Guest Op-Ed: Reflections on a Fifty-Year Reunion

By Bob Marra, Revere High School Class of 1973

Is it too strong a sentiment to say “love was in the air” September 16 when the Revere High School Class of 1973 assembled at the Four Points Sheraton in Wakefield for its 50th Renunion?

Not romantic love, mind you, but the kind of love that springs from happiness grown from shared experiences and friendships that have endured over the years. The kind of love that warms a hug between people who haven’t seen each other since graduation in 1973. The kind of love that sparks the energy that overcomes achy hips and arthritic knees and keeps the dance floor filled way past the normal bedtime for people fast approaching their 70th birthdays.

Yes, the kind of love that reflects disbelief at how the years are fleeting, and appreciation that we’ve made it this far. Yes, Dr. Seuss: how did it get so late so soon?

We can call it coincidence that over 500 kids were born at a time so that they started first grade in September of 1961 and progressed through the school system in synch until they received Revere High School diplomas on June 4, 1973. But when some 160 of those kids reunite for a night of recollection and rejoicing, it’s so much better to call it destiny, or fate, or karma. For, as the song blared from the DJ’s loudspeaker, ‘we are family…’

Oh, certainly, the cosmetic symptoms of passing time were evident…bald heads, ample waistlines, more wrinkles than we care to mention. But while name tags were helpful to identify classmates, we intuitively knew one another because those exterior characteristics of aging could hardly conceal the personalities that were unchanged from 50 years ago.

Classmates connected randomly as they roamed through the crowded ballroom. The handshakes and hugs and “great-to-see-yous” imparted a sincerity and gratitude for all that we shared and continue to share to this day. Quick conversations about jobs and life and family always circled back to our days at 153 Beach Street.

Stories of high school mischief were retold with original fervor and ignited boisterous laughter all over again. Favorite teachers, many of them dead now, were recalled with a fondness that wasn’t quite so apparent when the teacher was piling on homework assignments or reprimanding a classroom transgression.

It was heartwarming to realize that we each made some sort of impression on one another. Little things that people remember provide insights of how people remember you, and that’s a good lesson on why you should always try to be nice to people. Yeah, some of us admit that we probably failed that point those years ago.

The reunion organizers were rewarded with an enthusiastic crowd. I wondered whether, when Terry Cox unassumingly was elected Class President back in 1973, did he think for a moment that his responsibilities would stretch 50 years into the future, and beyond? A round of applause to him for his lifelong effort to round up our class every five years—and for helping make this Reunion one of the largest.

Nearly a hundred of the original class of over 530 students are gone. As their names scrolled on a flat screen, we remembered them in their youth and youthfulness because no matter our age, high school classmates are forever that. In our imagination we remain young and aspiring, daring and foolish, carefree and stubborn. But we also grasp the reality that the number of departed classmates will rise significantly in the coming years. That, too, kindled the kind of love that permeated the 50th Class Reunion, a wisdom, actually, of reality, survival, and mortality.

Was the Class of 1973 unique? We’ve heard over the years and at different venues that our Reunions were more crowded and more spirited than the reunions of other classes. It could be that our intimacy and emotional bonds were formed in the kind of freedom we enjoyed with each other when we were in school. Our daily experience in the 1970s, such as open study periods, unrestrained lunch hours, and–by the time we graduated–a legal drinking age of 18, is utterly alien in today’s world.

During those times of freedom, we hung around with each other constantly. In the summer, we amassed at the Beach, leaning our bicycles against the wall where we idled away those hot days, always together and untethered to parental or administrative oversight. The freedom from supervision helped form a maturity and appreciation of independence.  We grew together. 

Fifty years later, we’re still inseparable.

I’m not judging whether our school days’ experience was better or worse than today, but it contributed to a trusted connection among classmates that, by the Reunion’s measure, certainly has endured. We tend to agree that our experience was special, and if it was rare, then indeed we were blessed, and we are grateful.

Time keeps ticking, and it flew fast as ever Saturday night. As the Classmates dispersed from the 50th Reunion sometime after midnight, the hugs and handshakes had a pensive feeling, as we wondered not only when, but whether we’d ever see one another again.

Love in the air, at a Class Reunion? Yes, you can say that. And what fun it was to be part of it.

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