I just returned from attending the 50th reunion of the Waukesha High School class of 1961. We had a great time. Never mind the fact that Waukesha High School no longer exists. The reunion was fun and inspired a lot of future stories.
In 1957, when I entered high school, most of the students in Waukesha County attended. We squeezed 3200 students into a set of three buildings with a capacity of 1800. It was located in the center of the city and became known as Central Campus. A new building was under construction.
In January 1958, the juniors and seniors moved down to the new building on the south edge of the city. That building was identified as South Campus.
Central Campus is now a middle school, but when I started taking pictures, I discovered that one of the buildings is gone. South Campus is now Waukesha South. There is also a Waukesha North and a Waukesha East. Furthermore, most of the outlying parts of the county now have their own high schools. One of the buildings may have been destroyed and Waukesha High School may longer exist, but the class of 1961 is going strong.
We hold reunions every five years. We have a permanent planning committee consisting mostly of locals. Each reunion they do a better job than for the previous.
Friday morning started with an athlete’s breakfast. (I wore my W sweater.) This breakfast was started several years ago when the head football coach had cancer. Former football players took the coach to breakfast to get him out of the house. The breakfast is an every-other-Friday event. It is attended by coaches and former athletes of all sports and by friends. That Friday, the class of 1961 was honored and a special guest was Rollie Bestor, the swimming coach when the class of 1961 was in school. As a swimmer, I was pleased to see Coach again and to say a few remarks in his honor.
Breakfast was followed by a tour of the athletic facilities at Waukesha South. The fieldhouse is only slightly changed, but the pool (new in 1968) is gone. I new and bigger pool stands in a new wing off the field house.
Friday night, we met for an informal gathering. We jammed a large room at he Elks Club. It was great to see the old gang. One classmate wore her gym uniform. (A blue short leg, short sleeve jump suit that all girls wore for gym class in those days.) Of course other girls were jealous that it still fit her.
Saturday morning, we had a tour of the entire Waukesha South building. The exterior of the building only has minor changes, but interesting improvements have been made to the interior. Well worth seeing. Several of us commented that the ghosts of our teachers must still be there.
Saturday noon, I had lunch with a two grade school classmates who lived in the next block from me. One went to Waukesha, but the other moved in seventh grade and otherwise had no part in the reunion.
Saturday evening was the formal reunion dinner. Before an after the meal, I found other classmates who had either not been there the previous night or who I had missed.
I had a spectacular time, and I now have further inspiration for my writing. Of course we all exchanged bits of our histories and our current activities. I now have loads of material for new characters in my stories. I also have inspiration for at least one short story. Ten years ago, the 40th reunion inspired me to write a novel about classmates on their way to a class reunion. That was an early work and will probably remain a “drawer book” unless I make extensive revisions to the manuscript. Certainly some other ideas will come from this reunion.
We have lost some classmates to death and we have lost touch with others. We plan to have another reunion in five years, but this one was special. We probably had the best attendance we can expect. We are at the age where mortality will drastically thin our numbers over the next five years.
I strongly recommend that writers attend their class reunions. Not only is it fun, but it is a great place to mine for character traits and plot ideas.