Sunday, July 19, 2009
Beaver Dam, WI
I graduated from Beaver Dam Senior High School in 1969... just a month or so before the first moon landing. That was 40 years ago. It seems trite to say it, but it just doesn't seem that long.
We were probably an average class. Out of 306 graduates there would be a couple medical doctors, a lawyer or two, and a few that started small businesses. Many went on to college. No one became a celebrity or is considered famous. Most of us would work at jobs and careers, get married, have kids, and mow the lawn whenever it was needed. We put in our time, did what was necessary, tried to enjoy life, and watched as our kids grew and themselves graduated from high school. And the circle began again.
About 80 people gathered at Stooges Bar in downtown Beaver Dam last night for a reunion of the Class of '69. I hadn't attended for 20 years and hadn't seem some of these people for longer than that. As you'd expect, what I found, my impressions, ranged all over the place. There were some, ok, a few, ok, a very few, who hadn't changed at all... shockingly so in at least one case. And there were the ones that had morphed into totally different people... and not for the better. What did they do with their original selves? But most people were just slightly older versions of what we were when we graduated... sort of what you'd expect. In general, we're a fine looking group.
And how's this for shocking: I'm told on good authority that almost 80 of my 306 classmates have already died. Now I haven't seen the definitive list but the ones who should know these things, the locals who put these reunions together and more or less keep track of everyone, swear that number is close to accurate. More than 25% are already gone. I don't know but that seems like an awfully high percentage considering we're less than 60 years old.
Stooges Bar is owned and operated by Buck Gradel, a classmate of ours. He and his wife Jerra have done an incredible job in transforming an empty ugly lot on a main intersection in downtown Beaver Dam into a very classy outdoor beer garden that adjoins their bar. Complete with deck, tables & umbrellas, and comfortable chairs it was the perfect place for this casual reunion of the very casual class of '69. They also worked miracles to convert our $10 per person charge into a very impressive offering of hot beef and pork sandwiches with all the trimmings and sides, not to mention a selection of free beers. I was very impressed.
Since Dar was just a year behind me in school, and because she is much more the social butterfly than I am, she knew my class as well as her own. We both had a very good time talking with long-lost acquaintances and getting caught up with their stories. It was a comfortable and fun evening, evidenced by how fast the hours flew by.
After 40 years, most people are still who they were, but just more experienced... more weathered. We're in awe at the flow of time and wonder what happened to some of our hopes and dreams from 40 years ago. Those that aren't already retired are thinking about it. Many are dealing with medical issues. It all made me appreciate our decision to explore the USA while we're still able.
It was an enjoyable and fun evening. I'm actually looking forward to the next one.