School Reunion!

Recently, I attended a high school reunion.

Background

I grew up in a small working-class town.

The parents of the kids I rubbed shoulders with served in local shops, did shifts in factories, ran their own small businesses (mostly manual labour) or were long-term unemployed. A couple worked as teachers.

I didn’t come across folk whose parents were doctors, lawyers or accountants until when I went to university.

There were two high schools in the town – the Catholic school (good reputation) and the state comprehensive (not so good reputation). I’m sure you can guess which one I went to! clue: it wasn’t the first one.

As you can imagine, there was intense rivalry between the two, although if there had been school league tables back then, no doubt they would have been near the top and we would have been near the bottom!

Although my early to mid teenaged years were rather awkward, I’d say I enjoyed a lot of my time at school because I loved to learn, I loved and was able to take part in a lot of sport and I had my friends. Of course, they weren’t all happy days but I couldn’t say that I ever hated school.

I knew that I wasn’t going to stay in the town forever – the city lights (and night life) of Manchester beckoned and the family relocated there while I was at uni. However, despite not having lived in ‘Smallville’ since I was 19, I’ve been visiting the town at least once a year ever since, to catch up with a friend I’ve continued to keep in touch with.

Class of ’85 Reunion

This wasn’t the first school reunion I’d ever attended.

The first one was 15 years ago, organised pre-Facebook days via Friends Reunited (remember them?) and my now-ex ended up in a punch-up…yes, really!

Anyway, no such shenanigans were expected this time round, not with us all older and wiser!

I was one of the early arrivals and for a moment, it was as if no one else was going to turn up and I had the fleeting thought that it was all going to be a disaster.

But then, people started drifting in. It was all a bit awkward at first – I mean how do you greet people, most of whom were still in school uniform when you last saw them? In the end, I think around 30 people turned up, some with their partners.

Some faces were familiar, while others had changed almost beyond recognition. I remembered many names, although the name badges did help to jog the memory for ones I didn’t remember.

Names which used to roll off my 15-year-old self’s tongue because I heard them being called out every day when the teacher was doing the class register now felt strange being uttered again after so long.

However very soon, things relaxed, probably helped by the incredibly cheap alcohol (I’ve been too used to paying premium and had to keep double-checking the prices), it was great to roll back the years, to find out what people had been up to, how their lives were the same or different from my own (mostly different).

Many still lived and worked locally and it was good to see that some friendships from school still endured enough that they (mostly women) still went on holidays together. A few attendees travelled up from London and also from as far as Scotland.

It was all quite weird but in a good way – I was greeted warmly by people who, as boys and girls, I had virtually nothing to do with at school because we weren’t in the same friend circles or took different classes.

It’s not a brag when I say that everyone remembered me.

It certainly wasn’t because I was one of the popular kids (I most definitely was not) – it was because I was the only non-white person in my school year.

It didn’t make a difference to me back then and it still doesn’t.

These were the peers I’d learned with, the ones I grew up with, people with (mostly) similar backgrounds. As I looked around, who was more successful? The ones who were grandparents? The ones with top-earning careers? The ones who looked healthy and had their own teeth/hair/slim waistlines (delete as applicable)?

In our own ways, we were all successful. We had made it to the reunion 34 years after leaving school, to (re)connect, to reminisce, to be sociable. And there was no fighting!

A Blast

All the favourite 80s tunes from our youth were played and I danced the night away, getting blisters on my feet in the process!

A few of us then took the party back to my friend’s house. No, we weren’t on the shots, we were being sensible grown-up and having nice cups of tea and coffee, but I still didn’t get back to my hotel til 3.30am!

The whole event turned out to be a real blast and I’m so glad I went. I rekindled some friendships which I thought I’d lost, did a bit of networking, found that some people who I didn’t have much time for back when we were kids have turned out to be the kind of people I’d like to get to know more.

I didn’t mention FIRE but with one or two I chatted to, I mentioned my desire to retire early and they understood completely and said that was something they would want to do.

If I continue to be in close touch with them, perhaps FIRE could end up being a topic of conversation!

Anyone else attended school reunions or is it something you would avoid at all costs?

15 thoughts on “School Reunion!

  1. What a beautiful story!

    It’s great you remain connected to your roots, remembering where we started out helps provide a baseline against which we can evaluate all we’ve accomplished since.

    Someone once organised a 20 year reunion for my high school year group. Apparently only 4 people went. Our school taught us a lot of hard won life lessons, experiences endure rather than enjoyed for the most part.

  2. I experienced a lot of bullying and often felt like the odd one out at school so it was definitely something to be endured rather than enjoyed. I did love learning (and still do) so that was one compensation. Even so, the staff had their limits in terms of support – I can recall a careers officer taking the piss out of anyone considering university in their opening remarks to our year (spoiler I still went).

    I’m in touch with a few on Facebook and they seem happy enough. Few seem to have left their home town though.

