Originally, the gathering was called the Wakeman Alumni Reunion. It was attended by graduates of the old Wakeman High School.
It got complicated after the Wakeman and Townsend school districts (along with the Hartland elementary) merged. After that, of course, there were no more Wakeman High graduates — just Townsend-Wakeman and, later, Western Reserve alums.
Attendance has dwindled in recent years. When my parents used to go, the Alumni Banquet —t hat’s what they called it — was an event that rivalled New Year’s Eve. A big deal.
But now people’s lives are so full and their world is so much bigger than the little rural town in which they grew up. Lots of them just can’t fit in a summer evening with their old school mates.
But I’m going again.
I will only know perhaps half the people there. And it’s one of the few gatherings where the average age is older than me. But I still go.
I think it has something to do with the old Wakeman school building.
It’s gone now, if course; torn down by mandate when the state helped fund the elementary building on the school campus west of town.
But most of us at the Alumni Reunion this Saturday remember the old Wakeman school on River Street, just two doors from the house where I grew up.
That’s the main thing we will have in common.
There will probably be a couple of people in attendance who remember my dad and his sisters walking those halls and, in my dad’s case, creating a little commotion, too.
I’ll bet a couple of the players from the Huron County basketball tournaments of the 1950s will be there. I walked past the case that held their big, gold trophies every day for years.
And even those long ago graduates have a lot in common with me and my schoolmates.
We played in the bushes outside the gym and on the cinder piles alongside the old coal chutes.
We played on the big rock donated and inscribed by the class of 1908.
Lots of us played outdoors on the blacktop basketball court next to the old football field where Bob Sherwood quarterbacked and Bing Reynolds kicked field goals into the backyards on Pleasant Street.
We walked hallways decorated by pictures of graduated classes and drank warm water from the little drinking fountain on the first floor.
We stared at bank-donated blue calendars with pictures of presidents and at yellowed clocks willing them to make the last audible click of a boring class.
We watched high school kids dance at lunchtime in the darkened gym in the 1950s.
And we watched basketball games from chairs in that same tiny gym or from the bleachers, moved inside after football season and installed on the stage.
We remember how the chemistry lab used to occasionally stink up the entire building from some smelly experiment.
And we recall the little bookshelves that served as the “library” in each elementary classroom and the glassed-in space at the back of the study hall that served the same function for the high school.
In sixth grade, we took turns raising the flag in front of the building.
We played basketball in the gym on Saturday mornings, being careful to not dribble on the warped spot in front of the foul line.
We dressed in locker rooms that were ancient and tiny. And we felt lucky if we got one of the showers that actually worked.
We went to Science Fairs and Saturday dances and cake walks.
It all seemed so big, so grand, so unique.
It wasn’t, of course. In fact, everyone everywhere has memories like this from their high school.
But this one was ours. And in a few years there will no longer be anyone around who experienced it.
Thus, when we gather Saturday evening with our diverse backgrounds and life stories, most of us will have one special thing in common: the old Wakeman school building.
Jim Busek is a freelance writer who lives in Norwalk. He can be reached via email at jim[email protected]mail.com.