Catching up with old friends at 50th class reunion

Susan Manzke

I’ve known for some time that a big anniversary was going to be celebrated this year. No, Bob and I will only be together 45 years this December. The fifty years I’m referring to is my 50th high school reunion. In 1968, I and a group of my cohorts graduated from Lincoln-Way Community High School, New Lenox, Illinois.

Susan with her long-time friends, Joyce Stephens, and Shirley Marx.

Going to the reunion posed a problem for me. First, Bob didn’t want to go. Okay, I could leave him at home, but I didn’t want to drive to Illinois by myself. There’s just too much traffic in northeast Illinois for me. I would need a chauffeur. I asked our daughter Rebecca and her husband Andy if they could help me. Luckily they had the weekend of the reunion free and agreed to take me. Yay!

My friend of many years, Joyce, said we could stay with her, so we didn’t have to search for a motel. Everything was set.

I checked with another friend to see if she was coming to the reunion. Janice wasn’t going but she had time to join Joyce and me for lunch before the big event—she also brought her sister who knows my sister, so we had a reunion before the reunion. I felt very excited about seeing Janice and Nancy. We had gone to St. Mary’s elementary school together, too—a few others would be at the evening reunion were also St. Mary’s grads.

 After our little luncheon and much reminiscing, Joyce drove the two of us to the VFW in New Lenox for the class dinner. It really didn’t matter where we met. All everyone wanted to do was see and visit with old classmates—and I do mean OLD classmates.

Immediately upon entering the hall, I saw a friend who didn’t need an introduction or identifying ID. Shirley and I have kept up our friendship over the years.

Recognizing other classmates was a bit more of a problem. We all wore name tags with maiden names added for the women. Also on the tag was a copy of our senior high school photo.

Susan’s senior colorized photo for the 1968 yearbook.

I’d kind of sidle up to someone and sneak a look at their name tag, identifying them before starting up a conversation. This wasn’t always easy as my bifocals often made reading their name difficult. It turned out that I wasn’t the only one doing this stealth identification—a few of us had changed a lot in the last 50 years, and most needed glasses or contacts to search for old friends.

Quite a few people have renewed friendships earlier with me on Facebook. But even after seeing current photos on my computer screen, I couldn’t pick them out of a lineup if I had to.

Some people didn’t remember me. I basically told them that I was extremely shy in high school. I didn’t make waves and worked hard at not being noticed. My circle of close friends were the misfits. None of us were among the chic or stylish—sorry to say that ladies—but those friends were fun and helped me survive Lincoln-Way.

Joyce, Shirley, and Susan having fun in the reunion photo booth.

A photo booth captured memories of the evening, as did everyone’s cell phones. I don’t know if I’ll get to another reunion in the future, but this one sure was fun.

Thanks, Joyce for making your home, our home for the weekend. I also have to thank our son-in-law Andy for being my chauffeur. Without him and Rebecca, I would have stayed home on the farm and missed out on this once in a lifetime experience. Thank you also to all who arranged the reunion. You did a great job.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;