Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A post from a former "lurker"

Editor's note: This was sent to me as an e-mail with permission to post it.

Dear Mike,

I need to come out of lurking to tell you how much I have enjoyed your blog. Last December I suddenly realized that it had been 40 years since our graduation and “googled” Woodson 1967. Sure enough, there was a reunion with pictures posted on the web and a wonderful blog,
your blog.

What fun it has been to recapture all the memories with your help….although there are many I wish to forget. Your blogs have been thought provoking and have shown how much we’ve grown and matured. They’ve made us wonder why we did things and why we didn’t.

Your blog in April about how cruel kids can be really hit home with me. I remember the classmate you wrote about who was the “most abused of the class.” He’s still on my conscience. He was on my bus and I remember how he had trouble finding a vacant seat. He tried, he really tried to be accepted. He always had a smile on his face and a kind word, but we shunned him. How could we be so mean?

Since graduating, I’ve lived all over this country – from East Coast to West Coast and some in the middle. I’ve always had a excuse not to attend a reunion – too far away, no time, “why would I want to do that?”, etc. Sounds like you had many of the same until this year. How lucky for us, you decided to attend.

Thanks to Gail and her camera, I enjoyed pictures from the reunion. We’re still a good-looking bunch. And has Carol Pallesen aged a day??? I don’t think so. What’s her secret? Is it for sale? And Mike Willis is a movie star? Didn’t we all hope to be? How did he do it?? And Mike, you were one those “really cute guys.” If you hadn’t had your eyes on those beautiful baton-twirling Cavalettes (is that what they were called?), maybe one of us would have had a chance. So sad! I’m sorry to say, I never knew Dale, but I wish I had. Many thanks to you, Dale, and Gail for bringing us closer and celebrating our bond.

Vicki Wetherington Hoffmann

Sunday, May 25, 2008

An invitation to be part of a great project

Within the next few days, you should all be getting an e-mail from Dale informing you of this project, but I want to spell it out in a little more detail for those of you who are interested.

For the last 30 years, I've made my living as a journalist. Some of you have been kind enough to comment positively on my writing ability, and I want to use my talents as both writer and journalist to write a book about our class.

Some of you may have read Michael Medved's book from 20 years ago or so called "What Really Happened to the Class of '65?" Medved wrote of a California graduating class 20 years after high school, but what I want to do is something different.

We graduated from Woodson in June 1967, right at the beginning of an extremely eventful period in our nation's history. We were early Baby Boomers, the Pepsi Generation, the age group that was convinced we would stay young forever.

The summer that we graduated, the Beatles came out with the Sgt. Pepper's album, maybe the most significant rock album ever (except of course for the Archies). If you're like me, you remember some amazing songs off that album, but one that must have sounded funny to us was "When I'm 64."

Heck, we weren't ever going to be 64.

Were we?

Well, those of us who made it are now 58 or 59, staring 64 -- and the years after it -- right in the face. It has been a long, strange trip from 18 to 64 for all of us and I want to chronicle that. I think it can make for a wonderful book about the Baby Boom and the effect we had on America.

I want to do it in a similar style to what Medved did, with each chapter being about one member of our class -- or two in some cases. So I'm looking for 25-30 people to answer questions and be interviewed about your lives.

I want ordinary people and stars, class presidents and kids who just sat and watched. athletes, actors, class clowns and most likely to succeeds.

This is a non-fiction book, so I will be writing about you as a journalist -- under your own names. So if you're hiding from an ex-wife or safely in the Witness Protection Program, you probably don't want to participate.

One thing I promise you -- Nothing will be published that you don't want to see published. I will give each of you approval of the chapter written about you, including the chance to have it withdrawn from the book.

The chapters will be headed with song titles from 1967, and they will be based on archetypes. For example, a song like "Never My Love" could introduce a chapter about classmate sweethearts -- we've got a few -- who fell in love at Woodson and are still together.

