August 2, 2008

    Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth .. oops, wrong speech!

    Actually it was two score and ten that we the graduates of the class of 58, the Flying Eagles of Woodrow Wilson High School, brought forth 343 young men and women ready to take on the world.

    We became doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers, soldiers, business persons, plumbers, carpenters, firemen, homemakers, ministers, coaches, salesmen, farmers and many other contributors to the world.

    And during that half century, we had dreams realized and hopes dashed. But our longevity has made the memories sweeter and the missteps less painful. I always forget my mistakes. Ida, our beautiful Prom Queen, remembers them for me.

    Ida and I have known each other since the second grade and we are still friends after 43 years of marriage. Of course, she says, jokingly I hope, that one of the reasons we stayed together during the first 20 years was that as an Army officer I’d go away on a 6-month tour every now and then. She also says that we have been married so long, we’re now on our second bottle of Tabasco sauce.

    I want to thank the Reunion Committee for its work and commitment in planning the events and ensuring we have the opportunity to come together every five years. I don’t want to miss anyone so I’ll ask each member of the committee to stand and receive a round of applause. And a special big thank you goes to Jim “P.A.” Hatcher for the wonderful web site and the frequent messages which keep us connected.

    Since we graduated, the Nation has engaged in military actions in Vietnam, Granada, Kosovo, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq and we are still in a battle with terrorism. The country has had nine presidents and we will soon vote for another resident of the White House.

    Technology has brought so many inventions and innovations that our early experiences are now nostalgic and we are hard put to remember how we got along without computers, cell phones, high definition TV, and laser surgeries, joint replacements, and pills for nearly every ailment.

    Certainly in our youth, our hormones raged and no one ever talked of erectile dysfunction, much less had its cures advertised on TV. Is it only coincidence that the chemical name of Cialis starts with Ta Da!

    When we were 10 years old, the first credit card was introduced and the Korean War started. At 12, seats belts were first installed in cars and the polio vaccine was created, not quite in time for some of our classmates. Now polio is virtually non-existent

    A year later, DNA was discovered and now the human genome has been identified. We can now offer conclusive evidence in crimes, genealogy and medical cures.

    The year we entered Woodrow Wilson, Disney Land opened, MacDonalds was founded. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. We welcomed the first black students into our class. It’s too bad that we haven’t been able to keep in touch with them.

    In our junior year, the Soviets launched Sputnik and the Space Age began. Now we have witnessed landings on the moon, space walks outside the International Space Station, exploration of Mars and beyond.

    Music seems to define generations and we were rock and roll. Bill Haley and the Comets, Chuck Berry, Laverne Baker, Frankie Lyman and the Teenagers blared from our radios and the juke box at Teen Town, where we danced our version of the jitterbug, the cha cha cha, and the stroll. We sang along with the king, Elvis Presley. And we often turned to the words of our songs for guidance because the song writers captured our thoughts . Remember when we asked the witch doctor what to do about our love life and he said oo ee, oooee ah ah ting tang, walla walla bing bang. That said it all.

    A high school teacher remarked not long ago that studies have shown that our high school experience and friendships are more enduring than any others in our life. Many of us have remained friends throughout the years.

    Ida and I are fortunate that we live fairly close to Mickey Wender and her husband Mike Zak and we can get together occasionally to recall old times, share life experiences and enjoy each other’s company. You should ask her about the book she’s writing.

    Even though most of us do not see each frequently, the times of our high school days are etched in our memories. Events shape our world, but the most meaningful moments and memories are the ways in which we and our teachers touched our lives. Ida remembers our Latin teacher, Mrs. Milliron, who helped us throw some great toga parties, but also taught the basics of a language that aided us in learning English grammar.

    All of us remember our principal, Mr. Peregory, whose arm could seemingly elongate and snatch a troublemaker from the ranks of rowdy students. While he may have seemed physically handicapped, he stirred dread in any student who was summoned to the principal’s office for an infraction of the school rules. We learned discipline and that our actions had consequences.

    Everyone was touched by The Old Gray Eagle, Coach Jerome Van. Meter. Loved and respected by his athletes, he loomed large in our lives. Years later, in his eighties, maybe nineties, when I returned for a football hall of fame event, he clearly remembered me by name, where I went to college and even what I had been doing. I was not alone, he seemed to know everyone equally as well.

