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by Nancy Jubb Harrison

Once upon a time there were ninety-eight Howell High School seniors who marched out onto Page Athletic Field to receive their high school diplomas and begin their adult life. The year was 1957 and this past August this same group of “seniors” met and celebrated their 50th class reunion. What fun it was! Our mailing list always includes as many of those students that we can find who left school before that June night to join the armed services or for whatever reason weren’t at the actual graduation ceremony. They are our classmates none the less. This year we had fifty-eight classmates, thirty-four spouses and three former teachers attend.

The weekend started with a dinner at Walden Woods, the same place we had our Senior Parent Banquet in 1957. It is a beautiful setting and made us all feel young again. What fun it is to be with people who have shared your past, probably knew our parents and siblings, and know what you are talking about when you mention The Midget, Mr. Chris, Sock Hops, ugly green gym suits and on and on. It was fantastic to have a couple classmates who had never been to a reunion before. Now they know what they have missed all those years! We talked and laughed and talked some more. Updated information sheets on our classmates, photo albums showing all kinds of pictures from our childhood through the present, display boards of photos and articles from our past, a large map showing where everyone currently lives gave us lots to browse through when we weren’t talking and laughing. On the tables green and gold centerpieces along with old articles or pictures form our high school days backed with either green or gold paper brought back our days at HHS. Everyone was able to take home a name and address sheet of our class, a copy of our original class will and class prophesy, and an updated class history in a green folder, of course. We had a group picture taken and everyone who wanted could order it and take it home the next day.

On Saturday afternoon twenty-three of us met at the Howell Opera House for a guided tour. It was wonderful to see all the restoration that the committee has been able to complete so far. Most of us only remember the building as Sutton’s Hardware. How good it is to see it being returned to its former glory where some of our parents and grandparents attended class plays, speeches, and other community programs. Some of our relatives, those who graduated before 1920, even had their graduation ceremonies within its walls.

We had classmates come from Arizona, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Oklahoma, Texas, South Carolina, Colorado, Northern Michigan, Western Michigan and, of course, from Southeastern Michigan. For those who travel from out of town it is nice to have more than one evening together. Rationalizing a plane fare and motel cost for just several hours of togetherness is difficult. The Opera House tour was a nice mid day event. We have often thought of having the reunion on a festival weekend, a football weekend or even over the History Days weekend. The honoring of the 50 year grads at the current high school graduation is another wonderful time to plan a reunion. Howell has many unique opportunities for activities other than just one get together.

Saturday evening Mel Gillett and his wife Sue invited us to their beautiful home for an evening of more talking, laughing, browsing and of course eating. What a host! What a hostess! We are so fortunate to have Mel as our classmate and Sue as one of our adopted classmates. Simple green and gold crepe paper streamers down the middle of the table reminded us of our loyalties once again. A 1957 Chevy convertible graced the front yard and added a festive touch to the evening. The reminiscing went on and we enjoyed every minute of it.

Sunday morning we met at the Kennedy Center for brunch. Our classmate, Rebecca Kennedy and her husband, Ron, provided another lovely location for us. They have converted an old barn into a retreat and conference center and it was the perfect spot for our final get together of the weekend. Coffee, pastries and fruit (including Howell Melon) was just right for the morning menu. The talking, laughing, and browsing continued as well.

At each location we set up the display boards, brought the albums, map, and classmate information notebooks that contained the forms we had sent out to all our classmates seeking current information. On these forms, we asked for favorite memories, their claim to fame (interesting answers), a contact person that would help us locate them if they move before the next reunion as well as the usual name, address, phone number, and email address (this really cuts down on postage costs). We also include the committee members names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses so that they can contact us for any reason – change of address, offers of old photos or school memorabilia etc. Many of our classmates dug through their photo books and scrapbooks for memorabilia so that we could all enjoy it.

We have had a reunion every five years for many years now. Our reunions are always casual in dress and we try to keep the cost down so that everyone can afford to come. None of our get-togethers needed a program, dancing, or a band, we just loved being together and catching up on everyone’s life. We have built a bond that remains strong. We remain connected as a class. We are hoping that in 2012 there will be at least one classmate who has never been to a reunion before who will come and we can include them in our reminiscing. Maybe next time we will skip the name tags and everyone will just have to figure out who’s who. The class of ’56 did this and it turned out to be great fun and a wonderful mixer. Maybe we’ll have appetizers and dessert instead of a sit down dinner so that people can continue to mingle more easily. Maybe we will combine our reunion with another class or two in order to see friends who were a year or two younger or older. There are so many options and it is such fun to plan as well as to attend. We’re already looking forward to our 55th reunion!