THE SCHOOL GYM — “Billy Ralph. Good to see you. How’s MinnieMay?”
“She ran off with a shepherd, and left me with our 12 kids.”
“Hi there. Your nametag says Sally Joan Mugwump, but you look, uh nothing like I remember.”
“I’m now George Joe Mugwump. I guess the beard fooled you. Which reminds me, thanks to Governor Abbott, it’s murder trying to use a bathroom in this school.” This is my class reunion. Highland Park High School class of ’56. The January class. The State of Texas did away with midterm classes that started and graduated in January. So our class was only about 90 kids, compared to the June class of 22,000 or so. Most of us began in the first grade in four elementary schools, meshed in junior high, now called middle school for the same unknown reason there are no longer midterm classes, and spent the next six years together. (Actually, I didn’t graduate until June. Something about biology – my fetal pig survived.) So here we are, gathered for our every-five-year get-together, which is more often than most classes hold reunions, but we like to meet. Actually, some even married classmates.
“Studs Studly, president of our class, all-state quarterback, elected Mister Best. How are you doing?”
“If you’ll give me your ticket, I’ll bring your car around. Tips are appreciated.” At class reunions, one must be careful what to say. Across the room I spot Marvin Munchkin. “Hey Marv. Whatever happened to that floozy you went with, Mary Lou Easy? Remember how she, uh, dated almost every guy in school, if you get my drift?”
“We’ve been married for 50 years.” Here comes Sally Shrewd. “Sally, how did life go?” “Not bad. I was no-billed by the grand jury, but the civil litigation took all the money I made from insider trading at Merrill Lynch.” Then there were the failures.
If you are planning to attend a class reunion, here are a few tips. Lose weight. Maybe 20 to 30 pounds. Get a tan, even if it means visiting a tanning lounge that gives you skin cancer in only 10 easy sessions, then explain it by casually mentioning that you just returned from your estate in Jamaica. Don’t explain that it’s Jamaica, Queens. Don’t wear you Vietnam War military decorations, especially if they are from North Vietnam. Every reunion should require nametags, so bring a pen and add: “The Honorable” in front of your name. I suggest you don’t push the matter by sticking in “Pope,” “King” or “Grand Kleagle.” Looking around the room, you will notice how everyone else in your class has aged. You’re the exception, but don’t rub it in by doing wheelies with your walker.
| These many years later, I figured out what we should have done when we graduated. We should have created a Tontine, which is named after an Italian banker named Lorenzo Tonti. In 1695 he came up with the idea of everyone putting in some money and the last person to survive would inherit it. If, say, in 1956 we had each put in $10, today that would be about a half million dollars. The money would go to whomever in this group lived the longest. The problem with that is every time we gathered we would be counting heads. Who would outlast who? We would bring along our food tasters.|
Ah, yes, it’s been a while. When we graduated, Bill Clinton was 9 years old. Hillary was 45. Top TV shows included “As The World Turns” and “The Price is Right.” Mothers could buy disposable diapers and Teflon non-stick frying pans. Elvis Presley appeared on the “Ed Sullivan Show” and entered the music charts for the first time, with “Heartbreak Hotel.” Top movies were “Guys and Dolls,” “The King and I” and “Around the World in Eighty Days.” Average cost of a new house: $11,700. Average yearly wages: $4.450. A gallon of gas: 22 cents. Average cost of a new car: $2,050. The first computer hard drive was introduced, and none of us bought stock in Texas Instruments. Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier of Monaco, the Soviet Union invaded Hungary and, for the first and last time, OU beat Texas in the Cotton Bowl 45 to nothing. Here’s the kicker: People born that year have been eligible for Social Security these past two years. Back then we should have told our folks to buy some land. Austin now has more people than Houston did when we graduated. There was no place called the Metroplex, but in these 60 years Dallas population has almost tripled from about 500,000 to today’s 1.3 million. And we didn’t buy land.
Someone asked, “Whatever happened to Crazy Carl?” A good question. Every class has a Crazy Carl – someone who didn’t fit in, hadn’t a clue what was going on and, as a result, was the butt of jokes. No one knew anything about Carl. Suddenly, out front a long limo pulled up, the chauffeur ran around, opened the door, and who got out but Crazy Carl. He had a beautiful wife, he was wearing a $2,000 suit and a diamond stickpin the size of an egg.
I went up to him and said, “Crazy Carl! You’re in the big time, but back in school you couldn’t pass a blood test with a tutor. You had trouble counting past your thumb. What happened?” He said, “Oh, it’s easy. I bought something for $100 and sold it for $200. Then I bought something for $500 and sold it for $1,000. Last month I bought something for a million and sold it for five million. You know, after a while that 10 percent profit adds up.”
In five years, we shall meet again. We should bring our food tasters — and tell our grandchildren to buy land. Finally, we must remember our class motto: It is not enough that you should succeed. All your friends must fail.
Ashby reunites at email@example.com