A couple of weeks ago, nearly 70 people -- classmates and some spouses -- gathered for my high school class's 30-year reunion.
You are correct in thinking that I do not look anywhere near old enough to have graduated in 1981, and I appreciate the sentiment.
We've now had six of these fetes, and they have all been different for a variety of reasons. In some ways, our reunions have featured all of the usual clichés and expected moments that are common to such events, but not as much as some might think. For the most part, we like each other and always have a good time.
What has fascinated me looking back is that the success or failure of the events, based solely on numbers and exit comments, has almost always been determined well before the actual date. Simply put, if attendees expected to have a good time, they did.
Our first get-together was held during the afternoon at Camp Columbus. We ate, played a little softball, hung out and had a good time, as if it hadn't really been five years since we'd last seen each other.
At 10 years, we figured it was dress-up time, so we went to the Read House. We had a program and gave out awards for farthest traveled, most kids and all that. It was a sit-down dinner, and basically you sat with the same six people you see every week at church or three people you haven't seen in a while and their spouses. It was well-attended and nice, but you could feel that not everyone would be coming to the next one.
Our third reunion was at the Chattanooga Billiard Club in East Brainerd. The theory was that it's a fun place with things to do, especially for the spouses who might not like to mingle. The room also was nice, and the sit-down dinner was tasty. Some out-of-town folks saw "billiard club" on the invitation and I suppose pictured a smoke-filled pool hall with cigarette butts and peanut shells all over the floor. Attendance was OK, but down.
So we swung the pendulum the other way for year 20 and booked The Walden Club. It was my least favorite because I went home with tired feet and a sore pinky. It's tough holding a beer bottle that way for four hours.
Back we swung toward casual and easy for the 25th, which was held at the Elks Club in East Brainerd. It was by far our least attended. Who can say for sure why, but at this stage in life, kids are playing sports, jobs are in full swing, marriages are adjusting, and people are just busy.
Our 30th was held at The CampHouse on the Southside off Main Street. By all accounts, it was a big success. You could tell ahead of time that people wanted to get together and have fun, and they did.
We all realized, I think, that everyone would be showing up with their own scars and that nobody gets through life unscathed.
As one classmate posted on Facebook after: "It isn't an event to go to where everyone is keeping score on who did the best [or] who got old or fat. I look at it now more as a milestone in my life, a place where I check in on me and reflect on who I was, where I've been and if I'm still on the path I wanted for myself."
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...