50TH CLASS REUNION
CHATHAM HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1951
It was with a great deal of anticipation and uncertainty that I headed off to Pocono Manor,
Pennsylvania from Victoria, Texas, my home for the last 31 years. Keeping me company on the
way were my wife of 43 years, Jean, and our two cats of a shorter time of association. We traveled
comfortably in our small motor home. We had overnights at Arkadelphia, Arkansas and Knoxville,
Tennessee and Winchester, Virginia. It was a wonderful drive up. We even stumbled onto the
birthplace of Sam Houston of Texas off I-81 in northern Virginia. The purpose of our trip was to
attend the 50th reunion of my CHS Class of ’51.
We started out on the last morning and, even though my wife had her hair attended to on
the way, we easily made Pocono Manor by 2:00 PM on October 5, 2001, a Friday. As we drove the
scenery was beautiful and turned into more beautiful. The leaves were at their peak with fiery hills
full of orange, red, scarlet and other bright colors. This is what I have missed the most in Texas,
the changing of the colors. It brought back a flood of memories of those brilliant scenes around
Chatham. It also reminded me of leaves to be raked, leaf piles to be jumped into, and the smell of
burning leaves. Oh for those carefree days when you could burn leaves, gone forever. How did we
Judy Buckley had wisely picked Pocono Manor as the place for the reunion and the choice
of place and time were perfect. The historical old hotel, in its 99th year, served us all very well. The
rooms were not elegant but were very adequate and clean. The meals were superb and the service
was wonderful. We had an area reserved for visiting and remembering during the day and also for
our banquet Saturday night. The grounds were very private and conducive to just wandering along
for exercise and small talk. There was a little drizzle one morning. The temperature was delightfully
cool and a welcome change from the low 90’s we had left behind in Texas. The threat of snow
Saturday night did not materialize.
I think our yearbook showed a total of 91 students who graduated in 1951. We also invited
a few who left just before graduation. 18 of our members are deceased. I was very embarrassed
that one member I had been told was deceased and had ignored turned out to be living and well.
Sorry! 6 members have been lost to the ages and have not been contacted in years. A total of 42
classmates signed up to attend but some regretfully had to cancel at the last minute. Several of
those who couldn’t attend sent written messages to share. My best count was of a total of 35
classmates present with a number of spouse and guest for a total of about 60 individuals.
Our first event to was a welcoming get together before dinner Friday evening with
refreshments and hors d’oeuvres. It was really great to see the group interacting after so long a
time. Although the ladies have been better at keeping in touch with each other many of us had had
no contact in the 50 years that have passed. I found the least changed were the women. If I studied
faces enough I could recognize all of them by non-surgically subtracting a little flesh here and there
and by imagining their hair a different color and style. The men, I thought, had changed the most.
Actually most of the change was in the abdominal profile. But there were four men I absolutely
wouldn’t have known even if I had studied them for a long time. It was nice to hear the question “Do
you remember…..” or “What ever happened to ……..” repeated over and over again.
Following this reception we retired for a delicious meal together in our space in the main
dining room. Some returned to our reunion area, the Valley View Room, to share memories,
experiences and pictures. Others collapsed in bed after a long day of travel.
After a delicious buffet breakfast where we all ate too much we gathered in the Valley View
Room after a short break. Here our own Rev. Dr. George Pike led us in a very touching and
well-presented memorial service in recognition of our deceased classmates. He tastefully reminded
us of the value of life, read some appropriate scriptures, and recalled the names of the departed. To
me this was one of the highlights of the entire weekend. Thank you Skip.
Visiting in small groups followed throughout the remainder of the day with a very nice noon
meal enjoyed together. Some walked the grounds but the dampness ruined the golf games but not
the spirit of the group.
We all assembled for a cocktail hour before our grand banquet. We all enjoyed this chance
to speak one on one with each other. A photographer then appeared from somewhere and got us
all together for a group picture before we went in for our banquet. This proved harder to do than he
thought possible. To fit us all in we finally ended up with some standing on chairs set on tables and
high up in the sky. This led down to others just standing, and to some kneeling on the floor. His
lights kept on blinking on and off but eventually he got the pictures he thought would please us.
And they did.
The highlight of the reunion was our banquet together. I was honored to be the MC for the
event. The setting and food were excellent. Entrée courses included duck, prime rib, pasta,
swordfish, salmon, and pork tenderloin. We started out with the Pledge of Allegiance followed by
signing of America the Beautiful. Rev. Dr. Skip Pike then gave the invocation. We were then ready
to eat but Ray Rex gave the reunion planners a pleasant surprise. In behalf of the Class of ’51 he
presented a thoughtful plaque to Judy Buckley Jaycox, Jean Ellen Boniface Nilson, and myself as
a thanks for our work on the reunion. Thank you all so much.
As MC, I tried to briefly summarize how we were raised in the Post Great Depression-WW
II time frame I referred to as the Age of Innocence. Our marching orders were “What were you doing
on December 7, 1941when you heard of the bombing of Pearl Harbor”. We have now passed on the
baton and the question of our kids and grandkids is “Where were you on September 11, 2001 when
the WTC tragedy occurred”. We were very naïve in many areas compared to the challenges faced
by high school students today.
I interspersed some questions about our high school days to jog some memories. I sent
out another plea for help in finding our lost classmates Beck, Byrd, Drake, Reger, Sanford, and
Smith. We then had a memory contest to try and recall the names all of our teachers by grade
from K-12. The crowd did very well with this challenge. Ron McMahon had made copies of some of
our old, favorite songs so the singing boys got up and serenaded the ladies one more time. We
sang hot renditions of “So Long, It’s Been Good to Know You”, “On Top of Old Smoky”, and
Goodnight Irene”. We have to thank Ron for that surprise part of the program. I wanted the
cheerleaders to lead us in a few old cheers but Jean Ellen Boniface Nilson was the only one there.
Jean Ellen had been asked by Judy Buckley and Betty Ross to give us a capsule view of
her understanding of Islam from her experience from many years in Turkey. This she did with great
grace and dignity. It was a very difficult subject especially with the short time she had to present
such a convoluted subject.
This marked the end of the banquet. Some lingered longer for more memory sharing and
discussion. I am sure that all slept well with a smile on our faces and happy recollections
circulating in our brains.
Sunday morning dawned bright, crisp, and clear. We enjoyed our last breakfast together
with some reluctance, as there were many other old moments still to be shared. We must save
them for next time. After picking up our pictures as a permanent reminder of the event, most slowly
filtered out of the grand old hotel.
Jean and I left in mid-morning and headed west, enjoying the tremendous scenery as we
went. Our first night was in Wheeling, West Virginia. We then drove on to visit her family in Minonk,
Illinois before returning home on October 11.
We polled the group and I think the consensus was to have the whole group meet again in
5 years or 2006, our 55th. The time of year, early October, and place, Pocono Manor, were
acceptable to all. So be it. If there is any other choice let it be known within the next year so we
can proceed with arrangements.
Happy Holidays to you all.
Peter B. Riesz, MD
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