50th High School Reunion Reflections

50th High School Reunion Reflections

Marion D. Aldridge

Too many memories, not enough time. Even when your reunion planners schedule two events, there are still not enough hours. You can have quality conversation with three or four friends, but for everyone else, you give and get a handshake, a hug, and a “How are you doing?” Two minutes at most. It’s frustrating.

Rites of passage are usually for the young—Junior-Senior Prom, High School Graduation, even getting your driver’s license. But a 50th high school class reunion is a milestone like no other. Not all your friends made it this far.   Our class had 222 boys and girls walk out of Augusta’s Bell Auditorium after our graduation in 1965. We know of 41 deaths. Those of us who attended felt fortunate to be present.

Re-union. A powerful word, especially after fifty years.

Some people joined us for this reunion we haven’t seen in five decades. This was a Big One. Golden. Everyone has a different high school adventure. I talked to someone this morning who had 900 in his big city graduating class, and to another person yesterday with a small town senior class of only 50 students.

We all had different high school experiences. Some people focused on academics. Others on sports. Some were shy and others of us talked too much! None of that mattered much at this gathering. It was simply good to be together. I hope everyone else enjoyed the reunion weekend as much as I did.

“My heart is bound by memory’s chain

Within each room and hall,

Of my noble Alma Mater,

The fairest school of all.”

North Augusta High School Alma Mater

Categories: Football, South Carolina | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

50th High School Reunion Prayer

North Augusta (South Carolina) High School 50th Reunion

Prayer by Marion Aldridge

May 23, 2015

Creator God,

Sustaining us always,

We give thanks for the gift of life,

for friends, teachers, coaches, family and all who have influenced us in our pilgrimage.

Also, we grieve for the loss of our classmates who have died too soon, dear friends, treasured relationships. We pause to remember them.


We trust your care for them and for us, now and forever.

Thank you for memories from our high school years, for the education we received in the classroom and in other places and in other ways: basketball courts and Teen Town.

We remember the words of Alma Mater: “Twas there the teachers lent their aid to guide our climbing steps, and taught us how to drink the cup of knowledge to its depths.”

A chapter of our lives ended when we graduated. Other chapters began. We are aware of your grace every step of the way.

Tonight, on this occasion of our fiftieth high school reunion, we thank you for the opportunity to renew old friendships.

We also thank you for those who have worked hard to make this reunion a success. Keep us safe until we gather again. Amen

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, South Carolina | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Reading for Adults

“People who have read only one book can be quite dangerous.” Molly Ivins (who illustrated her point with mass murderer Timothy McVeigh—he apparently only read Ayn Rand)

Reading has always been an important part of my life. Dad was a reader. When we went to a used bookstore together, he would buy me something: Robin Hood or Treasure Island, something age appropriate.

Schoolteachers had us read Charles Dickens, Jack London, Ernest Hemingway and Jane Austen. Trying to improve us, high school teachers also assigned The Odyssey and Julius Caesar.

I began college as a math major, but after a year I discovered I could get a degree for reading books I wanted to read, so I became an English Literature major. Some stretching continued as I read assigned books that didn’t interest me. But I also kept reading for fun. I discovered Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Willa Cather, Agatha Christie, Arthur Conon Doyle, and Dorothy Sayers.

Somewhere along the way, my love for Southern Literature led me to Eudora Welty, Robert Penn Warren, Walker Percy and Clyde Edgerton.

What I mean by “adult reading” has nothing to do with an X-rating. When I was 20, I didn’t have enough life experience or knowledge of world history to understand War and Peace. I do now. I read it a few years ago at the recommendation of Pat Conroy (My Reading Life), and I loved it. I now understand Flannery O’Connor in a way I didn’t as a young man. Moby Dick and Zorba the Greek are great literature because they speak to fundamental issues of life about which most of us are clueless until we reach age 30.

Of course, To Kill a Mockingbird, Animal Farm and Death Comes for the Archbishop are easy and good to read at any age. I’ve enjoyed some books when I was a teenager and again as a mature adult.

Happy reading!

Additions to the above:


A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving

Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

Jayber Crow, Wendell Berry

Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry

Night, Elie Wiesel

Pygmalion, George Bernard Shaw

The Good Earth, Pearl Buck

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood


Falling Upward, Richard Rohr

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

The Autobiography of Malcolm X (ghost written—since Malcolm X was dead—by Alex Haley)

The Habit of Being, Letters of Flannery O’Connor, edited by Sally Fitzgerald

The Prince, Machiavelli

The Seven-Story Mountain, Thomas Merton

Categories: Book Review, Family, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

40th High School Reunion

 (The title is not a misprint.  Though my 50th high school class reunion is just a week away, I found these thoughts on an old computer–written right after our last major reunion.  They are still true.)

