40th Class Reunion: In My Words   2 comments

My husband’s 40th high school class reunion was this past Saturday, and much to my surprise, he committed to going a couple of months ago and submitted his registration fee for the two of us to attend.  I was quite curious as to how this was going to go.  Of course, he was, too.  He has not kept in touch with any classmates from his graduating class of 1968.  The last classmate we saw was probably Tommy Wilcox, the guy he considered to be his best friend during his senior year in high school and throughout their first couple of years of college.  We saw Tommy during the summer of 1972 when he was a student at Mankato State, and I think that was the last time.

The class reunion festivities began at a “club” on Howard St., Hibbing’s main drag, at 2:00 Saturday afternoon.  The club had been reserved for the 1968 class to congregate and watch the Jubilee parade that was scheduled that afternoon.  We walked into a small crowd of maybe a dozen or so people just before 2:00, having only arrived in Hibbing 20 minutes earlier.  No one was wearing any name tags, and everyone looked like a stranger.  A couple of introductions were made, but I could tell that names weren’t ringing a lot of familiar bells to anyone.

We helped ourselves to some food that was set out: a large crockpot full of porketta pieces for making sandwiches, some buns, potato chips and tortilla chips, brownies, some blue-and-white frosted cookies, some blue-and-white M&Ms.  (Blue and white were the school colors, in case this isn’t obvious.)  Wine, mixed drinks, and pop were free for the taking.  Beer was $2.00 a bottle/can.  Dale grabbed a Heineken beer and I started off with a bottle of water to rehydrate after the long, boring car ride from the Twin Cities.

We sat there for awhile, watching people wander in.  Dale wasn’t making any move to talk to anyone.  I had some moments of wondering if this was what the whole reunion was going to be like: those folks who probably had some contact with each other as long-time Hibbing residents hanging out together and others just sitting around with the date they had brought to the event and not interacting too much with anyone else.  Jeez, that was a long car ride and a hefty $45 a person to sit around on a Saturday and do that!

I don’t know if it was the beer and wine that was flowing freely (i.e. “liquid courage”) or if the initial scoping-out period had just run its course, but Dale finally got up and started talking to people.  “Hi, I’m Dale Scheiskopf,” he would announce.  “And who are you?”  Some tentative conversations started.

One of Dale’s classmates had brought The Hematite, the high school’s yearbook (we had, too, but had left it in the car), and this became an attraction — comparing faces of the folks in the bar with the old senior-class photos in the book.  Few people were recognizable from those 40-year-old photos in the book!

Dale and I had sat around with a bottle of wine the evening before and had gone through his yearbook, studying the photos.  I repeatedly kept going back to the same photo of one female classmate.  “Wow!  What a babe!” I said more than once.

Yeah, yeah, she was,” my husband agreed.  (I found out upon leafing through some saved programs in his yearbook later that she was in his Junior Achievement “company” of kids, so he must have been quite aware of this at one time!)

Well, the “babe” walked into the bar during the course of the afternoon, and my illusions were shattered.  She didn’t look bad necessarily, but my impression was that she had seen some rough years.  She looked tired.  Her eyes were baggy.  She looked her 58 years.  The lines on her face and her lackluster expression had a story to tell.  I never found out what it was. 

But then this man walked in, and I have to say that he caught my eye.  I found him attractive.  He was fairly trim, well-groomed, salt-and-pepper manicured beard.  He wasn’t drop-dead gorgeous — I mean, NOT like George Clooney! — but he was the kind of man I find appealing.  I went over to Charlie who was manning the yearbook.  “Who is that guy who just walked in?” I asked.

Charlie peered.  “That’s Tom Chambers,” he said.  We flipped to Tom’s photo in the yearbook.  I saw an awkward-looking unsmiling 17-year-old with large black-framed glasses, the kind that all the boys wore then.  His glasses weren’t sitting straight on his nose.  He looked like he couldn’t wait to get out of that suit and tie he was wearing.

I looked at the handsome man who had just come in, and once he was settled with a drink, I walked right over to him, able to look him right in the eyes because somewhere along the way he had either gotten contacts or Lasix.  “You don’t know me, ” I informed him, at least a glass of wine under my belt by then.  “I’m married to one of your former classmates, but I just had to come over and tell you how much more attractive you are now than you were in that yearbook photo.  You’re fifty times better now than you were then!”

He was fairly speechless then, but as the party was breaking up so that people could get ready for the evening’s festivities, he stopped me on the way out.  He said, “I have to give you a kiss for what you said to me earlier.  That was really great.”  And yes, he gave me a kiss.  I kissed him back.  I probably made that man’s day!

At 6:00 that evening, we all reconvened at the old Androy Hotel for a heavy buffet line of appetizers (I’ll do anything to get out of trying to spell hors d’oeurves), desserts, more drinking, more socializing, and dancing to the oldies from the ’60s.  It was 11:30 when we decided to leave.

