I recently got back from my high school reunion. What a step through the looking glass that was.
This year marked the 45th commemoration of my hurtling down the athletic field at Sidney High School, waving my high C average for all the world to see. Last week, I went back home to help celebrate this with my classmates.
The concept of an "all-alumni weekend" is brilliant. Instead of having get-togethers scattered around the country for small groups over the years, this is one big blowout over three days. And everyone is welcome (Oneonta and others have also done this with great success).
The other benefit is that you actually get to meet up with those who graduated just before or just after your class did. Of course, in small towns where everybody knows everybody anyway, this makes the weekend work beautifully.
Crossing the old Sidney bridge, I couldn't help but notice how spiffed up the old stomping grounds looked. Maroon and white banners were draped across the fronts of many buildings, gaily colored balloons bobbed in the breeze, flags were flying and huge posters of each graduating class decorated the fronts of the storefronts. I found my photo (buzz cut, skinny black tie and all) in the window of what we used to call the Starlight Room of the Hotel DeCumber.
My class was gathering at a very new hip spot on Main Street called the Angus and Ale Tavern and Restaurant. We used to call it the Victory Restaurant. Just the fact that this brand-spanking-new Cheers-like place was open for this celebration weekend bodes well (I hope) for Sidney's future. About two dozen of my classmates made it back this year.
Golf tournaments, dances, ice-breakers, dinners and memorial services were all in abundance that weekend. More than 500 attended overall.
Sunday, we had our Sidney High School Wall of Fame luncheon at the firehouse. It was packed. I had the distinct pleasure of inducting William K. Davis (Class of '43), founder of Oneonta's Country Club Auto Group, into the wall of fame.
To say that Bill Davis is a venerable and respected figure of both Oneonta and Sidney would be a monument to understatement. His induction was met by a rousing standing ovation.
As Sen. Jim Seward told me in his letter of recommendation for Bill's honor: "A wall of fame is only as special as its members. And the inclusion of Bill Davis into the Sidney Wall of Fame will only make it that much more exceptional."
Unfortunately, Bill wasn't there to accept because even now in his 80s, he is still exploring new frontiers. He was trekking the wilds of Alaska that weekend. His son Scott accepted on his behalf. The entire induction class was outstanding this year.
One long-standing tradition is the "March of Classes." Each year every class present marches its colors before a cheering throng. Of course, the older the class gets, the fewer marchers who are present. As usual this year Sidney's beloved former optometrist Ted Elliott, SHS Class of 1931, led the way. All by himself. You do the math on this guy. He is remarkable!
Reunions can be fun and rewarding. Stories are told with abandon and memories are rekindled through a prism of melancholy. Like my old friend Joe Campbell, "The Grand Old Man of Radio," once told me, "Reunions are great! Every guy dated the prettiest girl. Every guy had the highest grade. Every guy scored the winning touchdown. And the fun part is that nobody corrects you because nobody can remember it, anyways!"
Having graduated in 1967, I have always felt like I was among the younger set at these things. That is beginning to change. The hair is gone, and what there is of it is graying or white. The medicine cabinet, which once held a solitary comb, a jar of Brylcreem and a bottle of Hai Karate, now is jammed with pill bottles and health aids. Time is fleeting. Fifteen percent of my graduating class has passed on.
If you get an invitation in the mail to your school reunion and you have never been, think about it for a minute. And then take my advice and go and give it a shot. Chances are you will enjoy yourself, and better yet, everybody will enjoy seeing you.
And remember what they always say, "The most important person at a class reunion is the one in charge of the name tags!"
I'll catch you in two ...
"Big Chuck" D'Imperio can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also on Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his "Oldies Jukebox Show." You can find "Big Chuck" on Facebook under Upstate New York Books. He invites you to contact him at email@example.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/bigchuck.