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Class bond still strong at reunion

Sunday, October 19, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:17 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 10, 2008

I just got back from my husband’s high school reunion. I’m not allowed to tell which one, but suffice it to say he’s way past his 25th. And, quite frankly, I dreaded going with him. After all, I’m an outsider. And the place where he graduated is teeny.

The town of Bloomfield, Iowa, has a population of 2,600. It boasts one of the most magnificent courthouses in America. Half the population are farmers. There are wrought iron posts in town where the Amish tie their horses and buggies. You can walk from one end of the town to the other in 10 to 12 minutes, depending on your gait. There is not one fast-food restaurant; the town is famous for its loose meat sandwiches, which I don’t have the space to explain. Wal-Mart is 20-some miles away in the big town of Ottumwa.

My husband graduated in a class of 84 members. Eleven have died — they say “passed on” in Iowa — and 61 classmates returned to the tiny burg for the reunion.

The festivities didn’t start until Friday, but my husband was so anxious to see his old friends that we arrived Thursday afternoon. Most of his classmates were staying at the motel. The town boasts two, but the other one is too far away from the action — “too far” meaning one mile.

We were to meet my husband’s best friend for dinner that evening. I thought a nice quiet meal would be the best way to ease into the weekend. The best friend was senior class president and apparently very popular because we were joined by 18 others. Everyone greeted each other with pats and hugs. They were all very gracious to me, but when they started reminiscing I sat there like a bobbing doll, nodding and smiling — and not having a clue as to what they were talking about. Someone called my husband “Babby”; another yelled “Junebug.” It seemed that nearly everyone had a nickname: Half Pint, Flash, Spike and Grapenuts. The odd thing was no one knew how they got the monikers.

Friday morning we met for breakfast —“we” meaning 20 or so. I’m on a perpetual diet, and the dining fare in Iowa didn’t make it easy. After a dinner of deep-fried pork tenderloin and French fries, I decided I’d go for a light morning meal. It must have been the clear Iowa air, because I was starving. I polished off eggs and bacon accompanied with biscuits and gravy. And I could have eaten more.

After breakfast, we went to the home of a classmate who was a “townie.” This woman has been in charge of every reunion since the class graduated, and she knows something about every class member. She had dozens of black and white photos — I guess color film had not been invented yet — and I realized why my husband was called Babby.

I had never seen pictures of his youth and, I must say, it was quite a shock. Although I was told that the photos were mostly of his junior and senior years, he looked to be about 10. He had white-blond hair that was pushed up in front like a pompadour, black horned-rimmed glasses and a goofy smile. Also on display was a bound collection of the weekly school newspaper “The Monday Evening Post.” No comment. My husband’s best friend must have been the editor because his name and/or mug appeared on nearly every page.

At 1 p.m. the homecoming parade began and the class was riding on a float. There was a lot of excitement in the town. Word was that the parade was going to be a big one — more than three blocks long!

I hurried to the downtown square, wondering if there was anyone left in the town to watch. I waited as the band passed and the homecoming king and queen drove by — the king was actually wearing a crown — and then I saw the alumni float with most of the class who were wearing sweatshirts with their class motto: “Full of fun and fancy free, we’re the class (You fill in the year that rhymes).”

After dinner at a Mexican restaurant — go figure — we attended the football game. I was amazed to see women wearing mums. I haven’t seen mums at a football game for more than 20 years. The hometown team lost, but no one seemed too upset. The class had a late soup supper, but I was still belching tacos, so we passed.

After a breakfast buffet Saturday, we had time to spend riding around town, which took several minutes. That night was the banquet and dance. By this time, I was one of the gang. The reunion ended Sunday morning with a huge breakfast buffet. I found myself tearing up when I said goodbyes.

After decades apart, this class still loved to be together. There were no awkward pauses — the classmates never ran out of things to talk about. It was refreshing to see people without pretense just happy to be together. What I thought would be a long, boring weekend became a memory I won’t soon forget — neither will my waist, as I gained eight pounds — but it was worth it!

If you have a comment or want a recipe for loose meat, please e-mail me at jdh@socket.net.


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