When people ask why I don’t write about my old schoolmates and the things we did, I always give them the same answer: Those people also know too much about me.

That’s why, while we were eating breakfast at 2:30 a.m. after the Keyser High School Swingin’ Sixties reunion, I told the lady who was sitting to my left, “OK, OK. I wasn’t here. We didn’t have this conversation. This never happened.”

And that’s too bad, because not only did we invent a new drink and a new dish for the menu, we also invented the restaurant and named all of them after our friends.

This lady was even more attractive than I remembered, and so were the other women at the table. How well the guys have endured time’s passage is debatable.

It was a mega-reunion for all who graduated from KHS in the 1960-69 era, and I noticed that most of my friends still dance the way they used to, only more slowly and not for as long.

That’s just a casual observation. As I said to one man, I’ve always paid more attention to the girls when they’re dancing ... and they appeared to be putting more energy into it than most of the guys were.

We speculated about how many of the women had gotten themselves all pumped up from the dancing and whatever degree of alcohol consumption they had indulged in, and would want to continue the celebration after they got home — when all their husbands wanted to do was crash and go to sleep.

“Just the opposite of the way it used to be,” he chuckled. He added that, judging from his observations, at least one of our buddies was going to be in for a fairly long evening.

A good thing about a reunion of folks who’ve been out of school for four decades-plus is that most everyone has forgotten who they didn’t get along with and are now friends with everybody else who’s there.

Some stories get repeated each time we’re together, like that of the fellow who ducked out of baseball practice to go hide in the cornfield the vo-ag students had planted so he could smoke a cigarette. Coach Clark saw smoke rising from it and thought it was on fire.

A few tales that surfaced, most of us hadn’t heard before. One involved a guy who took what he thought was his cat to the veterinarian to have it spayed — then came home to find the cat that actually was his, sitting on the porch.

We remembered how certain kids seemed to get blamed for everything that happened, even if they weren’t guilty. Others were never suspected of what they actually did, and that’s the category I fell into. People said, “Oh, he’s the principal’s son. He wouldn’t do something like that,” and I just thought, “If that’s what they want to believe, I won’t disappoint them.”

When my class graduated, four of us went to the back of the high school and used a rope and grappling hook to climb to the roof. We had an old bedsheet on which we painted “Class of 1965” in blue, our class color, and hung it across the middle of the enormous Keyser High School sign over the front steps. Today, I have no idea how we ever managed it ... but then, I’m not 17 any more.

My dad was the principal at the time, and he said it took the janitors three days to figure out how to get up there and bring it down. Years later, he said he’d never been able to find out who’d done it. When I told him, he said he’d kept that sheet in his office until he retired, but had no idea whatever became of it.

I wish I still had it, so I could have added it to a souvenir the class of 1964 brought: a section of the wall from a wooden barn near the Blue Jay where, 45 years ago, they had painted “1964.” The Blue Jay was one of our most notorious hangouts. Guys from Cumberland have told me they avoided it because fights were more inevitable in that place than at a National Hockey League game.

When the barn was being demolished, one fellow salvaged the boards that contained the sign. Another told me he had gone every five years to repaint it, mainly because every five years someone from the class of 1969 would sneak out and turn the 4 into a 9.“They were trying to do it again after we brought it here,” he said, “but this time I caught them.”

We reminisced about the cars we used to drive, and he said that what we used to call “The Wine Wagon,” his once-beautiful burgundy 1930-something Ford, is being restored.

The affair began with the issuance of name tags, a boon to folks who can remember either faces but not names, or names but not faces.

Some people I will recognize every time I see them, even if it’s not for another 40 years. That’s because of the fondness I have for them, and I hope that they have for me. Among them is an old friend from a big family who wrote “One Of The Hotts” on his name tag.

We decided it didn’t matter which class we graduated in. We shared a bond of growing up in a great town during a wonderful era and going to a good school, where we met people who would be our friends for the rest of our lives. We had fun, and we learned our life lessons from each other and some remarkable adults.

Whatever else the years may have done, they also have given us even more high school friends than we had back in the day.

A couple of the women decided we should all be somebody else, and they went around collecting our name tags and replacing them with tags that began life elsewhere.

The lady who slapped my buddy Nick’s name tag onto my chest patted it firmly to make sure it stayed put.

The next morning at our 2:30 a.m. breakfast, I told her (she was the lady sitting to my left) that I had wondered at the time what would have happened if I had returned the favor.

She laughed, and so did her husband — who, as it happened, was her high school sweetheart. Lucky both of them.

But, as I told you before, I wasn’t there.

We didn’t have that conversation.

It never happened.

React to this story:


Trending Video