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Friends, strangers all part of reuniting

By Dennis Minich

I have never really been big on class reunions. In many ways, the idea seems kind of silly: get together with a bunch of people you just happened to have gone to school with because you lived in the same area at the same time. When you boil it all down, most of the people I really care about, I still know and hang out with, which in my case is about four people. I am not sure that is a really good percentage considering there were 692 in my graduating class.

Five years ago, was our 40th anniversary and I could not attend and when the invitation came for the 45th I didn’t give it a lot of thought. But one of my friends, with whom I do keep in touch, called and wanted me to go with him. Since it was a pretty informal deal with no reservations or fancy meals, just hanging out in a watering hole, I thought, why not? So, Saturday night I headed back home to revisit the Shawnee Mission West graduating class of 1974.

As cliché as the comment sounds, my first reaction is where did all these old people come from? I recognized about two people as soon as we walked in the door, but then I saw a bunch of faces that could have been any group of 60-somethings because they didn’t look like anyone I know. Just like high school, my buddy and I hunkered down in a corner and were content to watch all the popular people mingle. But a few came our way and then I got brave and decided to walk around and there were some very interesting moments in the evening. I walked up to one guy and saw his name tag and his high school picture and I had no idea who in the world he was. Ironically, at the same moment he did the same. We just kind of stared at each other, acknowledged we didn’t have a clue about one another and moved on.

There was one old friend that I will admit was one of the reasons I agreed to go. We met on the first day of high school when he had just moved to the area and knew no one. We became friends. I have kept up with him on social media and I have marveled at his travels. He has spent more than 30 years as a missionary in Colombia. He now works with a group which is coming up with a Spanish Bible translation to help make it more readable in the Latin American deaf communities. When I hear stories like that, I feel very humbled, but honored to know such a good man.

As the evening wore on, our little circle of friends grew some as we joined more old classmates in conversation. The one thing that is always obvious at all class reunions is who were the cool kids. The jocks, the cheerleaders, etc. were obviously in the center of the room, obviously still the center of attention and obviously all still close with one another. I never had the jock group. As I have often said, I learned early my athletic skills were well suited to becoming a writer. But, a funny thing happened toward the end of the night. A couple guys with whom I had played junior high football and I got to talking about our football heroics. All three of us had shared the common trait of being cut to the lowest level teams possible. At the time, we denied it was a talent thing, just politics.

Now, all these years later, we can admit it was a talent thing: none of us had any. As we talked, a couple more guys who were on our team sidled up. Then a couple more and before you knew it, we had about 10 members of the mighty Broadmoor Junior High Colts sharing memories and exploits of our gridiron days. Some said they still had pictures. I said somewhere I still have reviews of the games; even then I was writing. When we got to talking and remembering old teammates and games, there was suddenly some renewed friendships I never would have imagined. For about 10 minutes out of my lifetime, I got to hang out with my jock friends.

I will admit the evening was pleasant. It was really nice to see a few of the people. It was also entertaining to note a few folks who by their dress and conversation were obviously still as pompous as they had been many years before. I guess that is what makes a reunion entertaining: getting to see the good, the bad and who lost their hair. A few of us agreed to see each other in five years. All things considered that’s a pretty good goal.

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2 replies »

  1. Very nice journalistic entry to the 1974 SM West Reunion! My experience was just this … I wish I had spent more time with my high school classmates verses so many hours in the pool swimming AAU club swim team. I would have had more time with these very sweet and kind classmates! This is why I raised my children to spend more time in school activities which they have been ever grateful! Also.. I learned it’s never too late to rekindle or become more acquainted to these wonderful classmates!
    Cheers to our coming 50th!

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  2. I certainly hope that I wasn’t one of the pompous ones, I never considered myself a popular kid even though a lot of people knew me, I always assumed it was because of my exploits and crazy nature. I felt the tug of old friends and the wish to reacquaint myself with others that I either didn’t know or only knew in passing. My heart soared with anticipation and excitement to seeing many of my classmates and sorrow for the ones that either couldn’t come or were lost. In all I was very glad that I attended the reunion and look forward to the next one but also sadly knowing that I may never see some of them again.

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