Fifty Years After

wrhttco65In the first month of 1965, Time Magazine published an article that featured members of the senior class at a California high school. Ten years later two members of that class interviewed thirty classmates for a book, published in September 1976, that inspired a TV series whose fourteen fictional episodes started airing barely a year later. The book and series were both titled What Really Happened to the Class of ’65. The image at right is from the book cover.

whc65_timeI was a high school senior in 1965 and I know that I and my classmates had a lot in common with the students in that Time article. There is no doubt that many of the things affecting those California teens also affected teens in every high school in every state. On the other hand, there were a whole lot of differences, too. For one thing, most of America’s high schools are not located in areas where sun and sand are so wonderfully abundant. Neither can the students of most schools be called affluent, a word that was used with justification for those California seniors. The world of 1965 impacted every senior class in America but the senior class that Time talked of in their “Today’s Teen-Agers” article might not have been all that typical.

I can’t really make a case for my class being any more typical. I don’t believe anyone ever used the word affluent to describe my school but neither were we impoverished. Whether or not statistics support it, we thought of our parents — farmers, factory workers, and a few professionals and business owners — as middle class and we lived, more or less, in the middle part of the country. Our school was not equidistant from the coasts but it was sure a long way from either and, except for some images conjured up by Beach Boy tunes playing on the local AM stations, not much influenced by them. Unlike that California class featured in Time,  there wasn’t 506 of us. There is no reason to think that the size of our class was unique and, if you get real picky about precisely when diplomas were issued or other details, it can even be varied slightly. But three score and five seems right and it’s the way we’ve always thought of ourselves. We were the Ansonia High School Class of 65 of ’65.

We graduated smack dab in the middle of a decade that was about as turbulent and confusing, yet as filled with promise and potential, as any could be. The nation’s president had been assassinated during our junior year. The Times issue that carried “Today’s Teen-Agers” also had an article on LBJ’s inauguration after winning the November election and one about a Dr. Martin Luther King visit to Selma, Alabama. 1965 was the mid-point of the Vietnam War (November 1, 1955 to April 30, 1975) and the first year that regular US combat troops, and not just “advisers”, were used there. By decade’s end, violence would end the lives of Dr. King, another Kennedy, and some 50,000 US soldiers. But the last half of the 1960s also brought us electronic calculators, the first artificial human heart, the beginning (as ARPAnet) of the Internet, and men on the moon.

whc65_50fWe came together this week, some of us, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our graduation. The school is still small and each year the Alumni Association organizes a gathering for all of its graduates. That was held Saturday as usual. Not usual was a Friday evening gathering organized by some classmates who put in a lot of effort to make this year special. Twenty-six class members and our class sponsors met for dinner at one of the area’s nicer restaurants and had a great time sharing stories and trying to identify each other. The fun and reminiscing and even the eating continued at the nearby home of a classmate (Sharon Bickel) whose gracious invitation for desert was accepted by just about everyone.

whc65_50s1whc65_50s2Nineteen of us also made it to the annual banquet on Saturday. All alumni and the current year’s graduates are invited with the “5s” (5th, 10th, 15th, etc.) getting some extra recognition that includes having a room set aside for their use. The jokes and chatter pretty much picked up from where they had ended on Friday.

whc65_50s4whc65_50s3The special treatment continued at the actual banquet and even included being first at the buffet line. I’m guessing that the fifty year class is given this particular honor because this seems to be the point at which attendance peaks. That seems to likely be true of us. There were fourteen of us in 2005 and a half dozen in 2010. The fellow in the dark coat at the right of the first picture is Tom Brewer who was one of the classmates who, as I mentioned earlier, put in a lot of effort to make this year special. Others were Ed Ault, Carolyn Baker, Tim Barga, Bob Birt, Rick Jones, June Snyder, and Charlene Steed. Rick not only helped with organizing things, he represented our class with one of the most entertaining “speeches” ever delivered at an alumni gathering. I put “speeches” in parentheses because, while there were many useful observations and insights, the humorous content and great delivery made it seem almost a performance.

whc65_50s5The final event of the alumni gathering was a dance at Eldora Ballroom where the class of 1965 was once again at the head of the line. Many of our 1960s Fridays and Saturdays were spent at this big hall, which is part of Eldora Speedway, listening to The Jokers or EG and the Bumblebees.

So what did we do during our five decades as adults? In other words, what really happened to the class of 65 of ’65? We got married and had kids. We got divorced and remarried. We served in the military and went to places not the least bit like Darke County, Ohio. We went to college and some (unlike me) even graduated. None of us became doctors or lawyers or Indian chiefs but we did become accountants and engineers and business owners. Some of us found success and happiness in fields such as teaching, healthcare, and law enforcement that make communities worth living in and, yes, a lot of us stayed in or returned to the communities we grew up in for that very reason; They are still worth living in.

Spending time looking back on those good ol’ school days with those who made them good was great fun. Not everyone had the option. As might be expected, contact information could not be found for a few (only 3) so they didn’t get an invitation to respond to. Also to be expected, but saddening nonetheless, is the fact that nine of our classmates are no longer living. One, who I’ve written about before, most recently here, died in Vietnam less than two years after graduating. The others died of various causes over the other forty-eight years.

Twenty-six and nineteen are respectable numbers. There’s a good chance that Friday’s gathering was the class’s biggest since graduation. There is also a good chance that it will never be equaled but it might. When we were born, life expectancy was not quite 70 for females and five years less than that for males. Us guys have already beaten the odds; The gals are close. Now that we’ve made it this far, they tell us we’ll average another 15 or 20 years so there should be plenty of us (or them) around to celebrate the 60th anniversary. If I can, I will.

Addendum 26-May-2015: It is usually only a fraction of the photos I take that make it into a blog or trip journal post and the public is spared (most of) the really crappy ones. I have been asked about other pictures and decided to just post all of the photos from the weekend in my seldom used Flickr account. They are here, re-sized but otherwise unedited.

6 thoughts on “Fifty Years After

  1. Denny,

    Thank you so very much for your kind words and the wonderful commentary. You are so appreciated and, being able to call you Friend is really special. Well done Friend.

    • I had a great time and really appreciate the work that you and others did to get so many of us together and make thing go so well. Thanks a heap for that and for your comment. And you don’t have to call me Denny 🙂

  2. Dennis, Great seeing you after all these years. Hope we don’t have too go another 50 to see each other again. Rick

    • I absolutely agree with you on both counts: great seeing you and don’t want to wait another 50. I’ve tried to make all of the “5s” but one of my uncles (Eldon Bankson) has been going to the alumni banquet every year and I’m thinking of picking up the pace and following his lead.

  3. Dennis, thanks for the kudos and the pics and it was my pleasure to have you all here for dessert and visiting. Sure hope we can get together again because, like the last 50 years, the time of our gathering flew by too quickly!

    • The gathering at your place was a perfect finish for Friday. The “staff” was outstanding in getting cars parked and seeing that people had cake, beverage, and such. Time certainly does seem to have a way of moving faster than it used to. I will be watchful for any future get together.

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