    Buddy Bales, I’m sure, recalls when the basketball team was playing Charleston in the state tournament and we were underdogs. As the game began, Coach took his folding metal chair, walked to the end of the court, and set up right off the edge under the Charleston basket. Did he psych them out? Well, we won the game.

    Our football coach, Nelson Bragg, was a fearsome coach. We used to drill in the Eagles’ Nest. Lines of players radiated from a center and we were supposed to go down the lines, hitting one player with our right shoulder and the next with our left. Bragg thought we needed to be more aggressive, so he snuffed a lit cigarette into the palm of his hand, and proceeded to bowl us over one by one.

    Our band could not have had a more beloved leader. Mr. Salleck. I’m told the band trips to Florida to play during halftime of the Orange Bowl was a great experience for everyone. Was it true that the recommended pocket money of $30 dollars was enough for all the meals at various cafeterias along the route for a week or more.

    Reunion speeches always include reminders of the good old days and how much has changed. I won’t change that paradigm, but also will not dwell on it.

    The Kozy Korner, Tip Top, Teen Town, White Cross Pharmacy and 4-H Lake were our favorite hang outs after school. We flirted with each other, shared Tin Roof sundaes, and gossiped about what our friends were doing. We cruised Pete and Bob’s, jumped in and out of cars to chat for a few minutes until we had to move the car forward in its lane. And King Tut drive-in, still in business, was popular too.

    Once we got drivers licenses, we went to drive in movies, mainly for making out or to see how many people we could stuff into the trunk to avoid paying admission. We went to Palace, Lyric or Beckley Theater to see our favorite movies for one dollar and recoiled at the 3-D images leaping off the screen into our red and green cellophane glasses.

    In copying the “Rebel Without a Cause,” the boys wore white T-shirts, red nylon windbreakers, rolled up jeans with black engineer boots. Oh, and remember when we had hair and wore it in a DA style. The girls copied the dancers on American Band Stand with hair in pony tails, poodle skirts and saddle shoes.

    Our childhood friends grew up together. I can remember Andy (1295) Eareheart sketching pictures of cars in grade school and of course he became one of the biggest car dealers in the country. Is it true that Andy once told a customer that he should get a new car for his wife. And the customer said, “Wow, can I make a trade like that?”

    Andy, George Arnold and I would go on road trips, one in a brand new T-bird that Andy had access to George and I share memories of some the fun things we did. I’m sure he remembers making merry. It’s interesting that he and I were paper boys and ended up with journalism career
    David Miller and I competed in spelling bees and afternoon wrestling matches. David’s career in academics and mine in communications may have started with our interest in words.

    Fred Lilly and I shared times on the play ground and the battleground. Fred served for five years in Vietnam as a civilian and during my tour of duty, we were able to get together occasionally. Whenever I got a chance to come out of the field to Saigon, Fred and Jacqui were gracious hosts with a cool drink and a hot meal.

    The road to Hinton is no longer mountainous and winding, but in our day, Jimmy Broome held the record for the fastest drive time.

    Johnny Pyles, with the prophetic nickname of “Diamond Dust” in our yearbook went on to live near Diamond Head in Hawaii.

    Who would have thought that the lovely Janey Cooke would become a hunter, and outdoor sports woman in Alaska.

    Many of us developed passions for hobbies and causes. Take golf. I was a fast learner After only a few lessons, I was able to throw my clubs as far as people who had played for years.

    Ida and I became involved with the arts. She is an accomplished artist and serves on the board of trustees of the Arts Council of Silicon Valley. I serve on the boards of the San Jose Repertory Theatre and Symphony Silicon Valley. When we travel, we like to visit the great museums of the world.

    Now that we have reached the half-century mark for alumni, we can fondly look back at and reflect on the things that went well and the things we might have done differently.

    But although we now are concerned about issues concerning Medicare, retirement income, grandchildren, most us are still active and looking forward, not backwards.

    Earlier this year, there was a movie called the Bucket List, about two men who decided to do all the things they wanted before kicking the bucket. We should all have such a list and doing our darnest to cross off the items. I would suggest however that we all keep at least one item on the To Do list. I don’t want to reach the point where I have to say Is that all there is?
    Many of our classmates have already passed and our time will come. But the memories should not be that’s someone is gone, but rather that they were, And they touched our lives as we hope they touched ours. Life should be celebrated.

    I’ll close by quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson: “ To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children—to leave the world a better place- to know one life has breathed easier because you have lived- this is to have succeeded.”

    So now let’s continue to succeed, make some more memories and party.slide content 1