The 40th Class Reunion of North Augusta High School, Class of 1965, was a magical weekend of Thanksgiving, pure nostalgia, an occasion of warm and delicious memories.  The girls of forty years ago are even more beautiful now as mature women.  The boys, many of whom went to Viet Nam, have, over the years, become men.  Some of our class members are no longer with us, having died too young.  Others have coped with the death or mental illness of children or the loss of a spouse.  We have all lost our innocence.

In North Augusta, South Carolina, in the mid-1960’s, though we were mostly middle-class, we were privileged to live in a virtual childhood wonderland, a town of good churches, peewee football and baseball, peach trees with plenty of ripe fruit, movies that would have all been rated G, parents who loved us, streets that were safe.  We were clueless, at that time, about the extent of our cultural racism.  Now, we know better.

Even our music was innocent.  “Young Love” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” were typical of the era.  We studied Julius Caesar and Geometry.  We read Gone with the Wind and The Old Man and the Sea.  Our parents were people of faith and took us to church on Sundays and Wednesdays.  We were taught to respect people who believed differently than we did.  We might not have understood the complexities of our world, but we were capable of learning.  We were taught to be open, tolerant, and charitable.  “Moderate” was a good word.  “Fanatic” was not.

We knew each other in a way that you can’t know someone you met in a bar two hours ago.  We grew up together, and we sat by each other in classes, and chased each other on the schoolyard.  We played sports together and we knew who cheated and who played fair. When you know each other from childhood, you know who is decent and good and kind and honest.  You also know who was deceitful and malicious.  Thank God there were only a few of those.

As an adult, I am now conscious that some of my classmates were marginalized for a variety of reasons.  Also, I now know that just because you lived in a nice house didn’t mean you weren’t abused or depressed. As self-absorbed teenagers, we were utterly unaware of some of the hurts and crises of some of the boys and girls who sat in the desks next to ours.

Time moves on. We grow. I loved being seventeen. Even more, I love being an adult.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Football, Race, South Carolina | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Conspiracy to Keep us Down and Dumb

This (see title) came up in an email conversation this week.  Here is a paragraph I wrote in Overcoming Adolescence about the subject:

One of the saddest attacks of negative nostalgia I have ever encountered was while reading Frank McCourt’s second autobiographical book ‘Tis   His first installment, Angela’s Ashes, was a runaway bestselling account of the grinding poverty of his childhood.  I could not identify with it.  He was more impoverished than anybody I knew.  However, ‘Tis, describing his early years as an Irish immigrant in America, struck home.  His account of moving up the educational and socio-economic ladder recalled, for me, a couple of episodes in my own life.  A family member or a work-buddy in a dead-end job challenged McCourt’s attempt to get an education, to use good grammar, to play by a different set of rules than was valued on the lowest rungs of society.  I identified.  I have heard it all:

  • “Do you think you are better than us now?”
  • “You are getting kind of uppity, aren’t you?”

There was and is a mammoth conspiracy afoot by the ignorant to keep others as wretched as they are!  Misery, we say, loves company.  It makes underachievers feel better if you are failing along with them!

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

High School Cliques—50 years later

Planning a high school class reunion is a hoot—lots of laughter and old jokes. Good memories.

Planning a class reunion elicits other emotions as well. There is the surreal experience of literally not recognizing someone with whom you were close, your lab partner in chemistry, a teammate, even a girlfriend. Of course, they don’t recognize me either. Some of the insecurities of adolescence also return as cliques re-form: the popular boys and girls, the jocks, the beauty queens, the rich kids. If there is a way to divide human beings, we will find a way to do it.

I’ve heard someone say that at class reunions the same ol’ pecking orders emerge.

As my North Augusta High School Class of 1965 has begun to plan its fiftieth reunion, I’ve had a bit of a different take on our so-called cliques. Of course, it’s no fun to be excluded, so there is obviously a negative aspect to dividing ourselves into factions.

But, who else would we hang out with other than the people we knew best? At least five elementary schools fed into our one junior high and then our high school. We merged just fine as far as I recall. But, it’s natural enough that some of my best friends with our own special memories go back to grammar school. Some of us went to the same church. That’s why we were best friends then and good friends still.

Even in high school, we had groups that were exclusive in their own way, but what other option was there? I was never in the band and band folks have a unique bond, an in-group that I was not in! Why wouldn’t they want to hang out together at a reunion? Some classmates went off to the same college and have shared memories of high school and university. Some stayed in town and raised their own kids together. They have been in the same Sunday school class together for forty years.

We can be a bit prickly and paranoid at these events but the time together is worth the effort.

Happy days then. Even happier days now.

Categories: Humor, South Carolina | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Fiftieth Class Reunion Planning Committee

Our fiftieth high school class reunion is on the calendar. That makes those of us sitting in the room planning the event either age 67 or 68. Glenda, preparing to preside over the dozen or so of us on the reunion planning committee, looked at her notes, then said, “Terry, Can I borrow your glasses again?”

