THE CLASS OF 1969 – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Going to a 50th High School Reunion can be an exciting prospect – if it’s yours. I recently went to my husband, Tom’s 50th Reunion in Schenectady, New York, and, to be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to it. I’m shy in big groups and pictured myself following Tom around and having nothing to say to a room full of strangers.

Tom’s ID badge with his senior photo

I was pleasantly surprised. We met three of Tom’s high school friends and their spouses at a local tavern before the official opening cocktail party. Everyone was delightful and friendly and we had a great time. Tom’s high school best friend, Stewie was there with his wife, Mar-C. In preparing for the reunion, Tom and Stewie discovered that they had been living an hour away from each other in Connecticut for over thirty years! We got together a few weeks before the reunion so I already knew two other people. And Mar-C and I had compared notes on what to wear to each of the reunion events so my comfort level was pretty good by the time we arrived in Schenectady.

Tom and me with Stewie and Mar-c

After our private dinner, we headed over to the party and mingled with the 130 members of the Linton High Class of 1969 who showed up. Everyone was easy going and so nice. I realized from attending 20th and 40th reunions of my own, that as we all get older, the whole high school dynamic changes. You don’t have the cliques anymore or the high school rivalries. People are no longer trying to impress everyone with their job or professional accomplishments, or, as time went on, the jobs and professional accomplishments of their children.

The main topic of conversation was – are you retired yet? If so, good for you and what are you doing to have fun? Most of us had reached the stage of life when we can wake up whenever we feel like it and spend the day doing whatever we feel like doing. Everyone I talked to seemed genuinely happy and fulfilled. No competition any more. Just stories of hobbies and grandchildren. Some people still did projects for work but on their own terms and schedules. Some people were traveling and having a ball exploring the world.

Class of 1969 yearbook and 50th reunion yearbook update

At the dinner the second night, there were fun games with prizes for the winners. Who’s been married the longest? 50 years! Who has the most kids? Six. Who’s kids are the oldest? 50! And the youngest? 23. I was thrilled that Tom tied for the coolest job – he was a CBS network news director and audio engineer and the other guy was a documentary filmmaker.

Tom was well known at his high school. He ran for student council every year against the guy who always won. So Tom’s campaign speeches were more of a stand-up comedy act, the comic relief. They were apparently greatly enjoyed and appreciated by the other students, so lots of people came up to Tom with big hugs and cheerful greetings. I was very proud of Tom, especially when he got up to introduce the three videos he created for the reunion. These were the centerpieces of the dinner presentations.

By the time we left, I knew lots of people by name and we had promised to get together again with the ones who live a reasonable car ride away. I really felt like I made new friends and Tom got to renew friendships from long ago.

Tom and Stewie

We left the reunion happy and wired – until our car died before we even got out of Schenectady. Luckily we broke down right at a service station on the NY State Thruway so it only took AAA a half hour to get a tow truck to us. We rode the 2 ½ hours home in the back of a truck with zero suspension. It felt like we were driving over cobblestones for the entire ride. We got home at 3 AM but even this unpleasant finale didn’t dampen our positive feelings about the weekend we spent in a time capsule. We captured time in a bottle and loved every minute of it!

Tom and me at the dinner

12 thoughts on “THE CLASS OF 1969 – BY ELLIN CURLEY”

  1. It’s been a while, but my 50th reunion was a true highlight of that year. With cocktail party at a classmate’s home, and dinner at a nearby golf club, it was great fun to see and reconnect with some people who had been best friends so long ago. I still see one or two of them, but live far enough away that daily contact is pretty limited. I’m glad you had such a good experience!

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    1. Reconnecting with high school friends didn’t seem that appealing yeras ago, but somehow now it is the most natural and fulfilling thing to do. I loved Tom’s high school bestie and loved the fact that he knew Tom when he was growing up and becoming the man I love so much now.

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  2. I suppose this is one of the problems of attending a really huge highschool. My graduating class was 835 people and I was somewhere in the upper third. We barely knew most of our class. We didn’t have a senior prom. No football or basketball team. Swimming team and chorus, but that was it. So it wasn’t at all like going to a normal school. I doubt I’d have known ANY of the people there.

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    1. Marilyn – your xperience is the opposite of mine. I was in a small private high school and my whole graduating class was under 120. I had been with half of the group for six years and the other half for twelve. So everyone knew everyone, even if you weren’t good friends. So reunions were fun.

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  3. We had, by these standards, an amazingly small (30 kids) class, and most of us had known one another since first grade. Small towns will do that to ya. I went to the 20th and was interested to see how the cliques sorted themselves out immediately, and the folks ‘from away’ spent most of the time impressing everyone with their accomplishments. I got the cold shoulder from our biology teacher, who had never forgiven me for ‘stealing’ my husband away from him. Said husband was and still is unbelieving that the man was gay…
    I passed on the 50th, and when I was pressured into going (and I do NOT respond well to coy pressuring) told the woman most of the class ignored me when I was there, and at this late date I doubt if most of them care or remember. End of discussion. I suspect four people showed up.
    Surprisingly, all but three of the class are still alive, and doing well. Good living, or sheer luck, who knows.

    It’s nice to hear that someone did have a good reunion, sometimes they fall so flat they leave holes in the floor…=)

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    1. Our reunions have always been pretty small too. Out of 120 graduating seniors, maybe 12-15 would show up when I went. I think the 50th garnered at least 20. But many people have moved away and didn’t want to travel to get to such a small and informal gathering. Our reunion was grouped with other reunions so it wasn’t all about our class.

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    1. Getting to reconnect with classmates is what it’s all about – whether at the formal gathering or on your own. So you got the benefit of the reunion without having to go to the actual event.

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    1. Leslie – That’s awesome that you get together with your high school classmates every year! I would love to do that but we have scattered to all parts of the country, and even abroad. I’ve been in touch with many out oft owners through Facebook, which is limited but better than nothing.

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      1. Ellin, I have a friend who is a professor at Webster University in St. Louis, M. another from Portland Oregon, and my old room mate lives in Cleveland Ohio. Several others live in Northern Ontario and they drive down. I seem to be the central point so they all congregate here. It’s an annual event we all look forward to.
        Leslie

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