Mixsonian Larry


Class of 1970 High School Reunion

1980 GHS Reunion
I am in white shirt with moustache five up third from the left just behind one of the few black students that came.

In July of 1980 I drove my ’76 Chevy van up to Gainesville for my 10th High School reunion.  It would be the first one I had been too since graduating. A lot had happened in the ten years since High School and I was unsure about going but my old high school friend John St. Jacques said he was so I decided to go.  Other than John, there were not many others from high school that I had been in contact with over the years.  There were a few I hung out with for a couple years after graduating, but after moving to Melbourne in ’76, I pretty much had not seen or heard from anyone other than John.  There were a few dozen or so I thought I would like to see, some I had known since elementary school, and others I was friends with during Junior High and High School.

The reunion started Friday night with a reception at some place downtown with a cash bar and a DJ playing music from the time.  There was a lot to choose from with the music of 1969 being nothing but exceptional, there had been nothing like it before or since.  The bands were numerous, songs abounded, the music from the time was special.

I tried really hard not to show up my usual 15 minutes early, managing to show up 15 minutes after the specified start time.  I walked through the door and looked around, there were only a few present but I already recognized several of my old classmates, including both the girls sitting at the reception table that had name cards with our high school picture on them spread out on it in alphabetical order.   I walk over to the table, one of the girls recognizes me, and finds my nametag and crosses my name off a list. The other girl at the table, after hearing the first say my name, had that puzzled look like, “yeah, I think I remember you.”  I collect my name tag, a reunion information booklet, and walk away pinning my name tag to my shirt as I head over to the bar to get a beer.   

1970 was a tumultuous year for Gainesville High School becoming the only public high school in the city after court mandated integration closed the black Lincoln High School and moving their students to GHS mid-year.  With the combined schools, our 1970 graduating class had over 900 graduating seniors, so clearly there were many, hundreds, I didn’t know. But there were several dozen kids I thought of as friends including some of the “more popular” group of kids. Although I would not call most of them close friends, they had been in my classes, some for many years, and I was on speaking terms with them back in school.   

Over the next hour, a hundred or so people showed up at the reunion, not that many considering a graduating class of 900, but generally it was most of the core group that I knew. There were even a few black students that came, a bit surprising after all the trouble we went through during the school integration.

It was an interesting experience meeting people I hadn’t seen in ten years. There were a few that I considered my “real” friends, like Hank who lived across the street from us when I was in elementary school and knew all though high school.   There were those that I immediately recognized, they looked like a slightly older version of how I remembered them in ’70.  There were those that looked familiar, but I couldn't remember their name and had to read their name tag to know who they were.  There were those that said they knew or remembered me, but I didn’t remember them.  Then there were many I had no idea who they were.  After ten years most were married or had been and a few were brave enough to bring their spouses.  Few like myself were still single.  I stayed for a couple of hours and beers then went back to Mom and Dad’s for the night.

The following day, Saturday, there was a group gathering at the University of Florida’s Lake Walburg where there was cookout with hamburgers and hotdogs.  I played a few games of volleyball and had a few beers, having a good time. Everyone who attended got a GHS Class of 1970 beach towel with a purple hurricane on it.

LarrySaturday evening was the big event with a casual, but dress nice, buffet dinner at the same place we had the Friday night gathering.  There were large round tables set up around the room that would seat eight which people gathered around with their friends.   People arrived over the first hour, many more than on the previous Friday night and at the lake.  Soon the place was filled with a hundred or more.  People milled about, greeting those they knew, remembered, or didn’t remember, talking about times from school and what they were currently doing and lived.  I wasn’t comfortable in such situations, but after a few beers I loosened up and milled about talking to people.  It surprised my how many still lived in Gainesville.  Most of those that didn’t live in Gainesville like me still lived in Florida but there were a few that lived in other states.  There were a several that were lawyers, a couple that were doctors, a few engineers, some having local businesses, even one that said he was a bail bondsman, although I wasn’t sure if he was just kidding.  When I told people I was a computer programmer they didn’t seem surprised, more with more than one saying something like, “you were really into science or math in high school.”

Over the next hour or so people gathered in smaller groups with the people they knew the best and selected tables to gather around.  It was like going to the cafeteria back in high school, with each table seating the same group of kids now as they did then.  After a while, an announcement was made for people to be seated.  I never knew which was best, go sit at a table alone the wait to see who comes sits with me, or wait a bit and see who sits where and then go sit at a table with others already there, not knowing what they will think of me joining their group.   Yeah, a bin of insecurity about that. It didn’t take me long to find a table of the outcasts that was about half full.  There was one guy at the table that I sort of remembered from high school, the others I didn’t remember at all, but they seemed to be a pleasant enough group.  I sat down and we introduced ourselves, there were a couple of spouses at the table, so it explained why I didn’t know them.

With everyone seated the class president and a couple of others made speeches while a slide show of photos from high school was projected on a big screen.  A list of the students from our class that passed away was read.  It had only been ten years so there were not all that many.  I knew of Keith Combs that died the year after graduating and there was one more name I recognized, the only girl that ever asked me to her birthday party in 6th grade.   With that done it was announced it was time to eat.  By this time the smell of food was strong with the restaurant staff having bought out all the food in metal pans with curved covers.   Tables were called one at a time to go to the buffet.  While waiting I talked to the people seated at my table, making a point to have a conversation with everybody, even the spouses that had come, some of which seemed desperate for conversation.  Soon, our table was called and we got up and went to the buffet line. 

I had been to such “formal” buffets a few times before, a poor imitation of our family potluck dinners or dinner-on-the-grounds at church, I thought.   The buffet was set up on a twenty-foot-long line of tables.  At the beginning you pick up a plate, silverware, and napkin and then you have to make a decision.  There are soup bowls which always seems to be the first in a buffet, then followed salad.  Now usually one would start with each course in order, salad, soup, then the main meal but that wasn’t such a good idea with a buffet with 100 people.  It took twenty minutes for our table to be called and there were quite a few more tables to go.  You might not get back for the next course for an hour.   So do I get soup and/or salad?   My first instinct is to get everything, but I already have a plate, silverware and napkin in one hand, do I add a soup bowl and a separate plate for salad?   Ok wrap silverware in napkin at place in shirt pocket.  I get soup bowl, decide against separate plate for salad which, although smaller amount, can be placed on main plate and I proceed down the line. 

First stop soup, choice of two, each in large pots with dippers with little signs in front of each with the type.  Neither sound really appealing but I did get a bowl and I couldn't just leave it, so I picked what I thought would be the better of the two, set my soup bowl down on the table, holding my plate in the other hand, and put a dipper full in my bowl, pick up my bowl and proceed to the salads.   There were two salads to choose from, the typical garden salad consisting mostly of lettuce, and then a coleslaw.  It like a good garden salad, Mom made one most every meal growing up, but a garden salad is fluffy and takes a lot of plate space. To get a decent amount of salad it would take half the plate not leaving room for the main food.  Oh, the decisions we must make.  The salad looked really good, so I put down my soup bowl and put a small amount of salad on my plate.  Ok, now what salad dressing, there are four to choose from, fortunately with name cards, I get the blue cheese.

I pick up my soup bowl thinking it would have made a lot more sense to put the soup at the end.  I move down the line to the urns.  Well, I call them urns, large metal trays, raised up on six-inch-high stands with little flames burning under them.  Each urn is covered with a curved metal cover like a roll top desk so you have no idea what is in them.  At least at a pot-luck-dinner all the dishes are open and you can look down the line a ways and see what is coming.  There are a dozen urns, I move to the first one and read the name tag, mixed vegetables, I slide the lid open finding a mixture of yellow and green squash with onions.  Now from experience, I know not to get a lot of any one item, needing to save room on your plate for items down the line. At our family gatherings, a pot-luck-dinner could have two dozen dishes, three times that at a church dinner on the grounds, one had to choose wisely.

