Memories from the 40th Reunion, 1999:

40th Reunion
Thoughts Upon Returning From My 40th High School Reunion

What a great Reunion!  I think if we knew it would have been that much fun, we would have done it earlier - but then, I have always heard that Reunions become more fun every year, as folks are less into trying to impress others with their accomplishments, and more into relaxing and having fun.  I know I was!

So I departed for Houston Hobby on a special Y2K day:  the 99th day of the 99th year - which also happened to be the 126th birthday of my wonderful twin sisters - but more on them later —

The gatherings started that evening at Max’s 2001 , a club on Augusta in NE Houston owned and made available by one of our classmates, Rick McDowell.  Rick made sure we had name tags (essential) and two drink tickets (important) as we walked through the door.  And I was immediately swept up and overwhelmed by the two ‘stars’ of the Reunion, Maria Burke (Butler) and Pat Shannon (Needleman).  As one of our classmates said upon meeting them after 40 years, "you’re doing something with cryogenics, aren’t you?"  More beautiful than 40 years ago.

I also got to talk to some of my favorites, Barbara Breedlove and Kathleen Much, two from our very special 3rd period English with Miss Greenwood.  And Gene Clements!  Hadn’t seen Gene in forever!  I was sure, as our ‘erstwhile reporter’ from the Lamar Lancer, Gene would be into writing or journalism, but he is a lawyer with his own firm, practicing in Houston. [see 2001 update on Gene below]

My biggest Reunion shock came this first night:  I must have had four to six classmates all say something like, "Didn’t you have two gorgeous sisters?  Weren’t they twins?"  I couldn’t believe it:  my 40th reunion, and people want to talk about my sisters!  I heard this so many times, I finally tried to pin a couple of them down:  how do you know about my sisters?  After all, they were six years ahead of us!  [One answer, from Kathleen:  "Well, they went to Rice." (which she did also); a better answer, from John Pace, who apparently had a different name back then:  "Well, they were lifeguards at the pool, and when you’re a 14-year old boy and you see these gorgeous women in bathing suits, you are impressed!" - so Patti and Penny, although you are well into your 120’s now, know always that you haunt some pre-pubescent dreams forever.

Later I found Travis and Suzann Broesche.  I have always felt that Reunions are not a particularly welcome environment for spouses, but I need to recognize several of the spice at this one, and especially Suzann Broesche as a primary exception.  Suzann made my Reunion so much fun, and convinced me that she was having a great time herself.  From getting me out on the dance floor to jitterbug at Max’s 2001, to the high five after they mentioned my name during Saturday’s festivities, to being such a fantastic hostess and friend for Miss Greenwood’s English Class — Suzann was something special.

Saturday I had time to check out my old neighborhood.  I went to the Village, which Angel had reminded me of the night before, and found indeed that almost all of it had changed except the location.  I had a wonderful breakfast at Le Peep’s there, then wandered around.  I drove down to our old house at 2307 Gramercy, and found it much as Pete had described from his venture back to Houston for Lamar's birthday celebration.  I did not ask to go in, although I saw the owner working in the garage, but I can add the following to Pete’s description of shrinkage:  I know that front lawn of Bermuda grass was at least twice as deep and long when I had to mow it back in the 50’s.

I also took advantage of this time to call Annita Fite (Schwartz), as Patti had provided me with her phone number.  We were not able to get together in person, with both of our events going on, but we had a nice long talk by phone.  Annita was thinking John Pace must have remembered Patti, as Annita and Penny were lifeguards at another pool which was not so frequented by Lamar kids.

Saturday night was to be the big doings -  and as I was starting to get dressed, I got a call from Puff saying she had to go meet Susan Ellis at her hotel.  Later, I heard all this commotion in the hall and next door, and finally the phone rang again, and said "Susan's having a party in her room, 326 - come on over!"  Since I was in 324, I went over and banged on the door - three times before I could get anyone's attention.  Susan was indeed having a party, with Sukey Fenoglio (Voskamp), Nancy Culbertson and Joe Delorenzo, Barbara Breedlove, Harriet Hopkins, Lou Parks, Carol, Anne Watts, Judy Davenport, ... on and on.  Barbara couldn't figure out why all the men had gray hair, but that she and Sukey were the only women with gray hair.  Susan explained it to her:  "I wasn't going to be the only one with gray hair!"

Unfortunately, my room was on the wrong wall, so we couldn't open an adjoining door to gain breathing room, and eventually we gave up and went to the Reception and Buffet dinner downstairs at the Houstonian Hotel, main ballroom.   Again we were registered and given the inevitable name tags sporting our picture from the Orenda Yearbook (I noticed that at least my picture had not changed from the 20th Reunion).  Then, going into the anteroom for the ballroom, I had my first shock:  There was my picture, staring up at me from the table!  Maria Burke had brought her scrapbook and laid it out to cover the entry table, and there on the corner, first thing I saw, was the article Anne Watts had done on me about my appointment to the Naval Academy - exactly 40 years ago.

The ballroom was full of classmates and spice, and I wandered around, talking to several.  Tony Ullrich had to call out to me, as again I did not recognize him in full beard - the same thing had happened to me at the 20th.  Wendell Mendell arrived wearing his conversation piece:  a team shirt from the ‘Life on Mars’ group - Wendell has been employed as a Planetary Scientist with NASA Johnson Space Center ever since he received his Ph.D. back in 1968 or so.  Wendell started telling Mike McCants stories (about how Mr. Gentry would allow/"not notice" Mike and Steve McCleary play chess in the back of physics class, right up until that day Mike suddenly jumped up in the middle of one of Mr. Gentry’s lectures, yelling "I GOT YOU!  I GOT YOU!") -- and who should walk up but Mike McCants! [now working as a programmer in Austin for Polycom, Inc., with multi-video conferencing equipment].   Mike could not deny the story, and I was reminded of one of my favorite high school memories, of Mike walking up to the front of the class with his new slide rule strapped to his belt in a leather case , and Travis starts singing from the back of the room, "Don't take your guns to town, son!"

