High school reunions are hard. Difficult to attend; difficult to organize. I just did both over the past year and a half, culminating in the event itself, in early October.
This was the 50th reunion of Oakland High School’s Class of ’62, which once numbered some 700 members.
The reunion took place at the the Marriott in nearby Walnut Creek, chosen in part because, when the committee first met in the summer of 2011, there was no such thing as Occupy Walnut Creek.
I was part of the reunion committee because, ‘way back a half a century ago, my classmates elected me “permanent class president,” an office I didn’t know anything about. The fact that my main responsibility, along with a permanent VP, secretary and treasurer, was to organize reunions came as a rude shock.
Anyway, about ten of us began meeting and figuring out when and where to have the reunion. I made the wisest executive decision early on, tapping Helen Pulver Rosenberg to be the actual reunion Chair. A couple of other members began searching for classmates. It helped that we had some funds left over from our 1992 reunion, along with a class directory (pre-e-mails). We began negotiating with hotels, hiring a DJ, accumulating memorabilia, working on the program, and planning several pre-reunion events. It was like organizing a big wedding, without a clue, early on, about who might show up, and pay $100 to get in. Scarey..
So, how did it turn out? Here is an excerpt from the “memory book” that’s about to go out to class members, summarizing the event:
There were almost 200 classmates and 100 guests; another 50 or so classmates joined in for pre-reunion events: the Friday tour of Oakland High, lunch at Fentons, and a mixer at Scott’s Grill & Bar. Every event was filled up or sold out. We couldn’t get enough of each other, after all these years.
At the Marriott, reunion chair Helen Pulver Rosenberg greeted everyone, including two of our teachers, Miles Myers and Ronald Miller, who drew a standing ovation. Co-chair Judi Johnston Tandowsky told how the reunion committee began, in mid-2011, with 40 known addresses and built from there, to a full house in the California Ballroom.
Permanent class president Ben Fong-Torres said the reunion could be called “50 Shades of Grey and White.” In 1982, he said, “the musical theme of our reunion was ‘For the Good Times.’ In ’92, it was ‘Moon River.’ Now, it’s ‘Try to Remember.’”
He saluted Rufus (Terry) Miller, who sang with Tower of Power, and brought on James “Big Daddy” Porter, our all-city wrestler. He looked out into the ballroom and said, “Some of you guys could wrestle me now, ‘cause I can see you’ve moved up to the heavyweight division!”
We greeted Lindy Corneille, in from Ontario; Pat Beckstrom Rey from Madrid; Warren Sapir, from Victoria, Australia. With an invocation from Janet Stromberg Rector, we paid respects to the more than 100 classmates who have passed away. We applauded the 2007 wedding of Gerry Anglim and Peggy Stark. Sometimes, love is lovelier, the second time around.
We mixed and mingled, greeting old friends and making new ones. We danced to songs that sounded bracingly familiar, comforting, and fun. And we lingered past the closing hour, flowing into the foyer, and, reluctantly, into the night. And the next morning, those of us who stayed at the Marriott met once more, to visit over breakfast before finally, finally saying farewell. Until we meet again.
That’s how it went. I should note that some of us also hung out in the hotel bar well past last call, dissecting the event. Helen Rosenberg and Judi Tandowsky were champs, both in organizing the reunion and dealing with assorted craziness, whether it was the guy who showed up at Judi’s home to hand deliver his payment – even though he wasn’t in our class, or the inevitable uninvited guests who thought they could just drop by.
Bottom line: It was a total success. But we don’t want to trumpet that fact too loudly. None of us is anxious to do it again. One wedding is enough—especially at our age. (Do the math.)
Still, we’re glad we did it. From comments at the event, by old-fashioned letters or e-mails, or posted on our reunion Web site, it’s clear that, despite the natural fear that comes with attending such an event, and seeing people you can’t recognize any more, and making small talk about your lives, our Class of ’62 had a ball. A senior ball, to be sure, but a great time, nonetheless.
Throughout the Marriott, and at the other sites over the weekend, it was clear that friendships born in classrooms and hallways; in clubs and at school events, had endured. And always will. Even without reunions.