When I told a friend I was heading to Laredo in June for my Ursuline Academy 50th class reunion, she said, “Two reunions in one year. Lucky you!”
And she was right. I am doubly lucky – to make it to even one 50th reunion, of course – and to have shared my Laredo childhood with classmates from two schools: Ursuline Academy, where I attended kindergarten through tenth grade and J.W. Nixon, where I graduated after two years in exile from the kindly nuns.
The Ursuline Class of ’67 still claims me even after I shrugged off the uniforms of the Catholic fortress on Galveston Street.
(For any youngsters who happened on to this article by a sad mistake or bored thumbs, the venerable Ursuline rock pile is now inhabited by St. Augustine High School, or should I say un-habited?)
Less than a mile and a half and several light years away, the Nixon Class of ’67 adopted me, along with my fellow Ursuline refugees, when we made our cross-town escape in 1965.
Thus it happened, dear readers, that yours truly doubled-dipped the high school reunion scene, celebrating with the Nixon Mustangs in the fall and las Ursulinas in the spring.
The Nixon reunion debauchery spread over an October weekend, about 150 men and women pretending to recognize each other, abetted by name tags designed by class president Dan Clouse. The June gathering of Ursuline activities was overseen by “class president for life” Cynthia Granger Saldaña: women only, as it was in the beginning and shall be ever more.
I loved school, even Ursuline, where dear friends offset the stifling religious atmosphere. And I loved finishing high school at Nixon, where I had to navigate a co-ed atmosphere and subject myself to Monday morning weigh-ins to keep my place on the Golden Spurs high-kick team.
And so, when Christie Barrera Storer and Loni Rose McConnell asked if I wanted to help with the Nixon 50th, I retired as associate director of the UT School of Journalism so I could devote myself full time to creating the reunion conspiracy, whose motto was “You haven’t changed a bit!”
High school reunions are big business in America, inspiring nearly 75 million baby boomers to consider non-invasive plastic surgery before slapping on those name tags.
According to Entrepreneur magazine, the reunion planning industry takes in millions of dollars every year. “Reunion organizing is a growing field,” the article said. “With all those baby boomers being joined by Generation Xers just reaching high school reunion age, there’s no dearth of potential customers.”
And boomers are signing up for “milestone” class reunions, multi-day blow-outs with packed itineraries that don’t leave much nap time.
A plethora of websites offer planning help, souvenir products we didn’t realize we needed and organizing tips, suggesting balloons as a cheap and easy way to decorate.
The best known and most annoying of these Internet reunion helpers is Classmates.com, the site that aims to connect us with all the high school acquaintances we hoped we’d never see again. As a member, you might recall that Classmates.com got hacked in 2012 and then in 2015 paid a fine over allegations it used misleading advertising and billing practices.
Christie and Loni and Cynthia didn’t need web site advice; they had real classmates to organize our reunions. Food and photography figured prominently in both efforts.
And so did reminiscing. After all, we go to our high school reunions so we can remember the good ol’ days. Maybe not accurately, but always affectionately.
Those of us born between 1946 and 1955 are known as the “leading edge” baby boomers, representing more than 50 percent of the entire post-war boom period that lasted until 1964.
We came of age during the Vietnam War, saw a president assassinated on TV and watched a man orbit the Earth. We are a generation unlike any other in terms of cultural change, marked by additional events including passing the Civil Rights Act, air conditioning, color TV, and the Beatles.
Thanks to Christie and Loni and Cynthia and their platoon of helpers, our milestone reunions reflected those landmarks of American history and allowed plenty of time for reminiscing about how we grew up as the world changed around us.
I was lucky and I enjoyed every minute immersed in that happy, double-dip nostalgia.
I wish the same for you. When your reunion invitation arrives by pony express or Evite, send in your registration money right away. And don’t worry about cosmetic surgery, our eyesight is so bad we can’t see the wrinkles.