I drive into Arkansas City going south on highway 77. I come to attend my sixty-fifth high-school reunion. It is a beautiful fall day –– so after checking into the Quality Inn on north Summit I drive out west of town. My parent’s final resting place is the Riverview Cemetery on the edge of town. A quiet hush by their memorial stone spreads a sense of peace. The oak tree towering over them is full of birds: white breasted nuthatch, chickadees, yellow-rumped warblers and cardinals.
I drive out the cemetery’s north entrance to check on the herd of buffalo I know live across the road. I am busy looking for the buffalo in the pasture when a loud jolting crash brings my attention back to the car.
Unfortunately, I haven’t noticed a low stonewall by the entrance. I am sure I’ve ruined my car or at least the right front fender. I get out to look, no…I can see no damage. So I finish taking pictures of the buffalo and head for town.
Long story short, I have cut four slits in the right front tire…that becomes a real problem as I drive toward town. The air goes out slowly, getting harder to drive as I approach Summit Street. I pull into an auto repair place, park the car and realize my car isn’t going anywhere until the shop opens tomorrow morning.
The one taxi in town drives me to and from the motel before and after a night of restless sleep. I worry half the night that I may have ruined my car.
The next morning the repair place puts my spare tire on. A nice young man named Tim changes the tire…lets me take a picture and explains that they don’t sell tires. He sends me down the street a few blocks to Rakie’s Oil Co. (who cared for my parent’s cars for years). Rakie’s sell me a new tire and pronounces “All is well.” My nerves are a bit shattered, but I recover when I meet friends of many years.
The “reunion” actually starts for me when some of the “girls” meet for lunch. Rebecca, Sally, Bobbie, Jo Ann, Belva and I spend a couple of delightful hours in the private room at the Sirloin Stockade telling stories about our lives. Catching up on “what are you doing now, how many grandkids, how many great-grandkids, and on and on.”
I stop at Graves Drug Store on Summit Street and talk with Lanora. She surprises me –– she tells me that she has seen my new book: Everyday Wonder, from Kansas to Kenya, from Ecuador to Ethiopia. She is pleased to place it in the store for sale. They already carry my other book: A Pioneer Love Story, the Letters of Minnie Hobart.
I then proceed to the American Legion Hall. I suspect that I can help set up for the Reunion dinner. Several classmates are busy decorating tables with purple and gold tablecloths. More tables are filled with class pictures, snapshots, copies of The Mirror (our high school annual). A festive air engulfs the room. I spread the books I’ve authored out on another table. I hope this invites folks to take a look…and buy one.
I return to the motel, take a quick nap and change my clothes ––– then back into town for a fun and chattering evening. We even look much like we always have so mostly we recognize each other.
It is amazing how our ACHS classmates have stayed connected. Joe Cary is the person we can thank for that. He has been the communication link for the Class of ’49 all these many years.
After dinner, our program is for each ‘49er to introduce themselves, where we are now…and what we are doing after retirement. I’m surprised when Alan introduces himself and then makes a strong sales pitch for Kaze and my book: Everyday Wonder. He praises the way we’ve captured in short stories many of the adventures throughout our lives and what they have meant for us. I am pleased when quite a few of my classmates purchase copies.
As is the custom at most class reunions, we line up for a group picture at the end of the evening.
Front Row (left to right)
Bobbie Hawkins Aupperle, RoJean Reynolds Walker, Eva Olvera Reyez, Joyce Burkhart Vanschuyver, Vernella White Hennington, Belva Tipton Gardner, Bonnie Perkins Hollenback, Sallie Williams McVey.
Back Row (left to right)
Joe Cary, Marvin Daniels, Edwin Virden, Jane DeVore Snell, Walter Rickel, Henrietta Olvera Duran, Donna Livingston Folger, Roger Warren, Marvin Daniel, Priscilla Hutchinson Wilson, George Field, Don Hollenback, Jim Bossi, Don Gribble, Allen Chaplin, Jack Stark, JoAnn Gilland Grinnell, David Walker.
(Not shown in the picture but considered an adopted members of the class….:Larry Penner and Rebecca Loucks Gilmore) Various spouses and friends accompanied the above group for a total attendees of 45…..
Driving back to KC on Thursday the Flint Hills still look beautiful even though they are shrouded in fog and mist. A highlight of the trip home, however is a stop in Emporia. Town Crier Bookstore, Emporia’s delightful independent book store is now carrying all three of my books.