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We may never pass this way again ... until the reunion

The 30th anniversary of my high school graduation loomed before me like a giant barometer of midlife, the needle rising perilously close to OLD AGE.

And there, standing beside it, was the Big Question, staring me down as it has every 10th year since 1979:

Should I go to the reunion?

The 10th reunion didn't work out so well. My best friend and I helped plan it, then we were so depressed about where we were in our lives we ditched the reunion and drank margaritas at a Mexican restaurant instead. (To the others on the planning committee, we humbly apologize.)

The 20th was more successful. My best friend and I didn't help plan it, we did go, and we had a great time.

Now it has been 30 years. I haven't gone very far, just about 20 miles. I'm still doing journalism, something I started as a sophomore at Rogue River High. My best friend has decided to stay home this year.

Should I go?

I don't really know these people anymore, I thought to myself. I probably wouldn't even recognize some of them, let alone remember their names. And memories of those awkward, unending days of rampant adolescent stupidity were best left buried deep within my older, and I hoped, wiser brain.

I wondered whether we would even have a reunion. Our class was not the most spirited of groups, as I recalled in the murky recesses of my brain. The turbulent '60s, full of civil unrest and experimentation and hope for a new world, had passed, and what remained to symbolize our era? The Bee Gees and disco balls.

We Chieftains were too cool to yell at pep rallies, despite the best efforts of our rosy-cheeked cheerleaders, and a sit-down strike over bad cafeteria food garnered only minimal interest, mostly from students who wanted to get out of class.

Should I go?

The answer came to me a couple of months ago on that social networking phenomenon known as Facebook. When I finally signed up to see what all the fuss was about, I learned not only that the class of '79 was having a reunion, but classmates from all over the country wanted to be my friend.

Even people I hadn't seen for 30 years. People I remember as being part of the "in-crowd," which I, being a speechie and Arrow newspaper staffer, was most certainly not.

The answer was clear: I was going.

On the weekend of Rooster Crow, Rogue River's only national claim to fame, about a third of our 90-member class gathered at the Homestead. It was not the swankiest of places, but it was a memory shared by those who spent their early drinking lives there.

The first person I saw when I walked in was Laura, another of my best friends whom I'd lost touch with in college, and we both screamed and hugged each other for a long time.

As we talked throughout the weekend, old high school memories began to surface. Good memories. The night we got to meet our favorite band, Pablo Cruise, backstage after a concert at the Expo. Walking on the beach in the freezing Oregon spring, just glad to be alive. Taking my old 1964 Valiant, which we'd dubbed "The Ark," out for a cruise on a Saturday night.

The memories kept flowing that night as one by one, old faces from the class of '79 came into focus and conversations ensued rapid-fire.

Some of us had gray hair, some no hair, and some a good hair colorist. Some were business owners, many had children, others had divorces and new partners. As we chatted and hugged and sipped cocktails through the evening, all of us decided this reunion was a lot more fun than we thought it would be.

The next day we gathered in Valley of the Rogue State Park to show off our children and take group pictures.

It took some doing to get the graduating class rounded up, and many of us groaned when someone suggested we grab our reunion banner to hold for the picture.

While we stood for multiple photos, someone (from swing choir, no doubt) launched into our school song: "On Rogue River, on Rogue River ..."

A few joined in, but, being true to our '79 lethargy, none of us could remember the words, and the song quickly faded into an unintelligible hum. The cheerleaders weren't giving up, though — they begged the football players to run through the banner for old time's sake.

Several eyed the banner, no doubt reliving those moments when they burst onto Beck Field as the fighting Chieftains. But they had drinks in their hands, and it was hot and, well, someone could get hurt, you know, and they wandered off. We all laughed.

Sweaty from 90-degree heat and full with fond memories, we all hugged each other and promised to keep in touch on Facebook.

Despite hundreds of miles and dozen of years, we still shared one common bond — memories of some of the worst years of our lives.

But filtered through new and renewed friendships, those memories didn't seem so bad, after all.

Reach City Editor Cathy Noah at 776-4473 or at cnoah@mailtribune.com.