Monday, May 16, 2005

High School Reunions

I graduated from high school in 1970, yes, thirty-five years ago June 2nd. Today, I received an invitation to the 35th reunion. It was addressed to my parents address here in Virginia Beach and to my maiden name. How they found me I don't know. Since high school I have lived in five states, nine towns or cities and had twelve different addresses. I read some of the names of classmates they are trying to find. One was the valedictorian of our class. I also recognized the name of one of the "reunion committee" members. I believe she was the thin, tall, blonde who tried year after year to make the cheerleading squad. Finally, our senior year she made it. Most of the names I don't recognize or remember. I didn't really have many "school" friends there, most were friends from church that went to our small town high school. Actually, I was a total fish-out-of-water at school, but to explain this I must digress.

We lived in Gary, Indiana for five years. I was almost ten when we moved there and in fifth grade. I had just finished ninth grade when we left and I was thirteen (to be fourteen in January). In Indiana the Junior High School consisted of the 7th and 8th grades. They offered accelerated classes in foreign language and math. We did Algebra I in 8th grade as well as French I. This required some summer school sessions there too.

Then we moved to the "High School" for 9th through 12th grade. We were freshmen, low people on the rung of high school life, peons. In 9th grade our group from Jr. High took French II and Algebra II. Everyone in Indiana took Biology in 9th grade. I remember two friends in Indiana. One was Nada Kostich. She was a brilliant mind. She had escaped with her parents and I believe her grandmother as well, from Yugoslavia during the time of the Soviet occupation. She always brought sandwiches with a dense bread that her grandmother made, spread with cream cheese and a thin slice of roast beef. The other friend was Marshall Bundren. I can't remember his face exactly but he was taller than both Nada and I. We stuck together at school, ate lunch together, were in the same classes, made the National Junior Honor Society together, went to summer school together after 9th grade to finish up Algebra II; but, we lived in different parts of the area and never saw each other outside of school. Then my dad took a church in New Brighton, Pennsylvania and we left Indiana.

Comparing New Brighton, Pennsylvania (about 50 miles northwest of Pittsburgh) with Gary, Indiana....well, there really are no similarities only contrasts. Gary was a city, New Brighton a small western Pennsylvania town; Gary was flat, New Brighton very hilly; Gary was big, New Brighton was small. In fact, the only claim to fame the town had was that Joe Namath's mother lived there. His parents apparently were divorced and he lived with his dad across the river in Beaver Falls, PA.

The differences only began with the town, and became greater when I went to New Brighton High. In Pennsylvania, the junior high was called Middle School and encompassed the 7th through the 9th grades. The high school was just 10th through 12th. So, I had already spent a year as the lowest of the low as a freshman in Indiana and now I had to turn around and repeat the same as a sophomore in New Brighton. I was also the youngest in my class; this was not that traumatic to me as it had always been that way since first grade, but it was immensely fascinating to the other students.

The biggest contrast with Indiana and the one which cemented my "fish-out-of-water" feelings were my classes. In Pennsylvania, the sophomores took Algebra II, Foreign Language II and Biology. I had already had these. The only classes I had in common were English and History. So the school put me in Chemistry and Geometry with the juniors. This only exaggerated the difference in our ages...I was still 13 and most of them were 15 or 16. I didn't really belong to either class. In fact, when I was a junior and they were seniors, I had more classes with the senior class than my junior class.

Then they graduated, and left me behind. I had to complete a senior year; take the only remaining math course the school had, retake Physics (one was called PSSC Physics and the other was less theory, less difficult) and finish up English. Suddenly, I had to take all my classes with my class. I barely knew my class. John G. Klepic III had gone to Yale and left me there. They had all gone and left me with strangers. Yes, I knew the kids from my church who were in my class at school but that seemed separate. We didn't have a cafeteria so everyone who did not ride the bus had to go home for lunch. Maybe that's one reason I didn't get to know the other students very well. I didn't go to dances and other than football, sports wasn't that big there and with the church functions there wasn't a lot of time for clubs at school.

My best friend in high school was Sandy Greathouse; at least for part of high school she was my best friend. It was a complicated friendship. It was a complicated time. Ours was a complicated story best left for another post. This was New Brighton; a small western Pennsylvania town where "six degrees of separation" was probably two degrees too many in most cases and where everyone knew everyone else's business.

Will I go to the reunion? Probably not. I didn't go to the 10th, 20th, 25th, or 30th; in fact, I don't think I even got a notification of any except the 25th. I do wonder about some of the people from both New Brighton and Gary. I did a people search the other day for Nada and Marshall. There is one Nada listed in Florida, but I don't know if it is the same person as the last name is the same. I would have thought she would have married. I wonder if she became a doctor or, heaven forbid, a lawyer. I don't have the nerve to actually call. I also found a Marshall Bundren, still in northern Indiana. He is in charge of a ministry to seamen, presumably those working the great lakes. Somehow, this doesn't surprise me.

I know a little about where some of the kids in our church youth group in New Brighton ended up but not about any of the class members who were not in our church. I was curious about John G. Klepic III who was in the class of 1969 as I had an immense crush all through school. My search yielded only one, in eastern Pennsylvania, living less than a mile from the QVC headquarters. Isn't it a small world? A few years ago we toured QVC as we passed through that area...possibly just a mile from this same John.

No, reunions are not really my thing.

No comments: