by Tommy Towery
Class of '64
Last weekend I attended the 50th reunion of the Lee High School Class of 1964 and it was a very special event for me and, I hope, all who attended with me. It was two days of fun and memories shared with a lot of special people in my life. It would be wrong to think the event did not stir up multiple emotions which have raced through my mind since then and will probably do so for an indefinite period in my future.
Historically, I have treated Lee’s Traveller more as a newspaper than a feature magazine, even though I have often written several feature stories to share with my readers. I feel the reunion was such an important event in my life, it would not do it justice to treat it as a news story and give you a few facts about who attended and what took place. This was more than a news event; it was an emotional trip through many phases of my life – a journey which has lasted for over 50 years with many of my classmates.
Over the next several issues I would like to divert my attention from just the facts, and share with you some of the observations I made during this way too short of time in my life. There is no way I can put my thoughts into any chronological order and so each week you might read random thoughts about things which made an impression on me.
On the final morning I sat drinking coffee with many of my friends and I was asked by Peggy Towery Pierce about how I wrote. She was interested in the physical aspects of how, and maybe why, I sat at my computer and put my thoughts into words. Sue and I laughingly shared the image of my writing hat I wear many times when I am sitting at my computer. It is a very colorful hat I purchased from a street vendor in Madeira with a twisty attachment on the top making it look like it came from a Dr. Suess book. The vent over my computer often blows cold air on my bald head and one day I started wearing it to keep my head warm and it became a fixture of my creative writing process. What I could not explain to her, or to myself, is the need I seem to have to write. She wondered if I wrote by long hand or with a computer, and if I wrote things in my head before I sat down to secure the thoughts on paper. I had to think about that.
Probably like my songwriter friends, my words and thoughts come to mind at any time of the day no matter what I am doing. Often, I sit down to complete the Traveller on Saturday night and do not have a clue what I am going to write when I sit down. I just wait for a subject to come to me and I go from there. Many of my best writings have come to me this way. I write as the words come and do not worry about spelling or grammar or other things. The most important thing is to get the ideas on paper while I still have them in my head, and later I can go back and edit them to correct the mistakes or improve the language.
With that knowledge in mind, it should not surprise you to learn I wrote a hundred different stories about the reunion in my head on the drive home to Memphis after the reunion. If the thoughts remain, I shall attempt to put some of them into words over the next several issues or until I feel you readers are ready for me to move on.
The dominant thought on the way home from the reunion was a feeling of guilt about not getting to spend as much time with those with whom I wanted to visit. When I was making the nametags and seeing who all would be attending I made mental notes about who I needed to spend some time with, but as often happens, my battle plan was lost when the first shot was fired. I cannot be upset about who I really visited with, because I spent a lot of time getting to know more about some people I graduated with, but never really knew anything about. The situation was much like the 8mm movie I made at the Senior Picnic when I knew very little about film making. I panned way too fast, lost focus, and tried very hard to capture every person and every event in the three minutes worth of film I had in the camera. It turned out I scanned a lot of people faces, but went too fast to be able to recognize many of them.
It was the same during the social interaction at the reunion. I bounced from group to group and said hi to everyone, but never seemed to have the opportunity to spend as much time with some folks as I had planned.
I was very happy to get to have a good visit with Bob Ramsey and Sandra Schiff Ramsey. Bob and I spent many hours together in the Boy Scouts. In the last 50 years the one reunion he attended was the only one I missed, and that was when I was living in England. I was happy to get to know more about David Bess, and the Seaver twins. I enjoyed my time with Joy Rubins and her sister Judy. Annalee Milburn and I probably spent more time together talking during this reunion than we did the four years we shared classes at Lee. Not only did I get to know Linda Ragland and her husband Frank, they gave us an honest heart-felt invitation to come visit them in their home, as did Alice Gullion Preston. Besides Peggy, I have wonderful conversations with the whole Pierce clan. I mention these as examples of people I was not really good friends with at Lee, but now find a true bond with. Of course I shared many good memories with several who have become my reunion buddies like Lehman and Skip and John and Linda and several other people like Rainer who I get to see between the five year events, normally at the Lee Lunch Bunch gatherings.
Among the people I wanted to visit with more and failed to were Tommy Thompson and Brooks Glover. There were several who did not attend and were missed greatly like Barbara Wilkerson Donnelly and Dianne Hughey McClure, and of course Barbara Seeley Cooper.
Please don’t be offended if your name did not appear in any of the rambling thoughts above. There is no way I can list all the conversations I had and wanted to have with people. One of the best things I found about this latest reunion is the fact we had more time to socialize, helped along by the free breakfast buffet for the people staying on site. I think I had eight cups of coffee as I sat and got to visit with my friends there.
So, please accept my sincere apology if I did not get to visit with you the way you wished. The good thing about this get-together is knowing we don’t have to wait five years to do it again, since next year we should be enjoying the three-class, five-year reunion.
Memphis, TN - Headed in Monday for some laser periodontal surgery which I am not looking forward to, but need to have done. I'm going to brave it this time, since we have limited dental insurance and they want $500 extra if I use IV sedation rather than local. I can endure a lot of pain for $500.
It was great to meet so many of you who are regular Traveller readers, but I never knew about. Please continue to spread the word to your list of contacts. Everyone is invited to share our weekly memories.
(Editor's Note: I received the following from the professional photographer who covered our event. Anyone can order the photos, whether you attended or not.)
Your photos are ready to view/order at johnmilazzovideo.smugmug.com
Go to The Galleries section and look for Lee High School.
Also, attached are small snips of the video, slideshow, and the order form.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRedk5oPK8w&feature=youtu.be (This is the video at the top of this page.)
If twelve people order 'Package A' a free 1964 class photo will be given to the board for display at future reunions or get togethers.
Make checks payable to
PO Box 190361
Birmingham, AL 35219
Credit Cards accepted also
From Our Mailbox
Subject: This Reunion
Fittingly, this was the best of our reunions I've been to. Working on it was fun--a sort of mini-reunion and gossip session each time we met to plan things. The meetings gave me a chance to get to know Linda, Alice, JR, Mike, and Charlotte better. Jerry I already knew well from the band, of course. Your Facebook presence for the last two sessions was a welcome addition.
I thoroughly enjoyed the reunion presentations--sobering, heartwarming, and funny. Thanks for slipping in the two young accordionists. Gudrun wasn't there to see us, but I told her about it, and we appreciate our brief moment of fame. I wonder if anyone else knew who those two youngsters were.