Reunion of Reunions
Overseas BRATs (Bringing Rotated Americans Together) serves as an umbrella organization for more than 240 alumni groups representing more than 178 schools located in 56 countries around the world.
Their Homecoming ’99 in San Antonio, Texas, was a reunion for all Americans who attended school overseas. In conjunction with Homecoming, those who went to various schools in Belgium, England, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Iceland, Iran, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, The Philippines, Portugal, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey and Vietnam staged their reunions. In all, approximately 165 countries, from throughout the world, were represented.
A portion of the proceeds from “Homecoming ’99” will be donated to the American Overseas Schools Historical Society to help create a historical park containing a museum, visitor’s center, and archive to showcase the American overseas schools heritage.
The Reunion BRAT, a military reunion coordination service, was General Manager of the Event; 509-582-9304; or e-mail BratEmail@aol.com.
Bands Sound Off
Cindy Coker (Trumpet ’79) reported about the planned reunion of the Huntsville, Alabama, Grissom High School Band from 1969-1985, “The Ward/Sparks Era.” They found 850 of 1000 members, former directors and Band Parents.
For souvenirs they’re compiling a collection of photos for a CD-ROM and digitizing video tapes of winning contest performances at marching contests as QuickTime videos and converting the best material from old concert recordings onto audio CDs. All proceeds beyond expenses will be donated to the current band program.
Linda Kalinowski reported that the Woodward High School Marching Band in Toledo, Ohio, will play for the 40th reunion of the class of 1960. Instead of a band or DJ, they will have a no-pay juke box with songs from the 50s. For an ice breaker they are renting a local bus for an informal tour of Toledo to see the many changes in the city. They will be picked up at a local Mexican restaurant for a two-hour informal tour with snacks.
A Class Under the Magnifying Glass
For 40 years, Parade Magazine has followed the Class of 1958 at CK McClatchy High School in Sacramento, California. In 1964, Parade revisited the class to survey early marriages. McClatchy grads were 23 and for the most part settled into careers and family life, with an average income of $6,000 per year. By their 20th reunion in 1978, they were approaching 40 and seeing many of their personal and initial career goals fulfilled. At their 30th reunion, members of the class seemed more sober and introspective as they contemplated the radical changes that had occurred in their lives. Divorce had ended 47% of the women’s and 25% of the men’s marriages, while 91% of the women had shed the role of full-time homemaker for careers including newspaper publisher and optician. As for overall happiness, on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being happiest) 88% of the men and 84% of the women rated themselves a 4 or 5. Parade revisited nearly half of the class at their 40th reunion, where they appeared to be graying happily. Now pushing 60, these children of the 50’s seemed eager to forgo any trappings of status and embraced each other like long-lost family members. According to a class survey, 28% of the respondents have retired from jobs as varied as air-show entertainer and social worker. As for relationships, 84% are married; 53% still in first marriages and 33% married 35 years or more. Twenty-six percent have been married twice, 7% three times or more and 3% stayed single. Two percent are great-grandparents. Thirty-five of the original 673 have died. Random interviews suggest that few members of the Class of ’58 are slowing down with the passing years.
Devotion to Jewett High School
by Phillip Williams
In the 1940s, one of the popular songs was Time Changes Everything. It was definitely not written with Jewett, Texas, in mind. For over fifty years, Jewett stood almost changeless. The outskirts have changed (new processing plants, metal reclaiming plants, cafes). But not the town. It is almost like it appeared from the beginning; little red, boxy, two-story brick structures joined in a primitive shopping center. You almost expect Wyatt Earp to come down the boardwalk with a six-shooter on each hip.
In the early forties Jewett was my hometown, my big city, my bright lights, my population center (200 souls), and I thought it would never change, just like the song.
In 1959 the unthinkable happened. They closed and razed Jewett High School. What an irreverent act! Now a flagpole and a plaque are all that recall the school. But the spirit of Jewett High lives on in its reunions. Former students return each October to where the school stood. They come from all over the US to remember and exchange stories of long ago.
This unusual reunion includes students from the classes of 1928 to 1959. Starting as a modest gathering of one class, it now encompasses thirty-one classes. In 1997, 165 persons attended.
Among the students who gather are veterans of the great war, world travelers, participants in the first A-bomb test, survivors of hurricanes and typhoons in the South Seas, car wrecks, tornadoes and diseases. Some did not survive. Others watched compatriots fall. Don’t forget the teachers, and their feats and accomplishments. They are a part of the reunion.
Students went on to be doctors, lawyers, mechanics, farmers, ranchers, school teachers and fighter pilots. They scattered all over the world, from the Far East to Europe, from the North Pole to South America.
And the breeze whispers through the cottonwoods where the boy hit the home run that won the game, and then it dies down again. The whispers die away, but one can swear he saw the children. He definitely heard them. They were real. Though Jewett High is now gone forever, the spirit lives on. The students who gather in October each year will not let it die. The history of it will live as long as time lives.
About the author
Phillip Williams lives and writes in Willis, Texas with several novels, many published short stories and essays to his credit. He’s a graduate of the Univerwtiy of Houston and is publicity director for the Montgomery County, Texas, Scribbler’s Club.
Daphne Moses, Houston, Texas, 10-year class reunion, The Academic High School, Jersey City, New Jersey. “My reunion was good because I was happy with where I was (in life). I wasn’t concerned with what others were doing. I just went and had a good time.”
US Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, 40-year class reunion, St. Mary’s of Notre Dame, Indiana. “I recently attended my 40th reunion and it was so refreshing. I caught up with old friends and played bridge until I couldn’t play cards anymore. The companionship brought back so many great memories. Reunions are important even if you don’t want to attend. Everyone should make the attempt to go because it is good for the soul.” The Congresswoman added, “Reunions are a time to reflect on times past and revisit and renew old friendships. The one thing I would tell graduating seniors is to remember your roots and the good friendships you made in school. They are the foundation on which you grow.”
Lynn Gray Norris, 50-year class reunion, McDonogh #35 High School, New Orleans, Louisiana. “We danced and had a good time. We had so much fun we want to do it every three years now.”
Classic Class Reunion
Among movies this year, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, was reviewed as good summer entertainment – coming just at the beginning of the reunion season. Stars and “ditz queens” Lisa Kudrow (Michele) and Mira Sorvino (Romy), are were “cooler than the nerds in high school but too dorky to be on the school’s ‘A’ list” and “mentally never left high school.” They fake success rather than finding jobs just before the reunion. Michele tries to pass herself off as the inventor of Post-it Notes. Described as charmingly eccentric they redeem their image when they discover that former ‘A’ listers are now losers.