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Claire Cook. Photo by Diane Dillon

Ultimate Reunion Playlist: Songs that take you right back to high school and the memories they trigger
by Claire Cook

Time Flies, my latest novel, is the story of two Boomer friends who take a road trip to their high school class reunion. Hands down, the most fun part of the stroll down memory lane, for my characters and for me, was the music. Crank up these old songs at your next reunion and it will all come back.

Stairway to Heaven/Led Zeppelin
You’re at a pajama party and decide to see how many times in a row you can listen to all eight minutes and two seconds of the long version. You doze off somewhere around number thirty, and when you wake up, one of your friends swears up and down she hadn’t missed a note and that “Stairway to Heaven” is now on its 387th spin on the turntable.

Born to Be Wild/Steppenwolf
The wildest thing you’ve done is yet to come, but this song makes you feel it. Work it. Own it. And by the time the instrumental part comes around, you really are nature’s child flying down the highway of your life.

When Will I Be Loved/Linda Rondstadt version
You sing this song to yourself in the mirror, in the key of high drama, making big Linda Ronstadt eyes while putting on your blue eye shadow. And your white frosted lipstick. 

Nights in White Satin/The Moody Blues
It's the last dance of the night and it's a slow one. He's looking at you. Yikes, here he comes.

A Whiter Shade of Pale/ Procol Harum
You’re not exactly sure what the words mean, but your friends seem to, and even if they don’t really, those lyrics are definitely H-E-A-V-Y. Plus it’s another slow one, so who really cares what they’re singing?

Brand New Key/Melanie
Your friends make fun of this song, but you secretly like it. And you’re pretty sure that once you manage to survive final exams, your life will finally be this upbeat and simple.

Some Kind of Wonderful/Grand Funk Railroad
The ultimate gratitude song, with an awesome beat to boot. It reminds you that you were some kind of wonderful back then. You still are. And so is this song.

These Boots Are Made For Walking/Nancy Sinatra
You’ve polished those white go-go boots to within an inch of their life, so he’d better treat you right if he knows what’s good for him. You’re tough and you’re not going to take it anymore. And even though you don’t actually have a boyfriend yet, when you hear this song, you’re ready to walk.

You Are So Beautiful/Joe Cocker
Well, maybe not. Especially after your best friend scorched your hair trying to iron it straight, the stress causing a major breakout that multiple coats of Clearasil somehow only manages to accentuate. But Joe Cocker’s raspy voice makes you feel like you could be beautiful one day.

Midnight at the Oasis/Maria Muldaur
You get the line about the romance in your head, but you’re not too sure what to make of the one about sending your camel to bed. Still, the idea of a big exotic world out there somewhere is intriguing.

You’ve Got a Friend/Carole King
This is the kind of friend you want to have. Want to be. And years later, so many years later than you can even imagine, you’ll realize that you do have friends like this and you can’t wait to see them at the reunion.

About the author
Claire Cook wrote her first novel in her minivan when she was 45. At 50, she walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of the adaptation of her second novel, Must Love Dogs, starring Diane Lane and John Cusack. She is now the bestselling and award-winning author of 10 novels, including Wallflower in Bloom and the latest, Time Flies. Visit ClaireCook.com.

Luau is class winner
by Francia Malone

The prospect of planning the Holmes Junior High School (Flint, Michigan, 1963-2003) reunion was a challenge I was up for. I contacted possible committee members to help and chose Cherished Memories as a theme since most of our best times were there. I wanted to stray from a traditional black tie affair and do something different, yet fun.

We decided to have a luau, and visited several locations to find Bubba's Roadside Inn with a tropical atmosphere perfect for a luau dinner. Then I learned about a luau cocktail cruise from 10:30 PM to midnight aboard the Genesee Belle Riverboat. Perfect after a luau dinner, a luau cocktail cruise. We wanted to include children of alumni in weekend activities and also planned a family skate - more fun than a traditional picnic.

For a laugh I bought a Holmes gym uniform we used to wear; I also visited the library for old yearbooks, but discovered they don't have junior high yearbooks. I went to Flint Community Schools Administration to obtain a history, mementos and yearbooks, and Craig Carter let me copy all the available history.

