By Lethbridge Herald on June 30, 2017.
Forty years ago, I graduated from Raymond High School on a Friday the 13th — a strange date which has sometimes made me wonder if the school was making a subtle statement to the class of 1977.
During the past four decades, I’ve seldom seen classmates except for a couple, and while I remember names from the yearbooks I’ve kept, I don’t know if I’d recognize their now 57 or 58-year-old faces today, or even their voices.
While I’m sure I was in classes with most, I don’t remember much about many, the biggest reason being that I was horribly shy in school, a guy who had only a very few close friends and was too timid to even step inside the town pool hall alone.
Tonight, I’ll be co-emceeing our 40-year reunion with class valedictorian Darell Pack after being asked by organizers, who I’m pretty sure are probably the only ones who recognized my name aside from my long-time buds who I’ve been hanging out with remarkably since Grade 5.
In 1977, the year we graduated, disco was in full swing and reaching new heights of popularity partly due to the Bee Gees’ huge hits from the soundtrack of “Saturday Night Fever.” The Bee Gees, the first band I saw live back in 1975 with Heart, did a 180-degree turn with their disco sound and burst into superstardom. For those of us who grew up with ZZ Top, The Eagles, Pink Floyd, Yes and Deep Purple, the disco thing was a little tough to stomach. And I’ve been averse to wearing leather ever since I saw a performance of “YMCA.” I just wish now I’d heard of back then bands such as Rainbow, Zebra and UFO which get regular airplay on satellite radio’s Hair Nation station.
1977 was also the year “Star Wars” took the world by storm. The George Lucas creation was not only a monstrous hit at the box office, it was a cultural phenomenon. But when I saw the film with a friend that summer, I thought it was lousy and had no future. It was the only instalment I saw until my own son discovered it when the original series was brought back to the big screen in the mid-1990s and I dutifully had to take him to all three. Talk about karma biting.
In 1977, “Laverne & Shirley” was the top-rated TV show in the U.S. followed by “Happy Days” and “Three’s Company.” People were also watching “Charlie’s Angels,” “M*A*S*H” and “Little House on the Prairie,” a series I guarantee I never saw once.
The top tune of 1977 was Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright)” which now could be Bill Cosby’s theme song. Too soon? Nah.
Like many back in Raymond, I spent a lot of time in the 1970s bombing main street and, of course, the cruising routes of Lethbridge, spending hours driving between the Scenic Drive A and W and the one on south Mayor Magrath Drive. Music was a key component of all that cruising, and with my tastes being a little more eclectic than my friends, I was always playing eight-tracks — ya, I’m old — by Little River Band, Bob Seger, Uriah Heep, Electric Light Orchestra, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Boz Scaggs and Valdy. I was a huge fan of some outfit called Moxy, which I played so often one of my friends finally threw the tape out a window. After seeing an old performance on YouTube recently, I now understand why.
In high school, I was about as anonymous as a person could get. I played clarinet and trumpet in band but had to quit after developing Bell’s Palsy shortly after grade nine ended, which left my right lip drooping so low I could practically trip over it. Now I have the same problem with ear hair, the price of having the opportunity to get old. And I hate those days when my eyebrows get caught in a ceiling fan.
Today, I’m a bit obsessed about fitness, which I suspect is why Rio the German Shepherd plays dead when I try to go for an evening walk. If I don’t get 15,000 steps in every day, I feel the day was a failure. If I get in 20,000, I push for 21,000 then whine to my doctor that my feet are sore.
But back in high school, seasons changed by the time I huffed and puffed four laps around the RHS track during phys-ed class. I’m sure the teachers must have felt they were sometimes giving out participation medals, a D if a student could hold a racket by the handle, D + for hitting something with it, a lofty achievement I don’t think i ever reached. But could I spell!
In high school, my shyness was so bad I could have been voted least likely to ever have a girlfriend unless she came with an air pump and repair kit. And perhaps that’s why I’m amazed at how many grandchildren some of my classmates now have. Between two of them, I’m surprised they haven’t been asked to join the Paris accord on climate change.
As i’ve prepared for tonight’s reunion, I’ve heard many stories of my classmates’ lives, some of whom have achieved much in the past 40 years, others whose lives took a direction they never anticipated.
I’m interested in hearing those stories and seeing how much we’ve all changed during these past decades.
And I’m hoping, for the sake of the organizers who have exerted an enormous amount of time and effort into this occasion, people enter tonight’s dinner as classmates but leave as friends.
We all have different backgrounds, different life stories, but we have one commonality that will never change. We graduated together and we’re still alive to talk about it.
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