Fifty Years Later

By Joe Rector

Amy attended her 50th high school graduation recently, and yes, I went with her. In the entire crowd, I might have known half a dozen people. That didn’t matter; my job was to be there, be nice, make small talk, and be supportive. It wasn’t a bad way to spend the weekend, and I think my wife had a good time, which was the most important thing. Those events are always filled with excitement, sadness, and surprise.

A group of classmates gathered at a restaurant on Friday night. It was the idea of one graduate who now lives in Arizona. The event was also an “all-girls” affair, so I returned to the hotel room and watched television and read until my dear wife called me to pick her up. The noise level from the group was surprising as I drove up to the front. Women’s voices sounded more like they did when those same females were in high school. Plenty of excitement made their voices shoot up octaves. In addition, they all talked at the same time so that nothing said could be understood.

The next morning, some of the folks shared brunch. This time, those who had attended Tennessee Tech Campus School gathered. The school was one that limited enrollment, although Amy never did know exactly what the criteria were. From the first grade through the sixth, these same children attended the school. Only one class was available for each grade.

As soon as folks gathered, the chatter started. They hugged and laughed as if they’d seen each other just the other day. That fact is astounding since the time between being a group has been more than 50 years. Many of the former elementary school students traveled from far away. One man, Monty, made his way to Cookeville from northern California. The girl who set up the Friday night affair lives in Arizona.

The closeness of and love between old friends was obvious. No one was left out. Colleen and Clark Childress made their home available for the get-together. She fed classmates and spouses with wonderful food, and she led the pre-brunch meeting. Classmates told some of their favorite memories from that little school, and oohs and aahs, along with laughs, filled the house. One story that everyone remembered occurred during nap time. A boy decided to put a metal object into an electrical outlet. Yes, the action led to a shocking outcome. Another person recalled a boy who fought ADHD. The teacher in one of their classes allowed the boy to go outside and run an obstacle course when he could no longer remain still.

Later in the evening, the Class of 1973 gathered at a venue owned by one classmate. I knew that Amy would be up and about most of the evening. She introduced me to several folks, most of whom I don’t remember. Luckily, I found four other males who were in the “spouse category.” One man was the son-in-law of my favorite English professor during my time at TTU. We men began to talk, and before long, jokes were shared, and we lamented that none of us were included in gifts, videos or door prizes. Our goal was to wait for our wives to finish having fun so that we could go back to the places where we stayed so that the rest of our evening could be devoted to television, drinks or books.

I admit that the weekend turned out well. Amy had a wonderful time reconnecting with people in her class. What was most special was the elementary school reunion. Students were so close that they seemed more like brothers and sisters than schoolmates. I know my 50th school reunion could in no way compare with Amy’s. Cookeville is a growing place, but for a weekend, it was frozen in time as the Class of ‘73 renewed friendships and felt more like young people than senior citizens. I was lucky to watch oldsters turn into children. It was magical.