Hard as it may be to believe, not everyone loved high school. So when I tried to encourage friends of all ages (peers from the class of ‘65, siblings and children of friends, neighbors’ kids, and every grad I could think of ) to attend Park’s all-class reunion last Saturday, I got mixed reactions and only a few takers. But to my delight, and the surprise of those I dragged along, the event surpassed all expectations. It was a blast! People came from as far as Colorado and California, and classes represented ranged from 1939 to present day.
It was just plain fun to be with so many people of all ages, gathered together in one place that we shared as a common part of our personal history. With gift bags in hand, identified by orange wrist bands and nametags proudly touting our class year, we walked through the halls and remembered. We “older” classmates were astounded that we ever made our way from point A to point B back when we were students at Park. How did we do it, we pondered, as my daughter (class of 2001) led us up one staircase and down another and around the “Circle” to get to the Echo room. There is no straight path to anywhere in that building. We laughed about that and shared stories about fears of forgetting how to find our lockers and carrying locker combinations for weeks.
I delighted in watching my daughter connect with former teachers including her first elementary school teacher and talk with current students manning the Echo room (her former haunt) who asked questions about her career in journalism. And I loved running into my niece’s best friends from high school (class of ‘84). All attendees seemed to be smiling and there was nonstop chatter everywhere. We enjoyed browsing at and bidding on a fabulous array of donated silent auction items that included wooden chairs from Central, artwork, handmade quilts, a limo ride, lunch with the Principal, and much more. About the lunch---I hope there were takers on that one, since most have memories of school years trying to avoid Principals.
We looked at the signs out on the lawn--one for each class, took photos with ours, and some ran into people whose names they knew but whose faces they didn’t recognize. “You sat next to me in Latin class,” one classmate said to another. “Did you ever become a gym teacher?” another asked. “What are you doing now?” was a common question.
The auditorium was packed to the brim for the talent show. Those who couldn’t find seats stood in the aisles to watch acts ranging from a Grammy-winning classical guitarist (she was amazing) to the father-son duo singing the same song they’d each sung in the same high school musical, years apart, when they’d been students. The act was sweet and poignant to watch, and, they were good, besides! My own favorite was the tap-dancing counselors who, with great flair, showed their best and well-choreographed moves to the tune, “At the Hop.” The audience loved them and clapped along and joyfully hooted their approval.
And then, there was the “after party” at the Park Tavern, for those who didn’t want the event to end. The fun-loving spirit and good-natured banter continued. You’d see people glancing at the nametags of others to see if they’d been in the same class. There were comparisons being made, “Gee--they graduated six years after us and we look much younger than they do!” A class of ’66 guy said to me, “Carol, you were quite the party animal!” Say what?! Oh--he was joking. I only wish I had been a party animal, but in 1965 that wasn’t a part of my lexicon. It is on the list for my next life! Then there was the informal survey of Park “boys” about whether they remembered swimming naked in gym class. Oh yeah…they definitely did remember (at least those from classes between ’65 and ’71 who were surveyed). What was that about anyway? The school couldn’t afford swim suits for the boys was one answer. We can breathe a sigh of relief that we’re past that era. Who knows how much was spent on therapy by those poor kids!
The banter and laughter was fun and contagious. Stories of days gone by were shared, new friends were made, old classmates connected and people met “kids” who used to live down the block from them. All great fun. Sadly, the Coen brothers, Tom Friedman, and Mark Rosen were no shows. It was their loss. Kudos and a huge thank you to the St. Louis Park Schools Foundation (www.slppsf.org) for all of the hard work that went in to putting on a great event!
As I continue to smile about the fun and the memories, I think I’ll just keep on wearing that orange wrist band and see if I can meet and reminisce with some more Park grads.
We’re loyal to you Park High. . .
We’re orange and black Park High…
We’ll back you to stand ‘gainst the best in the land,
cuz we know you’ve got sand, Park High! Rah! Rah!