Monday, November 7, 2016

The Longest Stay: Wisconsin 2015, Part 2

AHS circa 2015 - but it looks pretty much the same as it did in 1965
Graham and Cailin’s wedding was certainly the highlight of our stay and what prompted our early return. Already on tap was Tom’s 50th high school reunion in September, an important life milestone and another reason for staying as long as we did.
Although we’re on the road away from Wisconsin for the better part of the year, staying connected via the Internet has been critical. It allows us to stay in touch with family and friends (perhaps too much so considering the amount of time we spend on Facebook at times). But the technology has also allowed Tom to continue to be the token male on his reunion committee, just like he can still manage the Wisconsin Birding Network listserv from afar. Tom maintains and updates the class web page as well as the class Facebook Page. Imagine in 1960’s having all this technology! On second thought, maybe we were better off without it back then!

Carol had no problem assimilating into conversations
Our now lengthy stay enabled Tom to attend in person, several of the committee meetings. And as this was the milestone 50th, the committee put in a lot of extra effort locating classmates who we had lost track of (or they lost track of us). face to face meetings pouring over collected data were critical.
The 50th venue turned out to be a bit different. Committee efforts remained high and the goal was to make the night as simple as possible for everyone plus keep costs a minimum. Rather than having a sit down dinner, we opted for an assortment of hors d'oeuvres. Instead of a DJ, we supplied our own CD mixes played over the venue’s sound system. And instead of any pre-reunion activities, people were pretty much left to mix and match whenever they arrived in town. Classmates just wanted a comfortable place to talk and get caught up on what’s been happening. We may have been a large class (nearly 500) but many have stayed close over the years. And those who haven’t felt like it was only yesterday when they strolled out wearing a cap and gown.

gathering before the tour
stairway to heaven or highway to hell?
getting an overview of what we'll see - note the orange and blue school colors
The one exception to a pre-reunion event was scheduling a tour of the high school. In 1965 it was the only public high school in town. Appleton High School as it was known then. Now it’s known as AHS West to differentiate it from AHS - East and AHS - North. The central core of the building looks the same but several additions have been made over the years. An expanded track and field, an indoor competition certified swimming pool, and much more parking to name but a few.

imagine the balloons
The tour, which took place on the morning of the reunion was conducted by the current high school principal. Tom had been back in the school from time to time to participant in Veteran’s Day oral history events but that was limited to only one classroom. How strange to be walking the long ago familiar halls. 1965 AHS was an overly crowded school but today, the only activity was a group of students decorating one of the gymnasiums (there are now three) for Homecoming. The auditorium was the site of many a basketball game, especially when some of the games ended with us winning a birth in the state championships in Madison.
Somehow the lockers looked both familiar yet different. Smaller perhaps? The central stairwells were the same but now there was an elevator. Memories of one of the principals who was very short of stature and who prowled the halls with his megaphone shouting at students brought some laughter. The teacher’s lounge looked the same but smelled much differently - no smoking in the building is now the rule. The auditorium had gotten a facelift (new seats and stage flooring). Memories of theater classes, hours in homeroom plus chuckles about a long ago senior prank. A handful of students had broken into the school and filled the auditorium ceiling with helium filled balloons in time for the next morning school-wide senior class awards assembly. Those us us who were in on the prank chuckled the loudest. We recalled how the helium balloons slowly drifted to the floor while student’s shot them with paperclips and spit wads. The principal was not pleased. And no, he never found out who was involved.

after 50 years, Deanna finally realizes her dream of being homecoming queen
The school rock still adorned the front lawn. How many layers of paint announcing a new “class of…” were there? The fairly large rock was also the target of rival out of town high schools. One year, Lawrence University students stole the rock which was later recovered from the Fox River where it had been rolled down the hill near the university. Never fear. The dastardly deed was appropriately avenged. There always was a bit of rivalry between high seniors and Lawrence students (especially in the frat houses). Le Brawl anyone?

the 'rock'
The afternoon before the reunion Wally Sunderland and The General stopped by our RV to say hello. That night we got together with a group of classmates and their spouses at our old stomping ground, The Stone Cellar, just down the street from our former house on E. South River. The night of the reunion we had quite a large turn out. Some familiar faces and some not so familiar who have missed several reunions in between. Carol has always said while she didn’t graduate with us, she feels more of a kinship with our class reunion than she does with hers from Baraboo High School. But then the class of 1965 always did have the greatest and best!
In addition to the wedding, reunion and South Africa, we squeezed in a whole lot of family and friends. Up next, our crazy calendar pace.

back then, enemy territory - the teachers' lounge
classroom - blackboard to whiteboard to smartboard
the original Terrors logo
older brother of a classmate - ran into Joe twice while in Vietnam ('68)
one of our better known alums
we don't need no stinkin' elevator
Wally and The General - looks stock but it ain't!
Chip Reston a classmate who has also taken to the road
circa 1965 - lost the hair but gained much better taste in beer

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