Great start, I thought.

Then, Allison said, “Don’t forget some of us are going deaf, too, so speak loudly.”

Really great start!

Hearing aids and glasses adjusted, each person in the group introduced and said something about himself or herself. Of course, during these short speeches, folks bragged about their grandchildren. Understandable, but when one classmate said she had fourteen grandkids, she was asked if she could name them all. That cut down on the grandchild talk.

Introductions were necessary because we didn’t have a clue who these other old folks were. “Hey, How ya’ doing? So good to see you,” was merely a cover.

At least nobody said, “Were you one of our teachers?”

Finally, we got around to the business. Questions about what to eat and how much to charge and would we need a policeman for security. Security? The most dangerous thing anybody in this crowd was going to do was to fall asleep while driving home.

I was interested in the time set for the reunion. There were arguments for 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. but I was holding out for the 4:30 p.m. Early Bird Special. The menu choice was easy: mustard-based barbeque. This is South Carolina, after all.

There was some debate about saving some money by using email instead of snail mail and postage stamps, but some of our class doesn’t use email. Back and forth, one opinion, then another.

Eventually, we decided we’d better hurry up with whatever choice we make before we’re all too old to get there.

Categories: Health, Humor, South Carolina | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

I Loved High School

These days, it’s cool for people to say they hated their high school years. They will often add that the other students didn’t like them and they didn’t like the other students. Nothing could be further from my experience.

High school was a feast of football and basketball games, sock hops, field trips, proms, cheerleaders and summer camps.

At North Augusta High School, graduating in 1965, we told bad jokes when we were dissecting frogs, and made bad rhymes when we discovered limericks. We enjoyed some quality educators who made learning fun.

I also remember the day we all hid in a closet to confuse our physics professor who was late to class. When we weren’t there, he turned around and left. Of course, even when he wasn’t late, he was confused. Terry Bodiford and I played spitball basketball during his class. That could explain my grades in that class.

I remember the coach whose most memorable counsel was, “Do something, even if it’s wrong.” During the Cuban Missile Crisis, those of us at baseball practice started drilling with our bats. Not long after, each of us has an exact memory of where we were when we heard President Kennedy had been shot.

High school was a time of discovery, some of which happened in the classrooms, but more took place in the hallways, on ball fields, in locker rooms, and on afternoons and weekends.

Happy Days!

Categories: Baseball, Family, Football, South Carolina | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Go. See. McFarland, USA.

The movie McFarland, USA interested me because the previews indicated it would be an inspirational sports story. I like sports. My wife doesn’t. She was out of town, so it seemed a fine film for me to see by myself.

I loved it. Sally would love it too. Based on a true story, McFarland, USA tells of a poor, predominantly Latino (Mexican-American) town in Southern California.

Kevin Costner plays a familiar character well: the stubborn, hardheaded athlete. Think Bull Durham, Tin Cup, Field of Dreams, and Draft Day. In McFarland, USA, he is Bill White, the newly hired high school cross-country coach. White’s never run cross-country or track. He’s never coached cross-country or track. The teenagers he coaches have never run cross-country or track.

Spoiler alert. You’ll like the way the movie ends. This film is Disney at its best.

What I did not expect was a touching account of a Daddy and his daughters. Take your Kleenex.

This is a good movie for all ages, children and adults, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, grandparents and grandkids.

Go. See. McFarland, USA.

Categories: Book Review, Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Dear Abby

Reading Dear Abby has been part of my daily newspaper ritual for decades. Certain themes emerge over and over again. Here are five I’ve seen repeated many times, followed by my observations:

  • Misunderstanding the nature of love. Marion’s response: Love is not what you feel when someone makes you feel good. Love is what you do when someone makes you feel bad.
  • Mind reading. Marion’s response: Nobody can know what another human being thinks. If you want your husband to give you yellow roses on your birthday, you have to tell him. Communicate.
  • Pet peeves. Marion’s response: Do you really need to have an opinion about everything? No, you don’t. Pet peeves are, by definition, petty. They don’t need to drive you crazy. Let it go. Find some space for grace in your life. What your mother-in-law or daughter-in-law chooses to wear is not your business. Period.
  • Thoughtlessness.  Marion’s response: We can laugh about a teenager being clueless. When older adults fail to stop and think before speaking or acting, it’s not humorous. It’s depressing and sad. Think!
  • Fear.  Marion’s response: People write Dear Abby who are miserable and desperate because they are afraid of someone’s reaction. Living in fear of an event that may not happen, and probably won’t happen, is a miserable and desperate way to live. Get over it. Move on. Fear not.

Marion D. Aldridge Author of Overcoming Adolescence http://www.amazon.com/Overcoming-Adolescence-Growing-Childhood-Maturity-ebook/dp/B0057B058O

Categories: Family, Health, Lists/Top Ten | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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