Metro-East Living

Looking back on high school — 40 years later

I went to my 40th high school reunion last month in Belleville.

The Althoff Catholic High School Class of 1977 gathered at The Abbey in west Belleville, less than a block from our alma mater on West Main Street.

It was fun seeing and talking with classmates. I recognized most of them. Sure, we have changed. Less hair. More weight. More hair. Less weight. Our ID for the night was our high school graduation photo — 1977. The blazing red afro. Yep, I really did look like Queen Elizabeth in a really bad, brown corduroy suit.

I still see my high school friends often. We play golf on Sundays. Go to ballgames. See one another at weddings, funerals and holidays. Someone once told us that we don’t have the social skills to make new friends so we have stuck together. There may be something to that philosophy.

I enjoyed getting my photo taken with ex-grade school classmates from St. Phillip Catholic Grade School who were in my high school graduating class, as well.

Here are some things I wished I would have said to my ex-classmates:

Dear Class of 1977,

Nice photo on the ID badge. Big hair and wide collars. Forty years. Wow. Time waits for no one. High school was such a simple, carefree time. Few responsibilities. Get to school on time. Get to practice. Get to class, usually. Study. Never miss lunch. Laugh a lot.

Any regrets? Sure, I wish I could have studied more. I wish I would have learned to play the guitar or piano. I wish I could have seen Tom Petty in concert. Lesson learned: Put if off. Next time. There may be no next times.

Let’s say “thanks” collectively. We grew up and went to high school in the 1970s. From this desk, it was the best time to be a teenager. We had freedom. Security. Safety. MRF concerts. Cheap gas. No camera phones. No texts. You could hide if you wanted to hide.

Remember all those parties in the school parking lot, or behind the Scottish Rite building off 57th Street? Me neither. I wasn’t there. Heard they were fun, though. (No photos!)

Back to life’s regrets? I wish I would have gone to a few more Spirits of St. Louis ABA basketball games. Marvin Barnes? Gus Gerard? Who knew it was history in the making.

My favorite memories of high school? The friendships. Our carefree world. Playing sports. Friday night football games at the old Township Stadium before 3,500 fans. Baseball games at the old St. Henry Prep’s fields next to our high school.

Worst memories? There were none. It was all fun. Seriously. No scars.

Of all classes I took in high school, one of the most useful today is typing. I type every day. I’m not a great typist, but I am glad I learned the basics in high school.

Some of the places on West Main that were around in 1977 that I miss most: Mr. Donut, Ponderosa, BZB Diner, Reeb’s Dairy, Bert’s Chuckwagon, CMC Stereo, and Canterbury food mart.

Some of the places that were around in 1977 that I’m glad are still here today: Althoff Catholic High School, KSHE-95, and the Cathedral in downtown Belleville from where we graduated 40 years ago.

More on being a member of the luckiest generation: So we get out of high school, and there’s no military draft. We float along to college or jobs. No haircuts. Bad clothes. Good music. Easy Street.

Walter Cronkite. Harry Reasoner. Mike Wallace. I sure miss them on the TV news today.

I miss having several daily newspapers to read — long gone are the Metro East Journal and St. Louis Globe Democrat. We received a daily newspaper in the morning and late afternoon. I read newspapers often in our high school library. It looked a lot like studying. My friends knew better. Napped a lot in the library, too.

Raise your hand if your first mobile phone fit in a large bag and was storied in your car trunk?

A few people at my reunion said to me, “I never know you could write in high school. You never seemed like a writer …”

My response: “I never knew I could write in high school, either.”

Writing seriously came afterward, while in college. There wasn’t much I was interested in or could do well. Took a few journalism classes. It clicked. I started writing in grade school. I just took four years off in high school because there was so much else to do.

I’m lucky to have gone to Althoff Catholic High School in the 1970s. Here’s one example: I had some health issues last year. It was my high school friends — along with my wife, Colleen, and family — who came to sit with me at the hospital, encouraged me, made me laugh, gave me books, proved they cared. I’m blessed to have many good friendships which started and continue because we went to the same high school.