By the end of January calls were coming in from people who went to Holmes over 20, 30, 40 years ago! I was especially humbled by conversations with older alumni who attended Holmes in the 1960s during segregation. Sharon (Rice) Jurdon recalled the dismal day Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. She said, “They let students go home and it was very sad.”  Martin Gall said, “Some of my best times were at Holmes; I still have my school pledge card from 1963.”

For publicity, I contacted newspapers and cable stations, used word of mouth and welcomed help from the committee, family and friends. I registered at classmates.com and sent time is running out post cards. I contacted WDZZ 92.7FM and Jerald “Action” Jackson invited me to talk about reunion events on the air. I also used the old-fashioned approach and called everyone interested. Response was better than expected.

I purchased everything from leis and parasol umbrellas for beverages to Hawaiian music to set the luau mood. If people couldn't get to Hawaii anytime soon I wanted them to feel like they had just been there. I was very excited about the reunion and seeing old faces and reminiscing about old times.

Two weeks before the reunion I ordered t-shirts and confirmed reservations.

Four days before the reunion I picked up t-shirts and assembled registration packets with t-shirts, health information, pens, coupons and Genesee County calendar of events.

As each person arrived, they were greeted with a lei and an Aloha. We ate, laughed and took many pictures. One of the best moments was seeing our former principal, Mr. Miller, and my favorite teacher Ms. White.

As I anticipated, kids had more fun skating and laughing at some parents who hadn't been skating in years.

We celebrated a weekend full of fun to cherish for years. With a little imagination, creativity and commitment this was a class reunion that is sure to be talked about.

About the author
Francia Malone owns Francia's Home Care Service in Flint, Michigan. She says the Holmes Junior High Reunion has been her heart's desire for many years. In an autobiography, she reminisced about junior high experiences, life-long friends and the transition from girlhood to adolescence, and wanted to plan the reunion. She's also very involved in the Malone Family Reunion.

Super Bowl reunions
by Connie Auran

We are a group of fun-loving senior citizens who graduated from Rolla (ND) High School in the 1940s and '50s. We gather for three-day Super Bowl parties every year. We started in California, but continue in Fayetteville, Arkansas, because I (the hostess) moved. Some of us have been together since kindergarten.

The idea for a three-day Super Bowl party occurred to me when I became a widow and was still living in Southern California. I was married for 42 years, and after my husband's death I could not decide what I wanted to do when I grew up. I was afraid my friends would abandon me because I was single, so I entertained at the drop of a hat. It worked. Someone always owed me.

Rolla had a population of 1,000. Several high school friends were living in Arizona. I found another I had not seen for 25 years in San Diego. I called her. She mentioned a friend who was living in San Francisco. I started calling everyone and to my surprise not only were they all very enthusiastic about a party but everyone mentioned another name they thought I should call. I called people in Minnesota, Montana, Texas and, of course, North Dakota.

Where to draw the line suddenly became an issue. My class of 1949 had only 27 graduates so I knew we couldn't restrict it to just our class. I decided if you graduated from Rolla High School you could come to the party. I added Iowa, Florida, Washington and New Mexico. My invitation list started out with about fifteen couples. Much to my surprise 75% replied yes.

This started in 1996. I have had the party every year since and it keeps surprising me. I've received several letters and phone calls from Rolla graduates wanting to know what to do to get an invitation. We have had as many as 40, but numbers change because of our age; unfortunately we lose a couple of people every year. Most participants come back once they've attended one party.

We have a different theme each year. We've had a Mexican Hat Dance, Country Western, The French Connection, 1949 Rolla High School Prom (complete with the original menu and prom dresses), Mardi Gras, The Academy Awards, Arkansas Hillbillies, and New York, New York. Every year we have our own (over 60) Broadway Wannabees.

Everyone flies in on Friday, checks into their accommodations, and the party starts at my home that night with cocktails and dinner and homegrown talent or a high school pep rally. For Saturday, I prepare a list of local fun places and activities or they can just sleep in. Saturday night is the big night, combining professional and homegrown talent. We have had everything from comedian Anita Maltin from England to Jed Clampit (Mr. Arkansas).

Sunday finds everyone back here for brunch. Then it's game time and a chili supper. The guests usually fly out on Monday, but many come early and stay late. The group gets larger every year and younger people are coming. We plan to continue till we are too old or too pooped to party!

 


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