Thursday, July 11, 2013

THE SUMMER VACATION OF JUSTIN HALE



CALENDAR WRITER ATTENDS 50TH YEAR CLASS REUNION

Temecula, CA – It isn’t every day that one attends a high school class reunion, especially a reunion celebrating 50 years. On June 6th, 2013, the 1963 graduating class of Louisville Male High School held their reunion in Louisville, KY. I know this because I was there. I’m that old.


Leaving town June 5th, I finally rolled back to T-town July 5th, coming to a halt at 5AM on the 8th following a party celebrating Ivan’s [Ivan Promotions] 30th birthday.

Over the next few weeks join me as I write down the experience of reclaiming my past, revealing my future, and the ruckus raised about Mary Jane Green, the star in my self-published work, Memoirs of Mr. Pete & Mary Jane Green, on sale here.   

The best summer vacation, ev-ver, started with attending the class reunion for the best and possibly the oldest high school in Kentucky, Male High, which was founded in 1859. At that time, only white boys, males, were offered a public education, hence the name Male High School.

Over the decades many things changed around the school including its location, but the school policy was only altered in two ways: the admittance of female students and the school desegregation of the fifties. The tradition, the educational standards, and school pride overcame cultural differences, perceived or real, and encompassed all students attending the historic high school.
A stark difference was Shawnee High whose 1963 Senior Dinner held at a ‘white only’ country club excluded their 16 black graduating students. A present day lawyer who was ostracized still remembers the hurt and refuses to be part of his school’s 50year reunion. It was the honorable character of Male High that drew the best from every student.

The Alumni 50 Year Club Luncheon held from 11-1 or so, inducted our Class of 1963 as the newest class to join the vaulted 50 years or more grad association. Our host was Judith Howell Parrish and the entire 
room seated over 450 grads. In the midst of the random assigned seating, a fellow grad/late arrival sat next to me, and when he said his daughter had recently moved away from Temecula, CA, I knew this summer visit back to the past was going to be special. Clinching the Long Distance Award [an ultra chic crested thermos] just sealed the deal. Thank you.

The 63 Class Reunion Dinner started at 6PM. But long time readers know how I roll. It was no different this time out. My Louisville host, fellow grad Will Rodgers, and neighborhood friend/grad, Ann Long, were both part of the planning committee so I got to the party ‘I’m with the band’ early. I set up my book display at our table.

As people filtered in to the Woodhaven Country Club we all got adhesive photo/name tags, so it was easy to see how much or how little each of us had changed. Since we are all now retired, a relaxed air of shared community, like a great church picnic that serves alcohol, filled the air. Smiles and hugs went all around like iced tea in summer.
As with the luncheon, awards and prizes complimented the available souvenir tee shirt designed solely by grad Walt Oster, a retired law enforcement officer. Ann narrated some award announcements as did Walt, who presented me with a fine wood-crafted crested box commemorating the reunion, again the long distance award. Ironically, my closest bud in the huge ROTC subculture at Male, Doug Cessna, would have gotten both LD awards since he lives in Alaska, but his travel plans changed at the last minute I was told.
Accepting the prize, I addressed the gathering and expressed my gratitude for being able to attend the gathering and talked of the special place in social history for our class. “The Class of 63 was the last class of Camelot,” I remarked, “since JFK was assassinated in late November of the same year. We came through after segregation but before busing and black power.”

Reminiscing with the crowd, I segued into a book plug and gently walked the curious listeners into a quick 411 about cannabis. Though covered in more detail for the upcoming story, The Tale of the
Bulldog Who Smoked Pot, the audience disconnected with the cancer news about Tommy Chong (YouTube, 4/19/13). For everyone there except me, the last words from Tommy Chong were “Dave’s not here, man.”

However, my message had been delivered, D’MaryJane Unchained, plus I signed two copies of Memoirs at the dinner. The saying goes, ‘When Writers do it, it makes the Front Page.’ So in true Hollywood style, a little smoke ‘n’ mirrors reminder of my ‘pot sermon’ greeted Male grads who read the leading newspaper, the Courier-Journal two days later. Thanks for the award, again.

High school is high school, and high school has cliques. Not everyone who graduated carried away fond memories like yours truly. The day after the dinner, a Friday, a number of the black grads who attended the dinner met and had a reunion supper with other Male High black grads that hadn’t made the Thursday dinner.
This event was held at Franco’s [502-448-8044], a ‘soul food’ restaurant once located at 18th & Walnut Streets. The atmosphere this time was more like a family reunion and the reason was racial. Each of us, no matter how successful, had made it this far in life as a Male Grad and as a black person born in Louisville. We were part of a sub-culture that spanned sports, academia, socio-economic, and ROTC sub-cultures at Male. As I looked around this gathering at the long table, all the people I saw stood out at Male in some way. None of them was a wall-flower.
The subject of pot and my book entered the conversation quickly since two of purchasers were also present at this gathering. One other book had been bought by a grad named Terry Atchison, though he had forgotten his copy in his haste to make Thursday’s dinner.
The two copies I brought with me were quickly snatched up as several grads shared their testimonies with me about their real life marijuana tribulations. For this section of the 63 class that took part in the civil rights movement to desegregate lunch counters, it was especially poignant. Turns out the city is erecting statues/plaques at 12 sites where the sit-ins took place. Except for a very few adult activists, all the Louisville demonstrators were high school students rather than college students as was usually the case. A quick survey of some of my fellow protestors like Ann Long showed that I wasn’t the only one who didn’t clue in the ‘rents about our afterschool social justice project.

Looking back now, it wasn’t just that the Class of 1963 was the last class of the Camelot/JFK era, it was the class that showed both racial groups were about the same principles and guidelines before the ‘black is beautiful’ phenomena swept the masses. The racial gains that the class of 1963 made would later be overturned and discounted as ‘Uncle Tom’ gains by those who profit from a preferred market share, but for a moment it was nice to return to a gentler time and gaze upon the faces of all those who shared the hopes and dreams of all past Male High grads, to live a full life while enriching others the way Dear Old High School did for us equally


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