  3. Hi Weenie! I’ve been reading ur blog a while now and I must say our lives parallel quite a lot! Except, I’m a bit younger but not by that much. I not only relate to the high school reunion but also grew up in a working class northern town as a BBC with such rival schools and went to the non catholic one, and around shops, and knew I’d move to the city oneday! Strangely so exact right down to the less successful reunion! Glad you had a great night! So many ppl deny their ‘roots’ but it’s great you can enjoy being around old schoolmates from back home! And so cheap for a night out! Always makes me feel rich! Haha. On another note, a schoolmate passed away this week. Life is fleeting…

  4. I went to secondary school in the late 70’s and have never been to a reunion. I would worry that the bullies would still bully and make me feel small and insignificant

    • They can only do that if you let them. Actually, at the only reunion I’ve been to, the bully apologised to people, so you never know – they might have seen the error of their ways!

  5. That was another great story to read 🙂

    My experience was different and most of my years of schooling as a kid weren’t remarkable and this has put a lot of distance between me and my old class mates.

    At the age of 4 my parents were in a good financial position, so I joint the school with a better reputation.

    All good until the economic situation of my parents changed. I had become a poor kid among rich kids. I kept going to that school, but as we grew older our lifestyles and habits took different ways. I was quite isolated and ended up joining the revel group.

    It wasn’t until I went to university that I split from the revel group (luckily).

    Nowadays not many people of my generation lives in my town, as it became poorer and poorer leaving no jobs or opportunities to the new to come. Also vandalism increased. For instance, the terrorising Islamic attack in 2017 in Barcelona was planned in my hometown.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017_Barcelona_

    So most of us live somewhere else now. The only time there’s a chance to meet is during Christmas (small town everyone goes to same place for a drink). But haven’t done so for two years now.

  6. I haven’t been to a reunion since leaving school. I think social media takes a lot of the mystery out of what people are up to – although I long ago deleted anyone from Facebook who I’m not still in touch with so I’m a bit curious.

    I’m still in touch with quite a lot of school people (more than uni people) but whether that’s still the case when I’m 50 remains to be seen!

  7. Not been to a reunion, some from my year talk about organising one when a mile stone comes along, at this point in my life it’s not the kind of thing that appeals to me. Thinking back I don’t remember much and feel nonplused for that time, what comes back is the relentless teasing from mates which in hindsight was getting close to borderline bullying, for one year I was bullied by an individual outside of my group which at a point came close to me snapping, can’t remember his name or what he looked liked but the experience does crop up from time to time in my memorises, have no interest in having a surprise bumping in. I’m so bad a remembering names I when one comes to mind I write it a list I keep.

    Facebook has served my curiosity though as the years have passed it hits home how much it relatable to those 7 Up documentary series with the rough and the smooth, does make me sad for some of them going through tough times and the odd one unexpectedly no longer with us. I still live in the local area and on occasion will bump into someone from school where we’ve both clocked that we vagly remember each other, I’m content with a hi or short bit of small talk – ‘are you ok?, great!!’. Maybe I’ll be more incline to attending a reunion in my retirement years when most are closer/relatable to what they’re doing in retirement and life in general.

  8. Sounds like you had a blast. I haven’t been to any school reunions myself – the thought of it makes my toes curl! I started in a more working class primary school, but my secondary school was a posh grammar in the home counties that I never really felt comfortable in. Some of my closest friends are from that school though, and I’m happy to see them and pretty much forget the others!

  9. I was invited to my last school reunion but declined saying I was too busy that night grinding my axes.

    Sounds like you had a great time – I sometimes bump into people from school, not very often and not for long – but it’s always good to find out where people are in their lives. Most important is if people are happy at what makes them happy.
    Like in PE, the kids who hated football thought PE was misrerable – well, no one is forcing them to do PE anymore.
    I personally loved football but haven’t kicked a ball in ages and don’t follow it on TV at all.
    I did once meet someone who had a chip on their shoulder – they’d been drinking. I felt sorry for them that such ancient trifles were so easy to bubble to the surface in the fits of alcohol induced bitter nostalgia.

  10. I’m glad you enjoyed your school reunion .
    My old school has had several reunions but I have not attended.
    1. While I enjoyed school, bad things happened to others.
    2. A lot of the students I got on with are no longer with us (they would be 53).
    On the plus side I was in the rugby team, the school sailing and ski clubs which were fun.
    One of my fellow students retired at 50, me and 1 other are retiring at 55. Oddly the three of us left school and worked for the same company !

  11. The timing of this post was great, as I was watching “Room 101” when the email notification came through and Judge Rinder no less was attempting to put school reunions into Room 101. That did make me chuckle!

    The comments to this post are very interesting!

    There was one a few years ago arranged on Facebook but I looked at the list of attendees and decided it wasn’t for me. Looking at the pictures posted afterwards I can confirm I made the right decision!!! 🙂

  12. I attended a reunion on the twenty-fifth anniversary of leaving school: our class only plus spouses or hangers-on.

    One of my old classmates was there with her husband who had been three years ahead of me. I reminded him that he was the first boy ever to punch me on the rugby field. I remarked that I was now considerably bigger than him.

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