The Sixty Year Shafter High School Reunion; Remembering Together the Happy Days
The Times They are a Changin’, Bob Dylan
The Shafter High School class of 1962 met for its sixtieth reunion last Saturday in Bakersfield. I thought I would share some thoughts on our get together and what it means to us.
Our class was blessed to live through the “happy days” of the 50s only to see the beginning of many changes that were to shape the future of our country. The 50s were a time of romanticism. For those of us who were teenagers during those years World War II was a fading memory experienced firsthand by our parents enabling us smooth sailing blessed by the American Dream. Ray Charles sang “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” Chubby Checker danced to “The Twist” and Neil Sedaka let us know that “Breaking Up is Hard to Do.” We were captives of an idealistic age of unrealistic mush that sounded great but was devoid of the practical realities of an imperfect humanity
These were the days of Elvis Presley, the Everly Brothers, classic rock and roll, one brand of Levis jeans, a white T-shirt, and Wellington boots. With a fifty-five Chevy, a radio, a pretty lady and a dollar in our pockets we were the kings of the world. We could drag Main with nobody shooting at us and the drive-in bellhops would bring a hamburger, cherry coke, and fries to the of window our car. The American dream was unfolding before our eyes.
But then came the 60s, 70s, college, anti-Viet Nam protests, the civil rights movement, the failed war on poverty, the Warren Supreme Court, with its Roe vs. Wade, and a steadily growing tension in our country that has produced abortion on demand, Critical Race Theory, LGBTS+ mania, Black Lives Matter, Antifa, riots in our streets and much more that I hesitate to mention. We 50s romantics learned quickly that the flip side of romanticism is realism. Things got real very fast and we have lived through it all.
So, there we were at Hodels famous restaurant in Bakersfield looking back over 60 years since our days in the hallways of Shafter High and the simple innocence we took for granted. It was a pleasure to see that the graduates of 62 had relaxed with the understanding and forgiveness that comes with age. The hot shots of 62 were now regular people just like you and me. The popular kids had long since been humbled by the challenges of time. Death had claimed many of our friends and some we wish we had befriended before it was too late. Some, for their own reasons, have never taken part in the this every-five-year tradition that has changed our lives in many ways.
We were openly thankful for the faithful leaders of our class who had put on this event these many years and we stared at a page that listed the many who had passed away over the years. Some names surprised us and others we grieved for again. I for one consider myself a blessed man to have been in high school during those happy days and to have been infused with the values of a romantic era. There I met Mary who became my sweetheart and later my wife. I met her in Mr. Preising’s world history class at the age of fourteen. I was soon to meet several other young people who helped this new kid at school feel welcome and become part of my life for many years. I am thankful for friendships and a bit saddened by being reminded that there are many people in our past we could have known more deeply had we just opened up to others more freely.
Now we’re all thinking that the 60th may have been our last reunion. If so, we will all cherish the years we came together and the changes we saw in each other. Thank God for name tags with a 1962 picture! We may choose once a year to meet somewhere on a very casual and unscripted basis just to keep up with those who live on. I hope we do that. I’m sure those get-togethers will be happy-sad affairs as some pass on but no one will be able to take from us what these 60 years have meant.
One last thought. One cannot take part in such a string of reunions over the years without thinking about the “elephant in the room” that many of us ignore. We will all pass that way and it is important that we consider what comes after we pass through the last door. Our “heroes” have walked through it. Elvis was the most well-known person in the world but he is gone and young people don’t even know who he was. Marilyn Monroe was every man’s fantasy and every woman’s dream but she is no longer with us. The great movie star John Wayne has side-windered his way into that next phase. Many elite politicians, movie stars, scientists, singers, and great athletes have abandoned their fame for the great equalizer — death.
So, think about it and consider that death may be the beginning of a life that is determined by our decisions in this go-around. I for one believe that Jesus Christ is waiting for me through that door because I have made Him my Lord. All the accolades have been won and forgotten and all the disappointments have come and gone. It is time to consider the great eternal future that lies ahead.