a few:
Our awesome leader:  Carol and husband Andy worked tirelessly to keep all reunion committee members on task.  The reunion was a huge success.  Thanks, Carol.

Elaine and Marilyn worked so hard on the planning.
Elaine & Marilyn

Iris put together a phenomenal "year book."
Iris & Ginger
Loyal Eagles
These two can still light up a room with a smile.
Sharon & Kathy
The table decorations were made by Carol D.

I think she would be voted homecoming queen again if a vote would have been taken.

Carol D. and Cliff J.
Val brought her cheerleading outfit.
It was made of wool.
The waist was tiny.
It had been lovingly preserved.

Val is still one of our great cheerleaders!  I can always count on her for the best hugs.
She is always in your corner cheering you on.
Love you, Val.
Val & Sally
Kathy, pretty in pink, or any other color, handled all the finances for the reunion.
What a job!
Here she is with Frank, Ray, and Ray's wife.
What wonderful people these four are.
Kathy, Frank, Ray, and Ray's wife

Karen, Val, and Dennis caught up on the past 50 years.
Karen, Val, & Dennis
Annette says that Jim taught her to drive.
She says she is a good driver and has him to thank for that skill.
Annette & Jim
I love these ladies!
Here is a photo of just a few of the girls who mean the world to me.
The EHS Girls of '63
It was a treat to spend time with the guys from the class also.
After the reunion, I could not help but think what a wonderful group of men this photo represents.
I am proud to know each these men.
The EHS Guys of '63
Sunday Recap

On Sunday morning, the group gathered at the high school to tour the school, and to enjoy a continental breakfast.  Jim and I attend the breakfast and then left for home.  I understand the tour of the school was great fun and brought back many happy memories for all who took the tour.


I was an interloper of sorts to this group.  I did not go to grade school and junior high with these 'kids.'  I moved to Pueblo and joined this class in November of my freshman year.  East High School was a brand new school.  It had been built to handle the great influx of baby boomers who had reached high school age.  In 1959, Pueblo, Colorado was larger than Colorado Springs, my hometown where I had attended grades K - 8.  I joined this convocation of Eagles when they were taking its first year of flight. It was great fun to be a part of a brand new school creating new traditions.

I was welcomed into this group immediately.  We had such good times together.  There were:  sock hops, bon fires, rousing football and basketball games, proms, homecoming parades, and exciting pep assemblies.  We drug Main after games on Friday and Saturday nights.  We ate the best French fries after these games.  We had slumber parties where we talked and laughed all night long.  I loved my times at East.  And then, my senior year my father was transferred to another town and I had to leave the nest and go to another school.  I did not graduate with these classmates.  No one seems to mind.  I am still one of them.

Pueblo, Colorado is a steel town.  It is a blue collar town.  It is a town of immigrants.  It is town that has gone through hard times.  It is a town where people don't forget their roots.  Life is centered around family, school, and church.  Ethnic and cultural foods and traditions, religious affiliation, and familial ties are greatly honored.  Perhaps that is why these people are such nice people.  I just kept hearing from everyone at the reunion that we sure had a nice group of people in our class.  We seemed to just enjoy being together again.  

I found it interesting that we didn't seem to need to listen to or dance to the old tunes from the '60's like we did at other reunions.  I think this reunion was not so much about a look backward where we were trying to recapture those days of our youth that had vanished.  This reunion was more about reflecting on how short life is, and about how important the people in our lives are.  

When the former class president spoke to the class, he said he wondered if any of us ever even imagined this day that would occur fifty years later.  I'm sure I did not.  I thought we would be forever young and idealistic.  Fifty years ago we had no idea how much the world and our lives would change. The 60's were in their infancy.  Martin Luther King had not had his March on Washington when we graduated.  The Viet Nam War was just beginning.  President Kennedy had visited Pueblo in the summer just before our senior year.  We could not imagine that he would be assassinated before 1963 was over.  Our dreams for the future were just as hopeful as those our parents had instilled in us, the generation that was born just after World War II.  We were all born just as the war was ending.

As I have reflected over this reunion, I find it hard to sum up my emotions.  Mostly, I came away with a sense of gratitude for a time, a place, and for the people who were there with me in that time and place.  Dennis, our class president, spoke of the trajectory of our lives in his remarks.  Certainly, we had all been launched from this same Eagle nest with great dreams to soar through the future.  Now, fifty years later, to me, and I think to others, it did not seem to matter to what heights we either soared or did not soar.  It only seemed to matter that we were able to be together again.  The flock had made it safely back to our beginnings.  

The words of Terry Tempest Williams in her introduction for one of the editions of William Stegner's Crossing to Safety   sum up the thoughts I have been processing about attending this milestone:

Stegner shows us again and again that it is love and friendship, the sanctity and celebration of our relationships that not only support a good life, but create one.

As I grow older,
I value these primary relationships and experiences more than I ever could have imagined 
when I was younger.

Thank you, 
East High Class of '63
for your
and friendships.
I can't imagine what my life would be like without you.

Your laughter echoes in my ears.
The tears you have shed as you have shared your trials and triumphs with me are stored in my heart.
You have made my life rich and full.

You are all Golden Treasures!