Class reunions—now there is a topic for you.
Have you been to one? Two? Many?
I attended my 40th class reunion a couple of weeks ago, for the “great class of 1972 from Slidell High!”
Of course, every class thinks they are the “great class of….!”
And in their own way, every one is.
As the years go by, every class will lay claim to a handful of individuals who make it big in some way, whether in sports, in business, in Hollywood, or hey, how about with a local newspaper!
Yes, I’m guessing I did a little better than some people thought I might do, considering where I started from.
The classmates I saw at Pinewood Country Club for our reunion two weeks ago mostly remember me for a few things: I was a hippie, I was a very skinny kid, and I was the scorekeeper for Coach Ben Abadie’s baseball and basketball teams. Even though I was no kind of athlete, I got to be buddies with all the athletes since they always wanted me to tell them what their statistics were.
So for most of the teachers who saw me back in high school, or most of the classmates, I would not blame them for a second to have thought, “man, that guy will probably have a tough time ahead of him.”
I was not a good student, that was for sure. I flunked English in the 11th grade, and had to pass two courses of English as a senior or I wouldn’t have even graduated from high school. I’ll never forget a sweetheart of a teacher, Mrs. Hazel Lansing, an English teacher at Slidell High who made sure I got through those two English courses and passed—just barely.
But I guess if you look at the small signs for any of us during high school, you would probably see the silver lining of what might come down the road.
I was keeping the scorebook for Coach Abadie since my younger brother, Tony Chiri, was a superstar athlete in more than one sport. Tony became an all-state basketball player who went on to receive a college scholarship with McNeese State, but his real talent was on the baseball diamond where he actually had a couple of major league scouts looking at him.
Anyway, I loved watching my brother play so I asked Coach Abadie if I could be his stat guy, and he was more than happy to oblige. Who would have guessed that connection to sports was going to be part of what would later help me have the knowledge to become a sportswriter at the former Slidell Daily Times?
The only other thing I remember being very good at in high school, other than finding a party every weekend night, was typing. I needed an elective in my junior year and didn’t know what to take, so I picked typing, thinking it might be easy. Turned out I was a fabulous typist! Who knew?
I remember going to Mrs. Judith Bruno’s class the first week and taking my first time-writing test. I used two fingers, was timed at 24 words per minute, and bragged to myself how I had “showed her!”
Six weeks later I was typing over 100 words per minute and by mid-term she was using me to type term papers for local college kids that I am guessing was a way she made a few nickels on the side. But hey, I always had an ‘A’ on my report card so everyone was happy!
So typing and keeping the scorebooks were my two big talents in high school, and somehow—40 years later—I walk into my class reunion and answer, “what do you do now? “ with “Well, I own the Slidell newspaper.”
Geez!!! Didn’t sound too bad. And add to that my beautiful wife of 37 years, and hey, that Kevin somehow seemed to do OK for himself.
OK, OK, so yes, I am bragging to the max, but isn’t that, in a lot of ways, what reunions are really about?
Don’t we really go to them for two main reasons: we want to see what everyone ended up doing for a living, and we certainly want to see how everyone looks.
Fortunately for me, I have worked out all my life and retained much of my “skinny” look, and my wife, well……OK, I won’t say it since she doesn’t like me bragging publicly about (how beautiful she is.)
But even as we all were looking each other over, and finding out how life had treated everyone, the truth was that I had a really enjoyable time just talking to the classmates I had gone to high school with, lived those memories with, and now with them at Pinewood Country Club 40 years later.
As it is with all classes as the years go by, some of those classmates are no longer with us. One of my best friends, Bill Brownlow, recently died of a heart problem and he was a close, close friend to both my wife and I. It was hard thinking about him not being there and I’m still angry at myself for not making more of an effort to see him the last few years, since he didn’t live so far away.
But I guess we all will have some regrets we must live with and that will always be one I must carry. Hopefully it has reminded me to not take any of my friends for granted, even those I have not seen for 40 years.
Yes, reunions are fun, and they certainly change as the decades pass, but for this one, I am glad I went and really appreciate the folks who put out so much effort to put it together. We had two classmates who traveled thousands of miles to make it as Betty O’Quinn-Truhler came over 3,000 miles—driving from Seattle—while Layton Nunez flew in from Alaska.
I think many of us hear about our upcoming reunions and end up passing on them, thinking they won’t be worth the effort. But trust me, it is fun to go to such things and getting reacquainted with a few old friends is all good memories.
As much as anything, it reminds us all that time is fleeting, and we should cherish all our friendships and make the most of every day we have on this earth, being thankful for what a great life most of us have been fortunate enough to live.
Kevin Chiri can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.