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WOSTER: Second reunion proves old friendships are worth renewing

Terry Woster

The Chamberlain High School Class of 1963 gathered for a 50-years-after reunion last Saturday, and I had the pleasure of escorting the former Nancy Gust, co-editor of the award-winning (could have been) CHS Hi-Life student newspaper.

If she reads that sentence, she'll figure I'm fibbing, because for most of the past year, I told her I didn't want to go to her reunion. I graduated from CHS in 1962. I went to the 50th reunion of my class last summer, and at my age, I don't know just how much excitement I should be trying to pack into one lifetime.

Truth be told, though, I didn't mind going. I knew most of her classmates back in high school, competed in sports with a number of them, led (or tried to lead -- they weren't always cooperative) many of the as drum major of the Chamberlain marching band and shared the same classrooms and hallways and gymnasiums and sock hops and '57 Chevies and '56 Fords at one time or another with nearly all of them.

So, although I whined a lot in the weeks leading up to the event, it was no great burden to tag along with the only woman in the world who ever thought I was worth dating.

She had some of the same mixed feelings that I'd had a year ago. A lot of time has passed since you've seen these grown-up kids. What's to talk about? Will you recognize them? How embarrassing will it be if you don't?

When I was considering whether to go to mine (maybe I told you this already), one of my best friends talked about those kinds of feelings and fears. He'd been to his 50th reunion a few years earlier. He was hesitant to commit, but once he got there, he had no second thoughts. The best part, he said, was seeing a couple of classmates he hadn't seen for decades. It was only after he began talking to them, he said, that he realized he really was happy to see them again.

That's how it was for me, and that's how it was for Nancy. She talked briefly with several and at great length with one or two who had been particularly close. Some, as was the case in my reunion, only shared a greeting or hug, maybe a smile or two as the organizers tried to bring the group together for photographs to save the event forever. She'll save the event in her own memory, but it's nice to have the picture, too.

I kind of hung around the edges for a while, but it wasn't long before I fell into a conversation with John. He and I were middle-distance runners in track, played on the basketball team together and helped CHS move into the modern cross-country era. By that I mean -- and John remembers it exactly the same way so it must be true or a terrific tall tale -- we jogged away from the school every afternoon at practice until we were out of sight and then alternately walked and jogged and talked and laughed for a mile or so and then headed back to the gym.

These days kids run six, eight, 10 miles a day, day after day, for cross-country. We never once ran more than the state-meet distance. In fact, I believe we tried to run the state-meet distance exactly once before the meet by going to the train depot and running to a sign that said "One mile to depot.'' But it isn't easy running on railroad ties, and it isn't much easier on the crushed rock ballast of the railroad bed. And it really isn't easy if you don't feel like running that far.

We were in horrible condition to run a state meet. Ah, well, we weren't in it for the glory, anyway. It was something to do until basketball season.

John doesn't remember if he finished the race. I vaguely remember finishing, and I clearly remember John passing me with about a half mile to go, and he was laughing all the way. That memory alone was worth going to a second 50th reunion in as many years.