My wife Jean, and I, returned last night (May 30, 2005) from a truly wonderful experience--three days among old friends from Jamesville-DeWitt. It meant a 3000 mile drive but it was more than worth it to find out what my old 'mates and tutors have been up to over this last half century.
I have heard from many who wanted to attend, but, for various reasons, could not be with us in DeWitt. For their benefit and for others with an interest in the early days at J-D, I herewith present a brief review of the festivities.
We arrived in Syracuse on Wednesday, May 25th. The next morning we were among the first to arrive at J-D to register and begin a tour of the school. Needless to say, things have changed since that day in 1954 when I, in great trepidation, first entered those hallowed halls. But one great thing hasn't changed--on both occasions, one of the first faces I saw was that of Mr. William FitzPatrick. He had been my home room teacher the previous year at Skytop and, like me, started his first day at J-D on September 13, 1954.
Bill--and he told me I was old enough now to call him that--attended the reunion with another early faculty member, Jim Hogue. Mr. Hogue taught shop and, with his wife, Peggy, accompanied the first class at J-D on their senior trip in 1955.
Cindy Strassenburgh, who struggled mightily to teach me music, was also present for the lunch which followed our tour. She is still active with choral work and had to hurry off to attend to some duties in that connection. Before she left, Mary Beth Williams led us in a rousing rendition of Ms. Strassenburgh's contribution to J-D's history: our Alma Mater.
For the first time, I got to meet Gloria Quadrini, my long time email correspondent. It is to Gloria, Nancy Bates Jones, Bill Applegate, Elaine Buckbee, Dave Stratton, Nancy Reals Freeman, and others on a committee of J-D alums that we remain indebted for the reunion. Their hard work made for a great occasion. They had taken care of everything and all we did was sit back and enjoy ourselves.
When I lived in Lyndon, I lived near Don Boyd and Bill Tily. I have corresponded many times with Don over the last few years but, until Thursday, I had not seen him or Bill since our days at J-D. We had a chance for a good visit about the old days at the two little schools in Lyndon. I knew Mrs. Tily--she used to be my classmate, Mary Smith--but it was my first chance to meet Joanne Boyd.
On Friday, we gathered for a picnic lunch at Green Lakes park in Fayetteville. Once again, all we had to do was show up as the reunion committee had everything in place for a great time. We were joined by some who had not made it in time for the previous day's tour. The weather was again perfect--and remained that way until late Saturday.
Friday night we had a sock hop at the high school. Just as in the old days, a few danced while most of us took up our accustomed roles as wallflowers. But, afterall, we had a lot to catch up on. Many people poured over yearbooks and other material from the old days and we were able to share a lot of laughs about the hairdos and other things that seemed clever in 1955 but which seem a bit less so today. I well recall that these sock hops were a time of great excitement in the old days. As we discussed those wondrous times, I couldn't help but think of the old poem, "Backward, turn backward, O time in thy flight, make me a child again...just for tonight."
Many of us attended a get-together later at the Scotch and Sirloin Restaurant in DeWitt. I was pleased that James Blundred, now living in Texas, made a point of coming over and letting me know that he and several others were there because they had found out about the reunion on my web site and had decided to hold their own mini-reunion. They were from as far away as Alaska but had once lived in the Drumlins area and were a part of the classes of 1963 and 1964 at J-D. Jean and I were also able that night to get reacquainted with Marti Buckbee, of the class of 1961. We knew Marti and her family from DeWitt Community Church.
The next morning, we attended a pancake breakfast in Jamesville, followed by a traditional Memorial Day parade. This was small town America at its best and a reminder that pride and honor are yet alive and well in this great country.
Following the parade, we took Don and Joanne Boyd on a tour of our old stomping grounds in Lyndon. They met while she was at Wellesley and Don was getting his doctorate at Harvard, and live now in Indianapolis. It seems like it was in a previous lifetime that Don, Gary Truax, my brother, John, and I, hunted golf balls in the woods surrounding the Lyndon golf course, rode our bikes on the bridle paths behind the high school, and otherwise spent a carefree childhood.
The final reunion event was Saturday night's buffet dinner at the Glen Loch restaurant in Jamesville. We had several hours to do nothing but eat a good meal, relax, and swap tales with our old chums. We also used the occasion to make group pictures of each of the classes.
That the participants found the experience rewarding is shown by the decision to hold future reunions. Nancy Reals Freeman and Mimi Motherwell Murray are at work planning a 50th reunion for the class of 1957 to be held in two years. Also, Jean Hood and Skip Eberhardt are making plans for a 50th anniversary reunion of my own class of 1959. It is four years away, but I'm already looking forward to it.
It is difficult to here relate how personally rewarding it was for me to get to spend time with Mr. and Mrs. Hogue and Mr. FitzPatrick. They seem to be enjoying good health and remain very active. The Hogues split their time between a home in Florida and a camp Mr. Hogue built near the Adirondacks. Mr. Fitz still lives in DeWitt--and in many of my happiest memories from J-D.
I have always thought myself to have been wonderfully blessed to have grown up when and where I did. I learned--not by precept but by constant example--the joy and priviledge of a loving family. I learned, too, that some of the world's nicest people call Jamesville and DeWitt home.