March 15, 2017

The Remarkable Class of 1958

Lee Franklin with Marijo aboard Abundance
Lee Franklin with Marijo aboard Abundance
From the time we entered the doors of Rutherford High School we felt special.  Because we felt special we were special, and because we felt special our teachers and administrators experienced us as special.

Our 5-year full reunions, and now our 2-3-year mini reunions, are testimony to the unusual character of this class.  When you tell your friends that your high school class gets together for a long-weekend reunion every 5 years, are they surprised?  Have you met anyone whose high school class remains as connected as ours?

At our 45th reunion the mic was opened during dinner for responses to the question: what explains that we felt that our class was special
?

The speculation ranged from the extraordinary number of friendships in the class to the notion that 'it takes a village' to raise a child.  We heard testimony about how many of us were 'parented' in part by the parents of our friends.  We are kind people.  We are good people.  We are friendly people.  We have always respected one another -- to the person -- despite the wide variety of backgrounds from which we came.

We had way too many extraordinary athletes for a class our size.  Several of our members went on to national prominence in their fields.  The survey we took prior to our 50th reunion showed that a very high percentage of us have had long marriages.  There are many proven leaders among us.

Of course there existed a social framework made up of clusters of friends when we were in school.  The lines between clusters were not drawn as sharply as they were in most other classes, and in most other schools.  Those who weren't athletic admired our athletes.  Those who weren't as comfortable with academic studies admired those who were.  Throughout our school years we found much to admire in one another.

In addition to the usual high school stereotypes, we enjoyed creative leadership that gave us pride in ourselves.  The 10:40am walkout comes to mind.  We were principled, and we weren't going to take it anymore!  Our senior assembly reached a crescendo in 'This is Your Life Sarah Surber'.  We managed to bring Miss Surber's best friend from the Army and her mother and sibling from far across the country -- and we kept the whole thing a secret despite the fact that she was assigned to monitor our rehearsals.  Mr. Papenfus cried unashamedly.

As we watch 'Glee' on television, it comes to mind that we had our own version of 'Glee' in the marching band and the orchestra, led by Mr. Hutzel.  He recruited and re-recruited day-in and day-out in order to have a marching band and orchestra that we could be proud of.  He worked himself to death -- literally.  He made himself work through a bout of pneumonia, until he couldn't go on.  So he went home at noon for a nap.  He never awakened.

Our athletic teams were simply amazing.  We played football in a league we had no business being in, yet players in our class fought valiantly for our honor.  We were proud of them -- they made us proud of our school and ourselves.  Do you remember watching basketball games during our Junior and Senior years?  It seemed impossible our guys were moving as fast as they were, and making baskets too!  Our baseball team was a force to be reckoned with.  Two of our members went on to play pro ball and to become national figures.  The main thing about these experiences was the pride that we took in them.

That pride contributed mightily to the experience that we were a special class.  By the time we graduated, we had pretty much persuaded ourselves and the administration of it.


At about the time of our 25th reunion, something remarkable began to happen to the social framework we had created in school.  It began to dissolve.  Members of our class who had never really known others in the class discovered beauty and magic in others that they had never seen before.  In many instances, respect and admiration morphed into love that we were not embarrassed to admit.  In others, the distance between individuals began to close.  Folks who merely had been kind to one another in high school now have become friends.

59 years later we are still going strong.  Why don't we see whether we can make future reunions the most inclusive ever.  Please encourage friends who haven't attended past reunions to come to future ones.  May they see the magic of how warm and friendly it is, how different it is, and how much we are the same.



 

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