Here are some of the archetypal examples I'm looking for -- volunteer yourself or suggest someone:

The Jock, the politico, the "can't miss" kid, the queen, the outsider, the clown, the dreamer, the dancer, the preacher, etc.

I've gone on long enough. You don't need to post your own interest in this as comments -- I'd rather hear from you via e-mail. But I will tell you this -- some of you who don't volunteer will be hearing from me to ask (cajole, beg, whatever) you to participate. I want you in the book.

I hope you're interested.

Monday, May 19, 2008

All right, I have learned my lesson

I received a really nice e-mail today from another classmate of the female persuasion, someone who admits to being a "lurker" on the site since December.

I learned my lesson the last time I chastised someone for simply lurking and not participating, so this time I won't mention the name of the lovely lady who wrote to me. I'll just say that I looked her up in the yearbook -- I don't think I knew her in 1967 -- and maybe it's just that I have a thing for 17 year old girls, but she looked very pretty.

Editor's note: We're going to get in trouble if you keep heading down this direction ....

After all we went through with you and the Olsen Twins, you've got no right to complain.

Editor's note: All I said was that they were lovely young ladies.

Yeah, but they were 9 when you said it.

Anyway, I was very happy to hear from this particular classmate.

I hope to hear from a lot more of you.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Two kinds of people in this world

I keep coming back to this thing about meanness.

I once heard somewhere that there are two kinds of people in the world -- those who give nicknames and those who receive them. One of the most unpleasant characteristics about our lame-duck president is his penchant for giving nicknames to everyone he comes into contact with.

Yes, even the Easter Bunny.

Don't ask.

I'm ashamed to admit that I was a nickname person for a long time. In fact, I think it's a little like being an alcoholic. You don't stop it -- you just recover from it, one day at a time.

The saddest part of it is that all too often the people who receive the nicknames -- usually meant to denigrate them in some way -- accept them in the mistaken hope that they're being accepted.

This might be a little of a reach, but I think there's an element of the Stockholm Syndrome operating here.

In the summer of 1970, I was working as a night manager at the old Red Barn fast-food outlet in Fairfax. Along with a Navy enlisted man who worked for me, we gave nicknames to almost everyone else in the place.

There was one kid -- just 16 that summer -- who was all too eager to please, to be part of the "in-crowd," as it was. I remember his full name, but rather than embarrass him totally, I'll just call him Gary.

We called him "Sack."

It wasn't short for "Sad Sack," or anything only halfway obnoxious. No, we let him know that "Sack" was short for "Sack of ...."

Nice, huh?

It would have been one thing if he had protested, but he didn't. He answered every time we called him, as in "Sack, clean up the lobby" or "Sack, cook some hamburgers."

But what I remember the most about it was one afternoon when I answered a ringing phone.

"This is Sack. I can't come in tonight."

I wish I could apologize to him.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

What does summer still mean to us?

When we were in school, there was something magical about first starting to feel the warm breezes of summer.

Remember those spring days when it just felt too good outside to be cooped up in a classroom? Remember all the times we asked our teachers if we could hold class outside, and how wonderful it was on those rare occasions when they said yes?

Most of all, though, remember all those countdowns toward the last day of the school year, and the marvelous feeling of waking up on a weekday morning and knowing that you didn't have to go anywhere you didn't want to go?

Summer was special then. Nearly three months of just enjoying life, or of working a little to make some extra spending money. We always felt sorry for the kids who had messed up during the year and had to go to summer school. I had that happen to me the summer after eighth grade, and I was glad it never happened again.

I remember all the great summer songs, and how summer songs were different somehow than others. I think the last one I remember came out around '73 or '74, a song called "Beach Baby." It was good, but not as good as our summer songs.

Maybe that's because summer doesn't mean what it once did. Summer isn't three months of lazy bliss anymore. It might be two or three weeks of vacation, or it might not. There's no special feeling about the beginning of summer, no melancholy feeling when a chill in the nighttime air portends the beginning of fall.

But some folks still manage to enjoy themselves, as the five pictured above did at Nags Head in 2007.

Good for them.