We both had a very good time, and I’m really glad we went.  Dale commented, “I wish we had all gotten along like that back when we were in high school together.”

He said this in his own words in a journal entry he wrote yesterday afternoon, but I’ll say it, too.  High school and that age of adolescence is a rough time for most young folks.  It’s a time of building a self-identity which at that age is shaky at best.  There are a lot of insecurities.  Everything seems like a major, insurmountable deal.  Adolescence is a time when life is inwardly focused.  Teens are trying to figure out how they personally fit into the world, and the “big picture” isn’t seen until much later.

My husband was not a “popular” kid in high school.  By his own description, he was “a geek, a nerd.”  He was not athletic; he was “a brain.”  He wore geeky glasses and a plastic pocket protector.  He often carried a slide rule.  He was a lab assistant, a frequent winner of the Science Fair, a Junior Achievement member, and an inductee into the National Honor Society.  He didn’t date.  During his senior year, he linked up with the theatre group because “they were misfits” like he was.  He felt comfortable around the theatre people and found a home there, working the technical aspects of that year’s productions.

At the reunion Saturday evening, his classmates said, “Yes!  I remember you!  You were smart!”   And I heard the admiration in their voices when they would voice this recollection.  When they would ask what he was now doing and he would reply that he was a project engineering manager for a major manufacturing company and builds plants for them all over the world, they knew he’d be successful at something like that because Dale Scheiskopf always had a lot going for him that would see him well-placed in a professional career someday.  They respected him for that.  And I smiled to myself Saturday night because his intelligence was one of the big-ticket items that attracted me to him.

But 40 years ago?  No, the “Brains” weren’t necessarily respected except by members of the faculty and a few like-minded peers.  Brains didn’t gain you popularity.  In fact, “Brains” in general were intimidating people to the student body at large.

So, no, Dale didn’t have many friends except for a couple of other brainiac type people and his theatre group during his senior year.  However, Saturday night he came to realize that the cliques, the groups, the “in-crowd” and the “weirdos” were a thing of the past.  Age and experience has a way of equalizing the playing field.  After 40 years, all of those former classmates have experienced some combination of life’s joys and trials: marriage/relationships, divorce/breakups, parenthood, job promotions and losses, deaths of loved ones, travels, war, finding a niche in life in ways never before dreamed.  Over those 40 years, the “misfits” have had an opportunity to discover that being different is a good thing; it brings creativity and fresh perspective to an otherwise dull world! 

Ross Halper, one of my husband’s classmates, was a classic example of a “misfit” at Hibbing High School in 1968: extremely intelligent, exceptionally creative, talented in music and drama.  I commented that he seemed to have starred in every theatrical production that the school produced during that senior year, including playing The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz.   (Dale was a “techie” on that show, and his best friend, Tom Wilcox, was the voice of the Wizard.) 

Saturday afternoon, when Ross Halper walked into that bar on Howard St., people surrounded him like he was a celebrity.  And, indeed, he is!  Take a look at this resume, if you will.  Ross Halper from Hibbing, Minnesota, has gone on to do great and wonderful things with his life, bringing joy to many.  He couldn’t have done this if he wasn’t a bit different, if he wasn’t able to view the world with a different perspective than the mainstream, if he wasn’t a bit of a “misfit.”

He brought tears to many former classmates’ eyes Saturday night as he took the floor and sang:

When you’ve grown up dears
And are as old as I,
You’ll often ponder on the years
That roll on swiftly by
My dears, that roll so swiftly by
And of the many lands
You will have journeyed through
You’ll oft recall
The best of all
The land your childhood knew!
Your childhood knew.

Toyland! Toyland!
Little girl and boyland,
While you dwell within it
You are ever happy then
Childhood’s Joyland
Mystic merry Toyland!
Once you pass its borders
you can ne’er return again.

When you’ve grown up dears
There comes a dreary day
When ‘mid the locks of black appears
The first pale gleam of gray
My dears, the first pale gleam of gray,
Then of the past you’ll dream
As grey haired grown ups do
And seek once more
It’s phantom shore
The land your childhood knew!
Your childhood knew.

Toyland! Toyland!
Little girl and boyland,
While you dwell within it
You are ever happy then
Childhood’s Joyland
Mystic merry Toyland!
Once you pass its borders
you can ne’er return again.

“Toyland” (1903)
Words by Glen MacDonough, 1870-1924
Music by Victor August Herbert 1859-1924
(from “Babes in Toyland”)

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2 responses to “40th Class Reunion: In My Words

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  1. I wasnt at the reunion, but I am Ross Halpers mother. That was a great review and thanks for the nice things you said about Ross.

  2. You are more than welcome, Mrs. Halper! It was a delight to have met Ross that evening. Honestly, my husband’s face lit up when Ross walked into the room that day. He remembered Ross fondly.

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