WOSTER: 50 years, a rush of memories, and unfounded worriesFive-decade high school reunion daunting after so much time, but worth the trip.
I was chatting quietly with one of my old high-school buddies about halfway through the 50-year reunion bash of the Chamberlain High School Class of 1962 when I heard a couple of the other guys talking excitedly about newspaper clippings that described the CHS Cubs’ trip to the state basketball tournament our junior year.
That was a huge memory for several of the fellows from my class. Our junior year was Chamberlain’s last in Class B (back in the two-class day; by our senior year, the school’s enrollment was sufficient to bump us to Class A) and the basketball team earned its second straight trip to the state tournament in Huron. The year was 1961. Great memories, for sure, and the guys reading the clippings were reliving our version of “That Championship Season,” minus the old coach from the Jason Miller play.
Meanwhile, the discovery of the clippings brought a rush of memories to me and the guy with whom I was chatting. We were dropped from the varsity team a week or so before the end of the regular season. We weren’t part of the tournament team. We didn’t hear our Keds squeak on the storied floor in the Huron Arena. As I recall it, the reception over the radio during the opening games of the state tournament had enough static that we didn’t hear the squeak of anybody’s sneakers.
In fact, I listened to part of the tournament in the pickup while my dad and I were traveling from one chore to another on the farm. School was out for State B, you see. I didn’t go, and my dad, a pretty common-sense conservative in his own way, figured why waste a couple of days of free farm labor?
I learned my lesson from that junior-year experience. My senior year, we didn’t survive the playoffs, either, falling to Mitchell in our first taste of Class A basketball. Even so, I took the opportunity to travel with my buddy and a couple of other basketball players to Huron for the tournament. Never an overly slow learner, I figured why give my dad another chance at free farm labor when I can go lounge in the bleachers in the student section and watch the guys who beat us play in the state tournament? It probably isn’t the same as playing in the tournament, but it beat the dickens out of feeding cattle with a scratchy radio signal.
The press clippings aside (and how is it that I remember so many things from the old days but don’t recall the stories about the tournaments — that junior year or my senior year?) the 50th reunion was worth the trip. I’d been uncertain about going. Half a century is a long time to be away from a bunch of people who shared a few years together.
One of my best friends here had been to his 50th reunion just a few years ago, and he told me he’d had some of those same feelings before his big event. He said, however, that he was glad he’d gone to his reunion. He said the highlight was seeing a couple of classmates he hadn’t seen for decades, classmates he realized he really did want to see.
That’s how it was for me, especially with the buddy who fell from the varsity with me. We’d not talked in years, and I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed his company. After graduation, he and I and another classmate spent several days in the Black Hills, knocking around, doing some tourist stuff, being goofy teenagers and generally having a road trip worthy of a B movie. The third guy on that road trip wasn’t at the reunion. He died of colon cancer a few years back. It wasn’t until I got back among the Class of ’62 that I remembered what a treat it had been to be friends with the wisecracking, happy-go-lucky little guy.
I talked briefly with several old classmates, at length with a few and endlessly with Mike, my oldest friend from Chamberlain. Other classmates only exchanged nods or smiles, and maybe that was enough for one night.
I know this. In another 50 years, I’ll be raring to do it again.