Last weekend, I ventured up to Rome for the West Rome High School All Class Reunion. As I've commented on multiple occasions, I credit my years at West Rome (and the knowledge I gained there) for whatever degree of success I've attained in my life. Certainly, college offered me more specialized knowledge in certain areas, as well as giving me the credentials necessary for my teaching career, but the core skills I needed to write and to run a business were all derived from my high school education.
My years as a student in Rome (culminating in those West Rome years) also instilled in me a lot of my awareness of the importance of diverse knowledge, my appreciation of the arts and literature, and my attitude that each of us has the ability to make our lives better. I enjoyed my time at Berry College, but I nowhere nearly as much fondness for my years there as I do for my years at West Rome.
I've also mentioned previously that my school no longer exists; back in '92, Rome chose to dispose of West Rome and East Rome High Schools (West Rome is now a WalMart parking lot; East Rome, where I taught for my first five years, is now a Kmart parking lot), combining the two schools into one larger Rome High School, which they then located on the far outskirts of Rome so that it was a neighborhood school for pretty much nobody. Since West Rome is now 16 years gone, every reunion has a slightly bittersweet quality; our school colors of Green and White are now relegated to history; our memories of faculty members like Mr. Davis, Mr. Carter, Mrs. Evans, Ms. Smyth, Mrs. Armona, Mrs. Cobb, Coach Hyder, Coach Parker, Coach Kennedy, Coach Cox, Mr. Stevens, and so many others become more a part of the distant past with each passing year; and we can only revisit the campus itself in our memories.
There were only a half-dozen or so people from my class of '71 who made it to the reunion; I spent a lot time talking with the former Melinda Hyde, now Melinda Holder. We were classmates from the fourth grade through graduation--and as Melinda and I remarked as we looked over our fourth grade picture, the bulk of us who were in that fourth grade class remained classmates for the remainder of our public school years. That's where so much of that bygone sense of community comes from: we were West Rome residents, we were West Rome students, we were West Rome neighbors. We all knew the same people, we shopped in the same places, we lived in the same area. The transient nature of modern society was much less developed in the 1960s and early 1970s; families settled down in neighborhoods and stayed there, and the point was driven home as we looked at that photo from the 1962-1963 school year.
As with most multi-class reunions, the large group broke up into numerous smaller groups that shared common graduating years. It appeared that the earliest graduating classes (West Rome started in 1958) actually had more attendees than the later classes; that may be part of that community nature. It seems that more of the students from those early classes actually stayed in Rome after graduation, so there were more of them in the area to attend the reunion.
I left the reunion hoping that I someday have another chance to see some of the other people with whom I shared those years--people like Sven Ahlstrom (with whom I exchange emails from time to time, thankfully), Gary Steele, Greg Carter, Jamie Cook, Kenneth Barton, Lon Rollinson, Lynn Amspoker, Terri Freeman, Alan Carrington, Thomas Blad, Phyllis Cox, Randy Hatch... it's a long list, and each name carries many pleasant memories.