Conversation most important at class reunions

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 26, 2002

A recent high school class reunion was a gentle reminder to me that friendships extend back to our earliest memories, even though the high school and grade school years seem eons away.

While entertainment at such events is fun, we’ve finally reached the age where conversation is most important. Not only did we talk about the significant moments, football games, the Tiger’s Roar, and the trip to Washington, D.C., but the insignificant/significant moments like the time a mouse spent a busy weekend in the art department chewing on the paper mach masks we had made in seventh-grade art class.

In the 1950s the junior high was on West Avenue and was connected to the high school. Students walked from all around town coming from all directions, and everyone had their favorite places to stop for a few moments to get warm on the coldest winter days. (Only the country kids came on buses, and on snow days when their buses didn’t run, the town kids were still expected to come to school. And we did.) For the girls from the south side of town, it (that warm place) was the entry to the Hotel Albert lobby. The clock on the courthouse tower let us know that we had just a couple of minutes to spare, but that was enough time to warm those cold legs.

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We almost always wore skirts to school, and tried matching our ankle socks or knee highs with our sweaters. Those colored socks, by the way, looked great with the popular &uot;white bucks.&uot;

We laughed, too, about today’s &uot;poodle skirt&uot; phenomenon. While we all fondly remembered our circle skirts with starched can-cans, none of us had a felt skirt with a poodle on it. Was that a west coast/east coast fad that hadn’t reached Minnesota yet, or is it a more recent figment of someone’s imagination?

We talked about the personalities of various adults who ruled our lives throughout the day &045; the junior high social studies teacher who had such a temper that it was rumored, &uot;When she gets mad enough, she will throw her chair across the room,&uot; and the history teacher who always embarrassed me by asking about current news items that I obviously had not read about. The 12th-grade English teacher that was so strict, and the Latin teacher who said that we would never forget that &uot;All of Gaul was divided into three parts.&uot; I also never forgot how to conjugate &uot;Amo, Amas, Amat-Amamas, Amatis, Amant,&uot; although I don’t remember how to spell the words.

We remembered walking to area churches on Wednesday mornings for religious instruction, and the minister who would not allow us to sing folk songs in the church basement. We didn’t think that we were breaking any rules, but he did.

Woolworth’s was a popular place to shop downtown. (That was before malls, at least in Albert Lea.) The &uot;dime store&uot; was the place to buy a bottle of Blue Waltz cologne, that first tube of lipstick, or goldfish for the fish bowl at home. An oft used part of the store was the dining counter. My favorite meal was the BLT &045; three slices of toast, crisp bacon, lettuce, tomato slices, and mayonnaise, quartered, toothpicked, and standing like little pyramids around a handful of potato chips. I can’t remember if the sandwich was 40 or 45 cents, but with a nickel coke, it made a terrific meal; and it only took two hours of baby-sitting to pay for it.

We talked about the high school journalism class. That was where I saw my first article in print, and I connected with the outside community through my position as one of the exchange co-editors of The AhLaHaSa. That class was where I learned how important it is to preserve our &uot;times&uot; through the newspapers and the school yearbook.

We reminisced about the first time we watched television and how snowy the picture was. Only a few years later, we were able to perform before local television audiences at Christmas time. When the Madrigal Singers shared holiday tunes (I’ll never forget how much fun it was to sing &uot;’Twas the Night Before Christmas.&uot;), we knew we were really good, and of course everyone told us we were. I remembered sucking on a lemon to clear my throat before a concert.

All of our conversations that evening were not happy ones. We paused to remember the significant number of class members who are no longer with us. It doesn’t seem fair. But we’re old enough to know there are just some things we cannot question.

I ended the evening with a Diet Coke &045; unheard of in the 1950s, your choices then were either Coke (as in Coca-Cola) or Cherry Coke.

Class reunions and memories and friendships &045; we can’t be as old as we are. I believe that, for most of us, emotionally we are caught somewhere in between those wonderful carefree times and the wrinkles in the mirror.

Bev Jackson is executive director of the Freeborn County Historical Museum.