This Senior Homecoming Had Much to Celebrate

The volume of a large group of senior citizens all talking at once can be startling.

That’s just one of many observations you might make of a group of 86 same-aged people and their guests who got together for drinks and dinner.

It turns out that these gatherings occur often. They’re called high school class reunions. And it just so happens that Catherine and I recently helped celebrate our 50-year high school reunion. Yep, Red Wing Central High School class of 1973.

Everyone came ready to party – on a Sunday night no less. Classmates were arriving even before the social hour started. Maybe we were just finally forcing our post-COVID selves to get out of the house and see old friends and even former teacher, Ron Gray. Maybe it was because we were mostly all retired and have decided we better have fun while we still can. This may be as good as it gets anymore.

Over the years there have been deep discussions about how many actually graduated in our class. I thought I had it figured out. I was off by a hundred. So, I counted our senior pictures in the yearbook and added in the ones on the camera-shy list. The new official total is 278. That’s my count and I’m stickin’ to it.

Above and Below Average

Just a bit more than 30 percent of that total attended the reunion. That’s slightly above the high average for a 50-year reunion. In fact, it’s estimated that only 20-30 percent attend their 50-year reunions. I always knew our class was above average. Our class has also lost 45 classmates. That’s 16 percent, less than the average of 20 percent but still too many.

At our age, who cares what we look like or what people think of us? That seems pretty unimportant anymore. Our health, on the other hand, is important. And that topic was broached early and often, especially when the subject of kids and grandkids ran out of gas.

Some of us us were still recovering from a hayride a day earlier at classmate Gordy Bolt’s farm that turned out to be an extended tour of a large section of Goodhue County. We were a caravan of three hay wagons that could have been mistaken for portable jails. It was a bit chilly, especially for those that thought climate change would be enough to keep us warm.

Because the ride took longer than expected, a couple “field trips” were necessary along the way. It was a fun time, nonetheless. The heated garage back at the farm, along with hot dogs, cookies and bars soon had us exclaiming what a wonderful experience the hayride had been. I wonder how many other 50-year reunions include a hayride. We’ll talk about this for years.

There had also been a small gathering at Kelly’s Taphouse on Friday evening. By visiting with the attendees at either or both of these ancillary events we could spend time at the reunion with those we hadn’t seen yet. A check-off list and a timer would be the only way to visit everyone.

Group Shots

At the reunion, classmate Penny Anderson Siewert helped arrange group photos of attendees by the elementary school they attended. I was one of only three in attendance who went to Colvill School. 

We even tried a picture of the whole class. Arranging 86 sixty-eight-year-olds for a group photo (many dragged from the bar) is a lesson in futility, especially with a wall of cellphone cameras aimed at them.

Everyone who attended the reunion received a small stoneware crock and some chocolate candy from Red Wing Confectionery. The crocks were printed with a school-color purple logo created by classmate Bryce Anderson. I got a deal on the crocks and printing from a nephew’s business. They’ll make terrific pencil holders.

Like typical seniors, everyone arrived early, then talked and laughed until hoarse and tired. By 10 pm the crowd had really thinned out. Even some of us on the reunion committee, realizing how tired we were, decided it was a good time to go home. Late nights are for younger folks. But I think we were collectively elated over the reunion’s success.

Our class would not have had successful reunions over the years without a lot of volunteer work and a class website. After struggling with addresses, mailings and poor printing for many reunions, we joined a service in 2008 that provides a website with tools to handle all of this and more. I don’t see how any class can coordinate reunions without these tools. We use and I only mention them because they have been such a great help to us. There are other similar services.

A 50-year class reunion is a significant milestone in life and 86 classmates from the Red Wing Central High School class of 1973 decided it was worth celebrating together. Hey, class of 1974, let’s see you beat that!

We’ll be 73 at our next reunion in 2028. I can hardly wait.