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.