Sunday, May 2, 2010

My High School Reunion

I have always been intrigued by school reunions...whatever happened to....So I decided to return to North York for the 50th anniversary of my high school W L Mackenzie. I started high school in 1961 at the age of 13 and graduated from grade 13 four years later. I attended the 25th anniversary reunion, but otherwise have had little contact with any of my high school friends, other than one friend who lives in Phoenix. So I was keen to see how people had changed.Since I was told that there would be no food served, I passed the Jewish Memorial Monuments Factory Outlet on Bathurst street and stopped off for a deli platter at Pancers Delicatessen where we regularly hung out during high school. (We really need another good delicatessen in Vancouver!) I took my copy of The Advocate and looked at old photos from our graduating year. Hopefully Honey Goldlist would show up, along with some of the other girls on whom I had a crush.

As soon as I arrived at the school I was greeted by my old friend Howie. But I was somewhat taken aback when he took my face in his hand and started to take a closer look at my beard. "You should have that looked at" he said, and I then realized he was referring to a brown mark on my cheek. I told him that I had seen my GP , but he said to ignore what a GP has to say. "See a specialist".

When I told another friend about this experience he told me that Howie was now one of Toronto's top dermatologists and I should take his advice. I will. (Who knows, maybe attending a high school reunion will help prevent getting melanoma.)

One person I wanted to see was Greg Hershoff. Greg was always a party guy with a fancy convertible and I was keen to find out what happened to him. I soon discovered he was no longer Greg Hershoff. He was now Dr. Asa Hersh DC ND of California, who specializes in healing from the inside out. I checked out his website.... His full-spectrum approach includes Bioenergy Testing, Classical Homeopathy, herbal medicine, clinical nutrition, spinal manipulation, and subtle energy healing. He has been a spiritual seeker since his youth, and is a fully ordained lay Tibetan Lama or Ngakpa of the Nyingma tradition. Well, people change when they move to California.I met up with a number of old friends, including Honey who was still a very attractive lady. I learned that she, like many of the women at the reunion, had been married, but was no longer married.
What I really wanted to know was what happened to all the guys who belonged to the Radio Club. Sadly, I didn't know them then, and wouldn't know them now. (Some one should do a study to see whether the boys who belonged to clubs like the Radio Club followed different career paths than say those who belonged to the Dance Club.)I searched for Mayna Vellis with whom I was photographed dancing in the yearbook. Sadly, neither she nor most of the other girls with whom I spent time after class in basement recreation rooms were there.It was 45 years since I had seen many of my classmates, and while some had changed and were virually unrecognizable, others hadn't changed at all!... Everyone agreed that Stan Waese should have got a special award for being the person who changed the least since 1965. Interestingly, the guys who hung around the local billiard hall still looked like guys who hung around billiard halls. Except for Ted Wineck, who was one of the event organizers...a tough guy at school...a sports hero...he told me that after many different careers, he now taught chess to elementary school children as a means of imparting life skills.

It was interesting to see some of the teachers. I went up to one lady who I recognized as a former math teacher. I told her that when I was at the school she was Miss Bennie. She looked me in the eye and said "I'm still Miss Bennie!"

A crowd favourite was Mr Gregg, the latin teacher. A number of us agreed that he had instilled in us a love of language that had remained with us to this day. Do they still teach Latin in high school?

As I left the reunion I was reminded of one of my favourite movies The Up Series, by Michael Apted.

Up Series is a series of documentary films that have followed the lives of fourteen British children since 1964, when they were seven years old. The children were selected to represent the range of socio-economic backgrounds in Britain at that time, with the explicit assumption that each child's social class predetermines their future. Every seven years, the director, Michael Apted, films new material from as many of the fourteen as he can get to participate. Filming for the next installment in the series, 56 Up, is expected in late 2011 or early 2012.

