Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Class reunions let us reconnect, then move on

"So, where are you living now, Marilyn?" "I've been in Grand Forks, N.D., for 50 years." "You have! Oh my God.. . . You deserve a medal for living up there. It's cold." "Yeah, it gets cold, but we all have coats." . . . And so it went when I join...

"So, where are you living now, Marilyn?"

"I've been in Grand Forks, N.D., for 50 years."

"You have! Oh my God.. . . You deserve a medal for living up there. It's cold."

"Yeah, it gets cold, but we all have coats."

. . . And so it went when I joined friends in Pierre, S.D., for a reunion of the classes of the 1940s last week. I looked around the room where 130 were gathered. Everyone there was about 80, give or take a year or two. We were in high school when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Some of the guys left school to join the armed forces. Some of them didn't come back.


Those of us who came together in Pierre last week had a chance to reconnect. We laughed. We shed a few tears. Then, we returned to our lives and the here and the now. As a generation, we marvel at all that has happened since Miss McManus, our sixth-grade teacher in 1938, told us someday we would have something called television. We would be able to look into boxes with pictures in them. It would be something even more fantastic than the two-way radio that Dick Tracy wore in the comic strips.

Tom Brokaw has called ours the Greatest Generation. I suppose the generation before us was the Pioneers or the Immigrants. The generation that follows us is known as the Baby Boomers and they are pushing into their 60s now.

I am not sure whether ours has been such a great generation. But we were children during the dust and drought of the Great Depression. The people then churned their own butter and dipped pens in ink to write letters. They took baths on Saturday night whether they needed them or not and burned their leaves in autumn. Their bicycles had coaster brakes. Their cars usually were Fords - Model A or Model T - and always black. There were running boards and rumble seats back then.

The Dionne Quintuplets came along in the Great Depression. Their names were Marie, Cecile, Yvonne, Annette and Emily. The toys in Cracker Jack boxes were good back then. And you could buy penny candy at most of the stores.

Then, in the 1940s, Lucky Strike green went off to war along with the troops. Those of us at home drank cherry Cokes for 10 cents in the drugstores and rubbed makeup on our legs because there were no more silk stockings. Jack Benny was on the radio every Sunday night. The Watkins man visited the farms. People put Mentholatum on handkerchiefs and wrapped them around their necks when they had colds.

Then came the 1950s, and we got television. We watched Lucy and Desi. And we watched Lawrence Welk on Saturday nights. A lot of people drove Volkswagens. We covered our floors with wall-to-wall carpeting, never knowing that 50 years later, we would rip it out to show the bare floors we had covered up. Children in the 1960s played with Barbie dolls and baseball cards. There were hippies protesting the way of life back then. They wore wire-rim glasses and boots. JFK was assassinated in Dallas. The Fonz was everywhere. Diet pop came on the market, and it seemed like the way to go - drink pop and stay slim. But in spite of diet drinks, people grew heavier each passing decade.

In the 1980s, there was a profusion of video games and VCRs that most people could not program. There were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the appearance of Dutch elm disease. Somewhere along the line, they discovered cholesterol. It has been a topic of conversation ever since. It used to be called hardening of the arteries.

The 1990s rolled in with roller blades, skinheads and gangs and guns. We found out the information highway was not Interstate 29 to Fargo. It was on the Internet. Floodwaters enveloped Grand Forks and changed our lives forever. Pokeman put in his appearance to capture the fancy of youngsters. And here we are in the 21st century, with Zocor and cell phones and gas prices sky-high. We worry about what we will do with our garbage. The same garbage we burned long ago.


What will we tell our grandchildren? How will we explain what we used ashtrays for and why we washed on Monday and ironed on Tuesday? How will we tell them they can't go to Mars for the weekend if they don't shape up?

. . . Some say you can't go home because it isn't there anymore. In a way, they are right. But you can go to a class reunion and reconnect. You can talk about things that used to be with people who know. And then you can move on, richer for the experience.

. . . Even if your old classmates shiver and say it's cold in North Dakota.

Reach Hagerty at mhagerty@gfherald.com or telephone 772-1055.

What To Read Next
Get Local