by Dorinne Richardson
When Hobart (Indiana) High School Class of 1958 celebrated our 25th class reunion, it was apparent to the committee that classmates were beginning to lose interest. By the time of our 30th reunion, it was pretty obvious that, unless something was done to increase interest, our reunions would become a thing of the past.
Our class was always tightly knit and we prided ourselves on that fact, wrongly believing that time could never cause a rift in our bond. Death and divorce took their toll. Jobs, climate, health and the need for change caused people to move to all parts of the country and a few to other parts of the world. Lives do, after all, change. Those of us left behind in Hobart wondered what happened to that age-old promise to never lose touch with our classmates. At eighteen, it’s difficult to imagine things will not always be the same.
The Sunday morning breakfast after our 30th reunion was even more poorly attended. Someone offered the notion that we needed to communicate during the five years between reunions if we were going to get ourselves back on the road to real reunion. Ideas were tossed around and we finally decided to publish a semi-annual newsletter. A hat was passed to collect money for printing and mailing.
One classmate had pretty good computer skills, another had a fairly complete list of names and addresses and I had some writing ability. What was left was to gather information and write it to be interesting, informative and fun. I began taking notes that morning. Daily, I scoured local newspapers for items of interest and scanned obituary columns. I asked everyone I saw where they’d traveled, what they’d been doing, where they were working, what their children and grandchildren were up to, who’d retired, changed jobs or received accolades for prominence in their chosen field. And of primary importance, who had contact or addresses for “missing” classmates? I took notes on scrap paper, napkins, paper bags, gum wrappers, matchbook covers and the backs of my hands. No detail was too insignificant. It became a full-time job and I loved every minute of it. As word spread, classmates called in their news tidbits. They sent newspaper clippings from all over the country. I kept a file folder to store information for my first newsletter.
Six months later, our first class newsletter appeared. It was a smashing success! Following the newsy part, I listed classmates for whom we had no current addresses.
I got many calls and notes thanking me and offering information. People love seeing their names in print and reading about others they know or used to know. I also received many donations to help with future mailings. They were small at first, $5 here, $10 there. But as time passed and the newsletter became more popular, donations poured in. It was not uncommon to open a letter and find a check for $20, $50 or even $100. Recently I received a check for $300. The newsletter is self-perpetuating and sustaining.
Attendance at our 35th reunion was up considerably. At our 40th, a time when many classes find their reunions growing smaller, ours was growing. We located classmates who had not been heard from in years, who–because of the semi-annual newsletter–found themselves back in the fold and anxious to reunite with people they’d not seen, some since we graduated in 1958.
Communication is not a difficult task, just one many people don’t take time for. All it takes is imagination and determination. Whether you are planning a family, class or military reunion, you can do it, and the preparation can be as much fun as the event. Try your hand at it. You’ll find communication is the backbone to piquing interest in all get-togethers.
Now the Hobart High School Class of 1958 is looking forward to our 45th reunion. We are expecting a big group brought together by a modest two-pages printed in essay form that has grown to six pages in a three-column format.
About the author
Dorinne Richardson is a wife, mother and grandmother living in Hobart, Indiana. She is a freelance writer with articles published in many magazines, including Lutheran Women, Bereavement and Once Upon a Time. She publishes a semi-annual newsletter for her high school class of 1958 and has been actively involved in planning class reunions.