September 20th, 2019

Time can’t erode good friendships

By Lethbridge Herald on July 5, 2019.

Leave it to Beeber

Al Beeber
Lethbridge Herald

Two years ago this weekend, our class of 1977 had its 40-year reunion. It’d been two long decades since our last one and getting together with old friends and classmates was something I was looking forward to.

In school, I was the shy, socially-awkward kid, the quiet one who was always around but never really involved with anything. I didn’t have any enemies but only a few close friends. With a car that smelled like feedlot, I’m surprised I had any.

But I had a lot of fun in the ’70s, especially after earning that coveted driver’s licence at 16 which was a ticket to freedom. Bombing main in Raymond and the route between the two A &Ws in Lethbridge was a ritual we all practiced. When we weren’t cranking out the tunes on our eight-track decks in town, we were on the highway to Lethbridge where the Golden Bridge was a regular Friday night stop before heading home.

We spent a lot of time at Whoop-Up Downs as kids and just as much studying the Saturday card before hitting the city to make our bets at the old wooden grandstand. I feel so old writing this, I have to admit. Those were the days when gas was bought by the gallon, often for us at Wendorff’s Sugar City Drive-in and roads were filled with Torinos and Camaros, Jimmies and Broncos. Or in my case, a red two-door Dodge Monaco I bought from Jubilee Motors.

Before the reunion, I let myself be volunteered to co-host it with Darrel Pack, who was one of our class speakers on grad night along with valedictorian Richard Graham, whose dad was the town mayor in the 1970s.

Darell and I hung out in different orbits in school and weren’t close. But as we worked together, mostly long-distance by phone and email, on the reunion preparations we quickly made up for the 40 years that had passed since we last saw each other.

That night was one I’m sure none of us will ever forget. Many of us hadn’t seen each other since high school and we made the most of the few hours together. The best part for me was seeing our English teacher Mrs. Smith who had been reading my column for years and didn’t realize until her daughter Barbara (now Dalene) told her that the kid she had in class was the one she was now reading.

Kay Anderson was there, too, he being a teacher who thankfully pulled me aside as Grade 10 was starting and told me quietly after seeing my math marks from Grade 9 that maybe physics and chemistry were not wise course choices. He sure had that right.

During the night, Darrel, I and the organizer Sandra Francis, who we knew as Heggie in the ’70s, did our best to make sure our classmates felt they were part of something special.

And two years later, we have fulfilled my hope that our time together that night would be not just a reunion, but would spark the renewal of old friendships and create new ones.

And I’m really honoured to say that two years after that reunion in a city restaurant, Darrel and I are still fairly close.

We text each other and follow each other on Twitter, keeping that bond we created so many years after we bade farewell to the familiarity and comfort zone of high school.

A few of us have kept in touch regularly and in recent times when we’ve lost family members, we reached out to support our classmates. When Barb’s dad died, classmates rallied around her; when mine did, friends were quick to give me their support.

And just recently when Dave Williams lost his sister Linda and Doug Keeler his mom, classmates made sure that they and their families knew we were thinking about them.

To me, that will be the enduring legacy of the class of ’77, a group of people from different religions, financial circumstances and social stratas coming together decades after we graduated and being there for each other. That’s what friends are for; standing up for each other and being a shoulder to lean on or an ear to bend when a friend needs either.

I think our teachers would be pretty impressed. Maybe more so now with some of us than when they had us in their classrooms!

Follow @albeebHerald on Twitter.

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