On a sunny and hot 90-degree July afternoon, a slight breeze, a covered pavilion, and a scenic view of folks enjoying boating activities on the Susquehanna River provided the backdrop as long-ago South Williamsport high school classmates gathered at the Susquehanna Boat Club.
Many years ago, during his scholastic days, class president Bob Coolidge excelled on the gridiron and basketball court. Since leaving those Rommelt Building hallways, Cooz has not spent one penny running any re-election campaigns but has continued to serve his electorate in a labor of love, staying connected with classmates and organizing reunions and get-togethers. This was one of those occasions.
As he addressed the gathering, he began recognizing those in attendance with welcoming comments. Of one attendee, he remarked, “When we were in high school, I didn’t really know her and probably didn’t say ten words to her the whole time. I was a jock and figured I would go on to the NBA and play for the Celtics. That never happened, but over the years, I have gotten to know her and am glad she could be here today.”
Such was the nature of the day, lots of smiles, good food, continuous conversation, and despite some nature-related mobility restrictions, this opportunity gave folks that had been classmates only by means of geographical location and age the chance to share life experiences with those they once just passed in the hallways.
This space is meant to be a sports column, and jocular tales were bantered about. But the sports Bob Heiser, a standout Mountaineer running back in the days of coach Rod Morgan’s single-wing later played at Penn Military College and flew airplanes while in the service, enjoyed most talking about was a sandlot game called speedball; a game he, I, and neighborhood friends Al Hoover and Quin Newton enjoyed by the hours at the old Mountain Avenue School.
The name aptly describes the essence of the game. It was a simple game played with only a pitcher and a batter. The rules required the four of us to each select a Major League team or comprise an “all-star” team of existing MLB players. A playing schedule pitted each one of us against the other. One would be the pitcher, the other the batter. The game was played with a rubber ball, with the home plate located against the school building’s brick wall.
Each batter had to bat either right or left-handed in accordance with how the real MLB player batted. Base hits were determined by where a batted ball was hit with distinctive “ground rules” for each circumstance. Because the ball was pitched with speed with the intention of striking out the batter, most outs were recorded in that manner.
As we reminisced, we shared laughs about the good times we had and the many bricks that became dislodged on the schoolhouse exterior wall that served as our backstop by the continued pounding of the thrown ball during the many games we enjoyed playing.
The gathering included more ladies than men, so sports soon became a background topic as tales were exchanged about kids, grandchildren, travel, and health ailments. It’s all part of Father Time’s maturation process, but genuine interest was afforded to each individual as the ‘catching up’ process created a bond among those former classmates not often able to be in a position to do so.
While those attending represented only a small percentage of the 103 students that flipped those tasseled hats together many years ago, some traveled from Indiana, South Carolina, and Maryland, and the far reaches of Pennsylvania just to enjoy some social time and rekindle childhood acquaintances.
As we bid our goodbyes and headed home, I began to think about classmates no longer with us, those unable to come due to distance or health issues, or a lack of interest.
In the early years following high school graduation, I went to college in Texas and then spent four years in the Air Force. Upon returning home, my interests centered on finding a job and raising a young family. High school reunions were not on my radar screen and didn’t hold much interest. But during the past few decades, I have taken the time to get involved, and the time spent doing so has been most enjoyable.
In recent weeks notices have been appearing in the newspapers and online about other classes holding reunions this summer. For those contemplating attendance, take the time to do so. As time goes by, past social status, monetary gains, or job titles matter little when scored against meeting, reminiscing, and sharing the good times with long-ago classmates.
Class gatherings aren’t measured with scoreboards, but hopefully, your class will have a ‘Bob Coolidge’ to help get the playing field ready!