A few minutes later, Craig Mamer joined us. Mamer (who today works as an insurance agent) helped Huffman (who became a mortgage broker) plan the 10- and 20-year gatherings, along with Dan’s wife, Liz Siskowic. (Liz was one of the two class members judged back in 1975 to have had the Most School Spirit and Dedication.) For the 10th reunion, the classmates staged a fancy party at the Hyatt Islandia. For the 20th, they moved to the San Diego Hilton. “They cut us a great deal because they had just remodeled, and we were one of the first groups in. We had their outdoor pavilion, and there were beautiful trees,” Huffman recalled. “It actually was awesome — way better than the 10th.”
After that event, Huffman, Mamer, and the Siskowics made it known they wanted someone else to plan the next reunion. But no one stepped forward, so early last year Huffman had called the Hilton to see about booking space there again. When he learned that the hotel wanted a minimum of $8000, he and Siskowic had decided to proceed with a scaled-down affair.
“We found a sucker to volunteer his house,” Dan said.
“We’re going to party in the back yard,” Huffman added. “That way we can cut the costs down, almost in half. We’re hoping we’ll get some more locals that way.”
“We’ve budgeted $25 [per person] for food,” Dan said.
“And we’re going to buy our alcohol from Price Club and have a 200-CD player — ” Phil continued.
“Minimal decorations! No DJ. No band,” Mamer interjected.
“We had a band for the tenth,” Phil explained. “Then we went to a DJ five years ago. But no one ever dances! That’s one thing we found out.” People are hungry to talk; all you need is background music.
After a while, John Wilding showed up, looking sleepy. The fourth member of the planning group and the “sucker” who would be opening his home to his ex-classmates, Wilding was voted the best-looking guy in his class, and his strong jawline, crinkly eyes, and dimpled smile would probably win a lot of votes today. “What are you guys talking about?” he queried the group.
“We were on hair for a second,” Phil retorted. “Impotence is just up.” The men guffawed. After a while, the talk turned to the major challenge before the organizers: trying to contact as many class members as possible. Dan announced that 116 out of the 476 students had been located. “But they’re the easy ones.”
“I can remember what happened with the 10th and the 20th, and I think the same thing’s happening here,” Huffman said. “There’s, like, this core group of people who were active and cared, and those people want to stay in contact. I want to say it was the upper half of the class, the people who were involved. Maybe they were some of the top sports guys or some of the people on the yearbook staff. The social people.” But many of the kids who were outside those charmed circles had broken all their ties with the past.
“There is a contingent,” Dan agreed, “that definitely hated high school. I don’t know if it’s 30 percent.”
“I think it was more than that!” Phil asserted. “They managed to graduate, but that was about it.”
Geography also influenced how hard it was to find people, according to Dan. “It’s easy with the local people. They kind of keep in touch, at least with somebody. But the people who moved away — it’s surprising. You talk to them and they haven’t talked to anybody in ten years. They have new lives, and when you ask them if they can get in touch with anyone else, very few of them can. We’re talking people in Australia. People in Hawaii. People in Washington.”
Huffman added in amazement that very few of their classmates went to college. “I don’t even think it was 25 percent of the kids.”
“That’s about what I would guess,” Dan agreed.
Wilding shook his head. “You think everybody’s going to turn out to be a regular guy, regular house, regular job, regular wife and kids.” Some of the members of the Class of ’75 had done that or gone beyond it. The girl voted Most Likely to Succeed was now a prestigious medical researcher. The boy who won that honor had risen to become a commander in the Navy and appeared headed for higher ranks. But at the same time, Wilding commented that he knew at least three guys who were homeless. “Some live in trailers in El Cajon. I’m talking blue-collar guys. There are a couple with P.O. boxes and rural routes. And he [Dan] comes back yelling, ‘We need e-mail addresses!’ ”
This meeting took place a year ago, almost to the day. I told the men I wanted to interview various members of the class, as well as to follow the progress of the on-line reunion efforts. But other projects distracted me until the beginning of June. When I returned to the website, I found it transformed.
Beyond the first few contributors, almost no one had turned in lengthy personal descriptions. People instead had been posting a plethora of photos to the site. At the beginning of the summer, I counted more than 150 — images of football games and athletic meets; photos from Senior Week and Grad Day and Sixth-Grade Camp and even elementary school. Some folks had contributed current shots of themselves or their loved ones, but these constituted a minority. Some of the pictures evoked the memory of classmates who had died (one in a car crash; another from multiple sclerosis; another a suicide). Someone had scanned the entire program from Godspell, the musical presented the month before graduation. “As far as I’m concerned, that production of Godspell remains, to this day, one of the best plays I’ve ever seen,” Dan Siskowic had appended. “I even went back to see the matinee. I can admit now, these many years later, that as a self professed tough guy who hadn’t cried since getting kicked in a sensitive place during a tenth grade summer passing league game, I was all but blubbering at the end of the play…hoping they wouldn’t turn on the lights too fast.”