"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Time rolls on and so do high school reunions

I remember as a kid calculating how old I'd be in the year 2000. "The year 2000" had such an exotic and distant ring to it. We wondered if we'd be getting around in flying cars like on "The Jetsons."
Of course, the real technological innovations are impossible to predict. "Back to the Future" envisioned a future that wasn't that big a departure from that movie series' home base of 1985. Perhaps the movie makers could do a tweaking job and insert a computer screen with "Facebook" on it.
Trying to predict broad changes is risky because you could be completely off the mark. You'd get laughed at years hence.
I calculated that I'd be age 45 in 2000. As a kid that future date struck me as so remote. Would civilization even make it?
As an adolescent I took the Viet Nam War and inflation in the economy as constants. Surely these would persist as a ball and chain on all of us.
If they were so disastrous, why couldn't our leaders do something about it?
Economics is a science. There is a way to stop inflation. We heard about "inflation psychology" and were subjected to the Gerald Ford WIN buttons ("whip inflation now"). People don't raise prices because of a particular psychology. It's a wholly practical matter. Eventually Paul Volcker took over at the Fed and made us take the bitter medicine.
Inflation is so minimal now as to not cause anyone any real worry, although that could change. But the inflation monster of the 1970s, that spectre that I thought might be permanent, is gone.
We have a profoundly troubling foreign military adventure now, in Afghanistan, but it's not like Viet Nam. Young men are not being conscripted. The spectre of the draft is not altering young men's lives.
Viet Nam was a hell hole that had many saying we were doing more harm than good. Afghanistan seems like a treadmill where you question whether the positives are worth the sacrifice.
Long-term we might be asking that about Iraq too.
I made it to the year 2000 and found age 45 to be hardly on the verge of wilting.
Now we have gotten past the first decade of the new century. With the calendar turning to 2011, I realize we're but a year away from the first informal planning meetings for our next class reunion. We have been having reunions at ten-year intervals.
The Morris High School Class of 1973 will be marking 40 years in 2013. I suppose the Old No. 1 has already been booked by some other class for the weekend we want. Let's assume that weekend is Prairie Pioneer Days. The Old No. 1 is the undisputed "in" place for having such gatherings.
I called the Old No. 1 in advance for our 30-year reunion and found we had gotten beaten out by those youngsters in the '83 class. Personally I didn't care that much. We ended up at the Morris American Legion clubrooms - wholly satisfactory. But I know of one person in our class, whose name I won't report here, who was so upset about missing out on the Old No. 1 that she didn't even attend.
I'm not sure the Old No. 1 deserves such special status in Morris. Isn't it really a patchwork of rooms? I can't help but think of the old VFW when I go there. I once interviewed James Oberstar in the basement.
Our 30-year reunion was a little tough. The enthusiasm and attendance dropped off from the 20-year. And I don't think it had anything to do with where it was held.
I suspect that our experience might have been typical.
30 years is a long time to have been out of school. The memories have gotten buried under the obligations of the present. We're not old enough to be retired. Current trends to seem to be pushing people our of their primary occupations earlier than before, though.
At age 48 we're probably still locked into a career that seemed exciting and fulfilling once, but as the finish line nears, it seems more like an ordeal to survive. Younger people with more up-to-date knowledge and with the energy of being young are nipping at our heels. High school might as well have been in the Dark Ages.
We attend our 30-year reunion (those of us who choose to come) with more grim faces.
Will we be relieved of a lot of those pressures when we reach our 40-year? It remains to be seen.
Father Gerald Dalseth once observed that as we get older, we're more direct in admitting our failures when we gather for reunions. Father Dalseth discussed the whole progression. He talked about how any occupation sounded impressive for the ten-year reunion.
The ten-year reunion, assuming it's the first, is exhilarating because all the old shackles are gone. The restraints imposed by school are gone.
The ten-year is not always the first. I know the Morris High School Class of 1971 had a full-fledged five-year affair, and I smile as I recall that two members of that class rushed to get married so they could be married for it. The marriage didn't last long. Hoo boy, I wouldn't type their names here.
The '71 class has had an especially tight bond. They have had informal gatherings in "off" years.
My class has been very tight with the once-every-ten-years approach.
My class graduated at the height of the rebelliousness of America's youth. We chose the motto "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead," a quote from the Civil War - ironic because we were supposed to be against war.
I'm not sure we intended any grand statement by this choice. Perhaps it was more of a spirit of fooling around.
The kids of today might not believe it, but we cut corners in lots of ways. We sought escape from school, and our elders didn't seem much to care. It was a cynical time under those clouds of war and the teetering economy.
Nobody talked about mutual funds then. You put money in the bank if you had any to put there. Banks had multiple active "tellers" and there would be lines at those windows. No electronic shortcuts or ATM machines.
How did we get by? But we did, serenaded by the music of Paul McCartney and Wings and Elton John. And in 2013, God willing, we'll gather somewhere and see how everything turned out.
Us boomers have always felt we held a special position, and in terms of our numbers we certainly have been overwhelming. We have set the agenda for national discussions so much. We have felt entitled.
Our elders never much got in our way. The younger population has mastered tech tools that we maybe haven't quite kept pace with. We appreciate those tools but we see a bigger picture, one nurtured by a childhood in which such tech stuff was confined to the Jetsons.
And "Mr. Spacely" (George Jetson's boss) made the phrase "you're fired" famous long before Donald Trump.
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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