Back Story

Ah, high school! Now those were the days.

It seems the class reunion trend is gaining strength and becoming increasingly popular in our times, as all the Oak Cliff schools have them in some form or fashion. One recent Sunset reunion had a woman from its ’33 class in attendance, Kimball held a gala and then a 50th birthday celebration, while Adamson holds its all-school reunion each spring. Word is that South Oak Cliff is big on mini-reunions.

In late October, the Kimball ’64 class held its reunion on the Belmont Hotel’s outdoor deck, and I was invited. The night was clear and crisp as old classmates — some who attended school together from elementary through high school — mixed, mingled, kissed, hugged, and took photos. A cloud of laughter hovered over the crowd as earlier experiences were shared, and in some cases rethought, while many former classmates exchanged pictures of children and grandchildren. All the Jimmys and Billys and Tommys were there with the Cathys and Beckys and Linda Sues.

There were no Tiffanys or Ashleys or Brandons or Conners.

The former teenage girls and sweet-faced boys were now late middle-aged men and women — an assortment of former classmates who spent many an hour navigating their severely crowded school building originally designed for 1,500 students, but forced to cram in 2,300-plus and share three-to-a-locker. Unlike their mothers, most of the women had careers. Many of the men had experienced business and professional success.

The view of downtown Dallas was spectacular. But to me, the view of former classmates reconnecting was more spectacular. As I watched, and in many cases interacted with those who were also my friends (although not in my class), there was a sense of just how blessed we all were to have grown up in Oak Cliff.

OK, OK. Not everything in those days was idyllic. We had the Cold War and the bomb drills at school, along with the suggested dog tags around our necks — just in case we were all incinerated from the bomb radiation or whatever. (And after the massive bomb, just who was going to identify us, I’d like to know?)

We faced the polio threat, not to mention the 1957 Dallas Tornado, the Lee Harvey Oswald-living-in-Oak Cliff thing, and the constant warning from our folks to stay away from lower Kiest. Without vaccinations, we endured measles, mumps and chicken pox. And then there were those summertime chiggers. Ouch! We had the Trinity River floods, before the levees were built. We also had the opposite: The mid-1950s drought when Dallas tap water wasn’t safe. And then there was “Pete the Python”, believed to have escaped from the Fort Worth Zoo, a thought that terrorized the metro area and made worldwide headlines.

 

But we left all these problems to the adults. We were too busy being Oak Cliff kids and teens … and trying to have fun.

I like class reunions. They heal and reaffirm, especially by the 20th. By then, most everyone’s grown up, and they are what they are. In today’s culture, things change so rapidly and so dramatically that it’s difficult to keep from being overwhelmed by it all. Class reunions bring back, if only for a few hours, the memory of those days when life was safe and fairly simple — that sense of being grounded and knowing that everything’s going to be all right. 

So the next time you get an invitation to attend your reunion, by all means consider it seriously. Give yourself the opportunity to hug and kiss and laugh and cry and retell stories and take photos. Don’t fret about not having that last minute Botox treatment or about the crash diet you failed to complete. It doesn’t matter. Put on your bifocals, polish your walker, and put fresh batteries in your hearing aids. Go! Enjoy the ride. It’s a spectacular view.


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  • Gordon McGuffin

    Hi Gayla:
    People seem to enjoy your column. I think they may have a problem at my High School reunion – too many 4 wheel walkers,not enough “parking” space. Just in case some of you readers are saying who the H___ is this guy, what School what year? Crescent Heights High Calgary Alberta (thats in Canada). I went to the 60th and almost got trampled to death. Saw a few “Buds” – almost unrecognizable- “specially the “girls”. Ok,Ok I hear you cryin “FOUL”
    Just back home after 4 months in hospital with an infected hip – I feel entitled to let off a little steam. Thanks Gayla

  • Stephen (Steve) Cumming

    As usual, an excellent article Gayla! Our class at Kimball (1974) voted to have Reunions every five years, and although I missed the first one, I went to the ten year event, and after that I was hooked! Our next gathering will be our 40th Reunion in 2014 and I for one am really looking forward to it.

    Regards,
    Stephen (Steve) Cumming
    Kimball Class of 1974

  • John “Tiny” Glantz

    Lower Kiest was a place closest to prankster’s telling everyone about the ghosts that hovered there and then for scaring the wits out of the parkers.

  • Randy Bates

    My Grandfather Byron Bates) was the Station Master at Eagle Ford when it was still a stop for passenger trains. My Grandmther (Ruth Bates)was his assistant. Would love to see a story on Eagle Ford.