The program started about then, and my back and I decided we needed to sit down.  When Lynn Zarr reviewed the environment from back in 1959, he went over our class officers, and then came my second shock, when he announced my name as President of the National Honor Society.  I was sitting near Travis and Suzann, and Suzann gave me a high-five, even though I reminded her that her husband had marked up my Yearbook, drawing in his own picture on the National Honor Society page as "President Emeritus."  [no one remembers the Fall officers ...]

After Lynn’s humorous reminders about how life has changed in 40 years ("We used to go into the drugstore to buy a pack of cigarettes, and whisper to the pharmacist to get some condoms;  now kids go into the drugstore to get condoms, and whisper to get a pack of cigarettes."), Barbara Hoffman (Johnson), our classmate who sings with the Houston Grand Opera, and has actually sung at Carnegie Hall with Placido Domingo, filled the room with her magnificent voice with the song she did at our graduation 40 years ago, "We’ll Have These Moments To Remember" -  breathtaking.

It was so good, it intimidated our Kingston Trio collection of Larry Hitt, Jere Wicker, and Pat Haragan, accompanied by Tony Ullrich on guitar, to do their "Tom Dooley" number.  Page 24, lower left, of our Orenda, will have to wait another five years to be resurrected.

After the program, two meetings particularly touched me.  Carol Compton (Fritchie) came up and sat down with me, and said she had to tell me, that she had such respect for me when she knew me at Lamar, that she had decided to name her first born Mike.  Wow!  That really got to me, and both Helen and I were in tears when I related the story to her.  [Carol worked for awhile with Patti in Dallas; she is now widowed, and is the Assistant Vice President for Compliance, for Southwestern Life Insurance.  Carol also has twin daughters, and named them …. no, she named them Jamie and Julie!]

My other meeting was with Tony Ullrich.  Tony and I go back to Roberts Elementary (he arrived in 3rd grade, me in 5th), where we used to walk home from school together, as Tony lived on Dorrington, the next street over from Gramercy.  Tony told me how much it meant to him that I came to this reunion.  [see Tony's web site; store open as of 3-15-2001]

I had e-mailed to Travis and Puff (Carol Illig Lake) prior to my arrival the suggestion to try to get together our famous (for three years) 3rd  Period Major Works English with Miss Greenwood Class.  Actually, Miss Greenwood had died about five years earlier, and only Puff had attended her service in Navasota, TX, where she moved after her long life in Nagodoches.  My thoughts were that we could all meet for brunch at the hotel or some restaurant, but the hotel didn’t offer brunch, and besides, Travis had house guests and Carol had a headache.  But they came through!  Travis’ house guests (classmate Vann Phillips, also on the Reunion Committee, and wife Beth) really got into it, and Travis arrived at the Saturday night Reception with "Coffee and Conversation" invitation slips for Carol and I to distribute - we couldn't really remember who was, and who wasn't, in 3rd Period English, but it didn't really matter.

Our English Class Reunion was a real highlight.  I have attended my last three Naval Academy Reunions (35th, 30th, 25th — Helen went to her first and only for the 25th), and I  have come to realize that you were really closest to your classmates in your own Company - the ones you lived with, ate with, played sports with, attended classes with - and thus we have moved away from at least one of the ‘mass gaggle’ events and made sure we have one dinner with just the 20 or so from our own Company. A similar chemistry was found in 3rd period English with Miss Greenwood.

So we made it work - several folks showed up, several did not, but it was a fun gathering.  Harriet Hopkins, Kathleen Much, Arlen Ferguson, Lou Parks, Bill Conner, Wendell Mendell, Carol, Anne Watts, and of course our four wonderful hosts. Vann and Beth and Suzann had prepared such a sumptuous meal, well beyond my expectations of ‘Coffee and Conversation,’ beyond what any restaurant could have offered us.   And Miss Greenwood would have given us all an ‘A’  …. Of course, we think Miss Greenwood always gave all of us an A ... even though Travis remembers at the end of the year, she would wring her hands, and exclaim, "Oh, you have all tricked me again - here it is the end of the year, and we haven’t done anything!"

For next English Class brunch, Travis promises his long delayed review of "The Spoonriver Anthology."

You know Puff would have hosted the brunch, but she just bought this new coffee maker, and she really doesn’t know how to operate it …

All in all, a wonderful Reunion.  My advice to you all:  when you get the chance to go back for 40th (or greater), just do it!  You’ll be glad you did!

    The 40th Reunion Committee, made up of many of the individuals called out in my write-up above, hired Taylor Reunion Services (a division of Taylor Publishing out of Dallas) to help plan and organize our 40th.  This was most beneficial to all, as Taylor also worked at tracking down some of our 'missing' classmates, and published the Reunion Directory.

    At the 40th Reunion, as at the 20th Reunion, we were presented with a directory of information on our classmates.  The big difference:  many of us now have e-mails.  Even though the form provided by Taylor Publishing did not specifically indicate that they would publish e-mail addresses, they did.

    Not all the information was known at the time of the April 1999 Reunion, and in some instances, errors were printed in the directory.  This site will publish errata information as it becomes known to the Webmaster. 

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Last Updated 31 May 2004