Robert Hitt Neill 8-7-12

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Reunion brings back memories of ‘the way we were’ back then


We went to an important LHS Class Reunion recently; one of those that has a Big 0 in it, you know? For the record, it was one of those Mass Class Reunions, although I was there because of the Class with the Big 0 coming up, but there were probably 200 people who attended, and though I might have been acquainted with 15 of them, I’d bet I had almost as much fun as anyone there.

See, one of the top LHS beauties is very, very close to me, and she was there to meet old friends and remember wonderful LHS times together. I was there to provide transportation and wait upon her every need, as a good husband should.

She parked her purse at a table, said. “Watch that,” and headed for the dance floor, where the crowd was congregating, not to dance (yet) but to greet one another.I leaned against the wall, propped my foot on a chair, and watched.  This was fun!

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Most of the ladies, former beauty queens or not, were decked out in their finest – and it was NOT to try to show off; it was just to look good, to regain that time when all the girls were pretty and all the guys were nice-looking, if not really handsome. I’d already been at my own Class Reunion with the Big 0, so I quickly realized that I was watching what me & Pat & Little John & Gus probably did then.

A couple would enter the hall, stop to register and make name tags, then head out to the floor like my Bride had, unless one of the couple was not an LHS graduate, in which case they drifted over to the tables, like me, and watched.

The men were the funniest: most have a LOT less hair on their heads now, and what is still there is mostly white; almost all had gained quite a few pounds around the waist since LHS days; yet the standard behavior was for the man to scan the crowd, spot one of those former LHS beauty queens, unconsciously reach up to spruce up their hair, suck in their tummies, and approach their old girl friend with arms open wide, who would spot the approaching former halfback, open their arms wide, and hug ferociously.  

And the refrains were always the same: “Betsy Harper (or Bubba Hugh Johnson), you haven’t changed a lick in all these years!” If I heard that phrase once, I heard it a hundred times, always said sincerely.

Because these LHS grads were not seeing the expanded waistlines, nor the balding or graying heads. They were seeing “The Way We Were” once again, so that not only was David slim and supple again, he was again a class leader, married to his LHS sweetheart, who was a strutting majorette, and looked thataway, for the night.

Oh, we all knew the clock would strike midnight again, and the coach would turn back into a pumpkin before morning, yet for this night, they were all young – and being married to the most beautiful one of them, I was young too.

There were three hours of non-stop talking and catching up, before supper was over, and the band started limbering up. I will reiterate my philosophic wisdom on that subject: “if you’re going to dance with a beautiful girl, there ain’t no sense in dancing six feet away from her!”  I believed that 50 years ago.

Of the fifteen or so folks whom I knew, most had been in our wedding, and during a break, I eased up to one of those girls, having seen her maiden name in the program, to ask, “Jean: was your mother the Mrs. Tingle who sewed my pant legs together while we were at the church and she was guarding the house?”
She burst out laughing, and replied, “That was Momma! And you know, I never heard that story for thirty years, until I ran into Betsy at Sam’s one day. My Momma was in a nursing home by then, so the next day I visited her with the news, “Momma, I sure heard a bad story about you!”

“It broke her up – we laughed and laughed as she admitted it, then seeing you hopping around the room in your underwear, trying to get away for your honeymoon! What a blessing it was for me to finally find out about that trick!”

What a blessing for me to hear, after 48 years, that the story had finally made it back to Betsy’s classmate, then brightened up her jokester Mom’s day!