I proceed to the next Urn which is also some kind of vegetables and the next one roasted potatoes but that is about as far as I can see.  I put down my soup cup, get a few of the mixed vegetables, and pick up my soup cup.  Ok, now I wish I hadn’t got soup, so I “accidently” leave it, only to have the person behind me in the line say “you forgot your soup.”  Picking up my soup I go to the next urn getting some of the roasted potatoes.  The line is moving really slow, it’s taken me ten minutes to get this far, and I’m only halfway.  I skip the next urn, Mac and Cheese.  I never liked it much as a kid and just didn’t understand why, here, at what I considered a “fancy” meal, they would have Mac and Cheese, it just didn’t rate the plate space.  Next up were the urns with the main course, the meats.   The first was an urn of fish, cod, I think.  It looked ok, white lumps in some type of white sauce.   I got a small piece.  I really wanted to leave the soup there but I think the guy behind me is watching.  Next was an urn of medallions of beef in a rich mushroom gravy, my kind of food, I dish up a couple pieces, putting some of the gravy over it and on my roasted potatoes.   But the best they saved until the end, a man in a white suit with a tall white chef hat on his head standing behind the table holding a giant knife which his is sliding back and forth across a sharpening rod. In front of him on the table under a red-hot heat lamp was the largest piece of roast beef I had ever seen.    

Now I had plenty of roast beef growing up, Dad was a big meat and potatoes man with pot roast often on the table, cooked the southern way for several hours until it came out all brown, falling apart, and making the best of gravy.   A few times a year on special occasions Mom would make a rump roast which was about the size of a small pot, again cooked well done.    Here on the table in front of the chef with the big knife was a giant hunk of meat, two feet tall, partially carved, bright red in the middle with red juices flowing out.  The chef asks, “Do you want some roast beef.”   I reply yes and the chef then asks how I want it, rare or more done.  I say more done, relieved that he asked, and he carves off a piece and places it on my plate.  Picking up my soup bowl for the last time I head back to our table and sit down where the others around the table, having been in line together, they all soon return.

By the time I got to the table the food was mostly cold and wasn’t anything special but it was good.  While eating I conversed with the others around the table.  By this time, those tables that were first to get their food, had long finished eating and a few started dropping by our table to say hello to one or more of us.   The wife sitting next to me asked if I tried the Mac and Cheese, she thought it was the best ever and had gone back for seconds.  During the meal photos from our yearbook were projected on a big screen at the one end of the room giving us something to remember and comment about.  After eating there were a few people I wanted to say hello to and so got up and walked around and talked to them, some remembered me, others did not.

After everyone got their food and mostly finished their meals, it was announced the band would play and the dance floor would be open.  The band was a group of four guys that were all from our graduating class.  I was surprised the keyboardist was Bruce Brashear, the son of our longtime family doctor growing up and who I had learned was a lawyer.  The band was good, playing a lot of songs from our high school years. Quite a few got up and started dancing, but I wasn’t about to do so having memories of the one and only dance I went to in the 8th grade with my sister.  Instead of dancing I mostly sat at the table talking to the people around it and those that occasionally came to the table to say hello.  After a while people stopped dropping by, those remaining at the table dwindled, and conversation was at a standstill, so I decided it was time to go.  I got up from the table and, not knowing the few remaining, saying nothing to them as I walked away.  As I headed to the door one of the women from my class saw me and called me over to the small group she was with and started talking to me.  I knew who she was, Patty, I remembered her from high school, although we were never friends and I never remember having talked to her much back then.  I had spoken to her briefly earlier in the evening and she was very outgoing telling me she was single, but we didn’t talk much more at that time. Now she was wanting to have a conversation with me like we were old friends.  I am sure the several drinks we both had helped and so I talked to her for a while before finally telling her I was leaving.   She had somewhat of a surprised and fallen look on her face as I walked away making me think she wanted me to ask her to go with me.   I would not see her again or most of the others that attended until the year before our 50th reunion.   

Updated: 05-10-2023

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