A round the time of my ten-year high school reunion, two movies about reunions came out (Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion and Grosse Pointe Blank). I always thought writing about a reunion would be fun, because they attract such a variety of people. I tried to get to a reunion at my old school, Mira Mesa High, a few months ago, but it didn't work out.
When I found out about the 35-year reunion of Clairemont High School's class of 1969, I jumped on it. As I was driving to their party the week before the reunion with the event organizers, it hit me that I was born the year they graduated. And I lived in Clairemont those first three years of my life. I didn't recognize anyone from my old neighborhood, though.
When I walked in, I saw about ten people in the living room. Some were going through yearbooks, telling stories about various people. You'd sometimes hear, "What was his name? Bruce Reynolds? It was Bruce something."
A few of the women were looking at elementary-school photos. They were setting up a contest to see which high school classmates people recognized from their earlier photos.
Since they graduated in the '60s, I asked them about Vietnam. They told me that not too many of their classmates were drafted. One guy said college kept him out. Another lady said her husband was a 4-F. She said that disqualified him because he had ingrown toenails.
They also told me about a teacher who passed out leaflets on how to avoid the draft. He got fired from the school and later sued the school district. It went all the way to the California supreme court and he ended up winning.
I asked if any of them were hippies. They laughed and talked about the different types of people and cliques. It sounded like something that could be from any high school in any year. Phil, who looked like David Crosby, said, "We had a sit-in at the lunch court. It was so we could wear sandals and grow long hair. We were the first class that was able to have mustaches."
A woman said, "We couldn't wear pants. We had to have skirts, and if you knelt down, they would have to touch the floor."
I asked them if they were surprised now when they see girls not only wearing pants, but pants that show their thong underwear and tattoos. Someone responded, "Yes, but some other things have changed the other way, with everyone being politically correct. Our mascot has always been Charlie the Chieftain. But just last year they banned him. They thought it was insensitive to Native Americans."
I asked them a little about their high school's history. I was told the school was built in 1959. I was also reminded that former San Diegan Cameron Crowe wrote Fast Times at Ridgemont High based on this school. Someone said, "He got permission from the school to register as a student so he could write about the experience." I thought that seemed odd, letting an adult go to school with minors. And why was it necessary? Couldn't he have just written about his previous high school experiences? When he wrote Jerry Maguire, he didn't need to join an NFL team before writing it. But I digress...
I went into the kitchen, where they had pizza and other snacks. I grabbed an orange juice, and one gal eating a slice of pizza said, "I try to watch my weight, and they bring this damn pizza. What can I do?"
As they were cutting out pictures and making posters for the event, one guy pretended to sniff the rubber cement. Just then I reached for a brownie and asked, "There isn't anything funny in these brownies, is there?"
One woman was talking about her twin sister. She said that her sister had large breasts and she didn't. A few of the women then got into a conversation about their classmates who had developed early.
I asked them about their previous reunions. One said she got a bit starstruck by a guy she had liked. They had dinner after the reunion, and she found she didn't care much for him. She wouldn't reveal who the guy was, even with pleading from all her former classmates. I even pleaded, using that journalism cliché "It will be off the record."
I was told another story about a man who won an award for having lost the most hair. A guy said, "That was at our ten-year reunion. He got so mad about that he hasn't shown up at any events since."
Phil told a funny story about a high school student who was in the Boy Scouts and how they made fun of him during an assembly. Phil added, "He ended up owning an auto body shop and making millions."
I ask if any other classmates became really successful. They all started telling me about Charles. They said that his dad taught him how to tell female turkeys from males. It was something not everyone could do. He ended up making millions of dollars doing it and won the award at a previous reunion for "most unusual occupation." One woman said, "Making money by feeling up turkeys."
I asked them what categories they'd have at this reunion. As Donna rattled off "longest hair, most eligible bachelor, never been married, most kids, most grandkids, and who's changed the most..." I interrupted. "The category for 'changed the most' probably isn't good. It could be someone who gained 300 pounds or lost their arm in an accident. And remember, that one guy got pissed about his hair loss 25 years ago." Donna said, "That's a good point. Someone might have had plastic surgery." They dropped that category.
Marlee hosted this party at her house in Pacific Beach, right as you come off the I-5. It's on a hill, with lots of windows showing the view and all the lights below. She said, "I won once for having the most kids. I have six." Someone else said that a classmate named Brian had eight kids. Another person added, "Did you see Brian on TV? He's the one in Encinitas. His wife died years ago, and recently Extreme Makeover redid his house."