The students at Mackenzie were generally from fairly affluent backgrounds. The majority were Jewish, and many had parents who had survived the Holocaust. Nearly everyone in my class went on to university. There were lots of dentists, doctors, accountants, lawyers and many people 'in business'. One exception....Dave 'the voice' Lennick, who was the DJ at the school dances had followed a career in radio and the theatre. Most of the women had followed different career paths...they were teachers, social workers, and many had simply stayed home and brought up their children...until their divorce.

What I couldn't understand was why more classmates had not attended the reunion. I would have thought that everyone would be curious to see how each other had changed. I discussed this with a few people who suggested that many may not have come since they didn't enjoy their highschool years and didn't want to be reminded of a less happy period of their times. Others may not have come because they weren't as 'successful' as other classmates.

At any rate, if you have a highschool reunion coming up, I urge you to attend. It can be a worthwhile experience, and there are always a few surprises. And yes, as a rule, the women look much better than the men.


Karen said...

What a terrific account of what was a magical weekend! It was wonderful to be involved. It was a great school and still is!
When I was in teacher education, teaching developmental and educational psychology, I always used to show the UP series to coincide with the age and stage i was teaching (actually, i started teaching when there were only 3 films in the series and kept adding them as the years went by:-)...and, like you, i thought of that series on Saturday night too!
All the best,
Karen (Greenberg) Mock, Class of '63

Gail Copeland said...

Funny, Michael, though I graduated from Mac several years after you (1978), my experience at the reunion was quite similar. There seemed to be a lot of people who just weren't there that I thought I might see.

Re teaching of Latin, I checked the Ontario secondary school curriculum and Latin is still taught in some fashion, though probably not what you or I even remember. How many school boards actually offer it may be another matter! (I had considered taking Latin in university, but the intro course was the same one I'd taken at Mac with Mr. Gregg.)

I went to the 25th and the 40th reunions. I'm glad I went to the 50th, but do wish I'd had the chance to speak with more people. Gives me something to look forward to in 10 years!

Thanks for your post. It was a pleasure to read.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed reading your comments. I met you for the first time at the reunion (I asked whether you were related to Eddie Geller) and I'm glad you made the trip all the way to Toronto and that you enjoyed the evening.

All the best.

Larry Anklewicz

Michael Geller said...

to Karen, Gail and Larry (who co-organized the event) thanks for your thoughts and comments. All being well, I'll see you in 10 years. In the meanwhile, we should keep the facebook page alive! cheers

Rick Dale said...

What a nice account of your experience at Mac; I graduated in 1970. I was there last Saturday and was disappointed on how few of my fellow graduates were there, especially the females. The people who were there had a blast. We rehashed old memories, and exchanged email addresses. We are talking about a reunion in five years, but just the one night. My group will be 64 then.

Bobblog said...

Mike: It was nice re-connecting with you again through the website, and among other things, to find out that you write a really interesting blog which I have since begun to follow. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend for several reasons, the primary one being that I became Shomer Shabbat many years ago and the main event was largely before Shabbat ended. I would have said that I would have had to have come in from out of town, but you came in from Vancouver so that excuse wouldn't have scored any points with you. Please keep in touch and if you are ever in Ottawa, give me a shout. And I won't even remind you about the time you knocked the cafeteria french fries with gravy out of my hands as a "joke" -- as they say about Her Majesty the Queen, I was not amused. Keep well.

Dr. Asa said...

Finally got around to reading it up.. and .. I do remember you now Michael..haha. I enjoyed your "colorful" account of me. I am sure I am the most eccentric graduate of McKenzie, even to this date.. like who else did a three-year meditation retreat behind closed doors! One addition to the reunion that they should have had was a board dedicated to all our dead friends. They were some of the most interesting folks there. Hmm. Maybe somebody should do a study on interesting personalities and mortality vs. boring and longevity. Maybe only the interesting die young. Hey, eccentric is not the same as interesting!

Dr. Asa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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Urban Tribe said...

Reunions are the best times to reminisce the good old days with your friends, classmates, and everything that has been a part of those school years. Thank you very much for sharing your memories.

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