Whenever the time comes to join your high school graduating class for its 50th reunion, be sure to go. That's the call Nancy Harrington has put out after attending hers at David Douglas High School in Portland.
Nancy and her husband Gary, well-known Pleasanton benefactors in the public art world, drove back to the east Portland high school two weeks ago for what proved to be a fun trip, but one also filled with surprises. It started when Nancy ran into "Bobby," or at least that's what he was called at Douglas High, The class of 1962 jock, his interests were strictly sports where he excelled and cars. Remember, the 1962 cars were easier to fix than those we drive today.
Bobby, Nancy remembered after identifying him through the name badge he was wearing, had no interest in the girls and was often teased about that. So the surprise for Nancy came when Bobby introduced his wife Rita, the class "knockout," as Nancy put it. Classmates since the 7th grade, Nancy recalls that Rita was the girl who developed a bit early, wore tight sweaters and short skirts, but drew no glances from Bobby. Obviously that changed, and the two, much heavier than they were back then and Rita with Bobby, who is now Bob and now bald, seemed a happy couple with children and grandchildren.
While at the class reception that Saturday night, another classmate wrapped her arms around Nancy, who at age 68 looks much like her graduation photo. "I kept thinking who the heck are you? Nancy said, unable to see the woman's name tag. It turned out it was Nancy's best friend since the 7th grade and all through high school. With bleached hair and a bit more weight on the bones of this once-skinny girl, it was a shock for Nancy to realize how much people can change over a 50-year time span.
Some hadn't changed all that much and a few who Nancy remembers having heavy builds were much thinner. Coach Hebert was recognized still as "coach" by everyone at the reunion, even though he's now in his late eighties. The Harringtons played golf with him Saturday and marveled at how the school's former football and golf coach is still a champion on the course, even after having both knees replaced two years ago.
Nancy identified David, the class president, only after he was introduced as the emcee at the Saturday night dinner and dance. A preacher's son who always seemed destined for seminary school, he now sports long grey hair, has trouble breathing and is about three times larger, working as a professional writer. Shannon, always a shy, too skinny coed at Douglas, is now much more outgoing and looking even better.
There were 450 members of the graduating Class of 1962 at Douglas High. A total of 132 showed up for their 50th reunion; 40 of those had served in the military, most of them in Vietnam; 30 have passed away. The others chose not to come for the reunion or couldn't be reached. Most of Nancy's classmates have since married, together they have 578 children, 620 grandchildren and 53 great-grandchildren, and many have left Oregon for other states.
As for the high school, David Douglas was once the largest high school in Oregon with 4,500 students when the baby boomers reached their teenage years. Since then, enrollment has dropped below 2,000.
The 50th reunion was the first for Nancy and likely the last for the class. Gary Harrington, who went along for the fun, graduated from a high school in Los Angeles but has more allegiance to UC Northridge, where he earned his degree.
Nancy also notes that the long drive to Portland, which many of us know is a bit tedious and tiring, can be more fun if you break it into stops for golf. They played three courses on the trip to Portland, another three on the trip back. Those games gave Nancy a break from trying to remember all those faces from 50 years ago.