Last week at this time I was at my 40th High School Class Reunion. What may be surprising about this fact is the limited attention I have given to reunions in general. I would like to get to the annual Slagenweit Reunion each Labour Day in Martinsburg. But I'm a teacher. In Manitoba. There is no way I can be in Pennsylvania at that time of year. I have attended one or two college reunions, and I felt closer to my classmates in college than in High School.
Certainly I had never gone back to see my High School mates. I went to Annville-Cleona Area High School for only one year: grade 12. (That school has been torn down, but this link shows what is there now.) I have lived most of the time since then far away from Lebanon County. I have not stayed in touch with any of my classmates.
Although I have been curious about former friends, even if only friends for a year, I probably would not have gone back this year either; but ... A group of bicycle riders from 1976 decided to have a reunion (okay: it should have been last year for 30, but we made it for 31). Some 33 of us had ridden our bicycles from Kansas to California at about this time of year, led by a group called "Out-Spokin" (then a Mennonite ministry from Elkhart, Indiana) and riding to the Brethren in Christ General Conference, held that year at Azusa, California.
So we had a bicycle reunion on Friday night in Pennsylvania, and a High School reunion the next night at the Timbers in Mt. Gretna. So Lois and I flew to Toronto, rented a car, and drove to Pennsylvania. (On the way we learned that Lois' mother faced emergency surgery, but that is another story.) And we reunioned.
I enjoyed it. I knew hardly anyone there, but that was no surprise. The bigger surprise was that I knew anyone. Certain people (such as the two Harolds) I would like to have seen were not there; but I didn't really expect them to be. And everyone was friendly. They were dressed up a bit more than I was: I really have taken to the informality of the prairies! But they were generally people I could enjoy being with. They looked older, but not older than I expected. There were memories, but not so many thrown out as you might expect. Mostly a realization that this group is part of who I am. I noticed also how little such things as who was popular mattered in a reunion: what matters more is who comes.
One memory stands out. Joan McCulloh was our English teacher, perhaps the only teacher whose name I remember. I remembered her as strict, demanding, and good. I said something about her, and a classmate said, "You remember here because she is probably the best teacher you ever had." Well, I've had a lot of teachers, and I may have been more teachable later in life for some of those others. But I know what he was saying. The ability to construct sentences, to make sense with words, to think with some semblance of clarity: these were gifts from "Flint" McCulloh.
There was a silent auction. Maybe other teachers donated something to the auction as well; I doubt it. But Miss McCulloh did. A quite remarkable connection, a bond that 40 years later jumps out so that the casual observer sees that this teacher and these students belonged together. For one evening 40 or 50 of us belonged together again. Five years from now, some of us will again.