  • Linda Shipp Moon

    Gayla, being a history major in college I very much look forward to reading your columns each month as they take me down memory lane! So many, many good memories about Oak Cliff and our time of growing up there. I’m one of those that didn’t make class reunions until our 40th year reunion. Yes, we may have gained weight, gathered some wrinkles, added glasses to see better, have to ask people to repeat what they just said because the hearing isn’t what it used to be, and some even use a walker or cane, but after talking to classmates for 2-3 minutes they are still the fun people they were in high school and seem to have not changed a bit!. I’m with you…make your reunions and keep in contact! I’ve found sooo many high school friends on facebook and just corresponding with them bring back such great memorires!! Enjoy writing each month for us that look forward to your articles and that continued walk we are able to take down memory lane!!

    Linda Shipp Moon
    Kimball ’65

  • John Ruiz

    Interesting article Gayla, and thanks for addressing the subject of class reunions. I have been involved in organizing school reunions at two levels at Adamson HS, and am continually amazed by the number of excuses people toss out for not attending. I’m sure you’ve heard them all; too heavy, too far away, bad memories, divorce conflicts, and my favorite, “Isn’t it time we grew up and moved on from high school?”

    Our 10th Annual Adamson-All Class Reunion is scheduled for April 24th, and we’re hoping to have our largest attendance ever, since it may be the last year the building remains standing, if DISD has their way. Thanks for accepting our invitation to be our guest speaker at the reunion, and I look forward to meeting you in person soon.

    Best regards,

    John Ruiz
    Adamson HS class of ’67

  • Vivian Yates Skinner

    What’s Lower Kiest?

  • Mark Smythe

    Gayla, great article! Unlike my sister Susan, I have never missed a Sunset 68 reunion especially since I am a co-chairman of our 68 class committee. Great idea for an article and I am sure each Oak Cliff high school could supply you with names and stories for articles for months to come. Keep them coming. Mark Smythe

  • Frances George Phillips

    Gayla,

    Reunions are great fun, especially if you are on the committee. I coordinated the reunion committee for the SOC class of 1959’s 50th reunion last April. Our class has been fortunate to have had several reunions over the years. In fact, we’ve had one every 5 years since our 30th reunion. Our last 3 reunions have been at the Oak Cliff Country Club (now The Golf Club of Dallas), which has a long history with our class. Our graduation luncheon (back in May 1959) was held at the OCCC, and it’s the perfect size for our reunions which generally have about 175 attendees. The food is delicious and the staff is fantastic. There are still a lot of really great things about Oak Cliff.

    Thanks for reminding us that we Oak Cliffites who attended high school in the 50’s and 60’s were truly blessed.

    Frances Phillips

  • suanne

    A great column Gayla! I enjoyed the Reunion so much! It was terrific seeing and remembering old friends. A perfect place to have a Reunion too…what a view of downtown Dallas! 1964…a carefree time of good memories.

  • CrazyLon65

    Gayla you continue to capture a time for all of us when life was so much simpler. We all enjoy you taking the time to carry us back to then….please keep it coming!!! See you at the All Adamson Reunion in April…can’t wait to hear your talk. (P.S. I never made it to lower Kiest but heard those who did got a great view of the moon!)

  • Mary Newton Maxwell

    Love the Headline (a la Peaches and Herb) and love you for continuing to remind us of wonderful days gone by. I forfeited the last Kimball Reunion, fearing I was too old and gray. I won’t let that happen again. After calculating, I realized everyone else was old and gray (or sort of) as well. Mary Newton Maxwell, Kimball Class of ’65, or as I like to say, L.O. Donald Class of ’59.

  • Susan Smythe Hallmark

    Really enjoyed your article on class reunions. I’ve never been to one of mine, but do look at the website and see pictures of classmates. Some still are recognizable and some are not. It makes me really think back and remember the good times. Thanks, Gayla. Sunset ’65

  • Annette Harris Duncan

    Absolutely beautiful thoughts Gayla; and we enjoyed having you share our reunion so much! There is nothing quite like a reunion and if someone has never taken time to experience one, they should do it now. Hope your Christmas was blessed. (The snow reminded me of our Junior year when the “Kazooties” had a big blow-out at the Cabana [now a minimum security prison I believe]- the outdoor pictures from that party show a foot or so of snow! Hard to believe how much our weather has changed since then, but how nice to have snow again this year and think back to those times.)

    Love your column and hope you continue with it for many, many years.

  • Linda Wells Nelson

    Gayla,

    I love that you evoke all those memories for us. Do not stop, please!! I missed 25 years of reunions and now, after our 45th, I want to have one about every six months!

    Hope you had a good Christmas. I’m just glad to be through shopping and cooking.