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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

REELING THROUGH THE YEARS

    I waited half a century for this. Last weekend I stepped back in time at my 50-yer high school reunion.
   Group portrait last Saturday night. 
    We were Hialeah High School's class of '65.  There were more than 4000 students  at our school and at times I felt lost in the crowd.

   I didn't know quite what to expect last weekend. Fifty years ago I had some friends and was happy enough but my head wasn't screwed on quite right. I let others choose my direction. I  tried to be a school politician, a young scientist, and a football player, not too successfully.  Art, writing and tennis appealed to me but I thought, "Who cares about those things?  They won't get me anywhere".
   
   It took years after high school to get it right, to cross over to my creative side. When I did, I became happier, the activist art educator that I am today.
                                             Reconnecting with my l tennis team  
Live and learn. High school helped us do that.
 
  
 
   The Hialeah High School crowd was much smaller than our senor class of 1300 at the three-day affair. Ten percent of us showed up, five sent their regrets, and another ten percent are pushing up daisies.  Cancer, booze, and all the other things ended any reunion dreams they might have had. 

    I learned that five of our group died in Viet Nam (half of the guys attending the reunion were veterans).  Marty Taber went down in his helicopter.  
   I can still can see ten-year-old Ronnie O'Roarke limping through the halls of Miami Springs Elementary. He was born with a "short leg". 
     After a long series of operations -and wearing Forrest Gump-like braces-  the leg was lengthened so could walk like the rest of us. He recovered so well he was able to enlist in the Army.  Ronald Patrick O'Roarke was killed by hostile ground fire in August, 1966. 

     High school was the last time we were with a wide-range of people. A member of our class started a Fortune 500 company (Genetech) while another played in four Super Bowls (go Raiders!).  
                                                    Once again, Ted towered over us all
 







   A few of the no-shows got knocked down in the interim. At least one is homeless and another, imprisoned. 
    Three-quarters of my high school class could not be found, lost in the cracks of life. The brilliant Judy Gokel, the odd Roger Christian, and the bull-like Danny Douglas (our powerhouse fullback). Where are they now?
   Maybe they didn't want to step foot in Hialeah again. It's not Florida's most popular destination. Our last reunion was held in Miami Beach. I thought it was great that our organizers shunned the bright lights for our old stomping grounds. You can actually find a place to park in Hialeah.

    The reunion got me wondering about all kinds of things  but mostly I enjoyed the company of old friends.
    Our former basketball coach was there. Coach Mrazevich just hit ninety so we didn't feel that old.  Hitting our late sixties didn't keep us off the dance floor.

      Over so much time amazing things can happen. Last Friday  I reconnected with my first girlfriend, Sally Wimsett.  Fifty-six years ago I asked her to "go steady".  She accepted and I remembered giving her a silver heart with our initials carved on it.  
   Sally surprised me by pulling it out of her purse. She said smiling, "I think I'll wear it now!".  Her husband, Morris, seemed okay with that adding, "After 46 years (of marriage) I think I'm safe".

    While most attendees have kids (and grand kids) I hardly heard them mentioned. There was too much of us to talk about.  We were trying to cram fifty years into a few hours, a daunting task that left us somewhat dizzy, and happy, being touched by old friends again.

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PS  There's more to this story.  I'll add to it later.

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