Blogging Along the Brandywine: The reunion

1967 was an important year for Chadds Ford.

Andy Wyeth and Frolic Weymouth, along with some very amazing people founded the Brandywine River Museum. And just down the road that same year, Andy and four other friends, founded the Sanderson Museum.

In the rest of the world, President Lyndon Johnson was escalating the war in a tiny country called Vietnam; we played music on large vinyl discs called 33s and 45s; wrote research papers on typewriters, and our phones were attached to the wall with long electric cords.

It was the year I graduated from Conestoga High School.

Five years later, I vowed I'd never go to a dumb high school reunion. After all, I now had a college degree and was pursuing my masters' degree.

But here I was, 50 years after graduation, co-chair of our reunion committee having attended three prior high school reunions.

The author in her dreamy-eyed, Leslie Gore wannabe years. Or maybe she just wanted to be “Bobby’s Girl.”

So what is it that brought surgeons, judges, airline pilots, attorneys, ministers, college professors and a world-class ballerina back to the Embassy Suites Hotel in Chesterbrook (Devon), on Sept. 9 of this year for a high school reunion? Why did classmates fly in from California, Oregon, Colorado, Utah, Texas, Arkansas, Georgia and Tennessee? Or make the long drive from North Carolina, upstate New York, Virginia, Ohio, Vermont and Connecticut?

It was a feeling of coming home if only for a few days. We lived on the same streets, rode bikes and sledded down hills together; we attended the same churches; we were in the same scout troops and went to Camp Tweedale and Camp Horseshoe; we saw each other at Woolworths, the A & P and the new King of Prussia Mall; our parents were best friends; their moms were our moms, and we mourned their passing in this last decade.

The day of the reunion, I had a moment of sheer panic flashing back to the Conestoga cafeteria, "What if someone doesn't ask me to sit with them?"

I needn't have worried. The evening blossomed, taking on a life of its own.

Snippets of conversations that weekend were: "I drove past our old house," "People talked to me tonight who wouldn't have given me the time of day at Conestoga," "All the cheerleaders are sitting together," "I was lost at Conestoga," "It was important for me to come to this reunion."

At the 10th and 20th reunions everyone looked the same, only better, and conversations of success and upward mobility were in full force.

But then something happens by the 40th and 50th reunion, besides really needing name badges with the yearbook pictures.

You come to realize that no one reaches this age without experiencing some trauma, betrayal or devastating loss, be it a spouse, a child, a dream job, health or financial security. Not even the football star, student council president, cutest boy, most popular girl, cheerleader or valedictorian.

So there we were, our edges worn down and educated by life far better than any university could have done. We were survivors, still laughing, still loving and still going strong. And the weekend was too short.

Conestoga graduated more than 300 in 1967. Fifty years later we were still in contact with about 200; 100 chose to remain lost, and almost 30 that we could confirm, had died.

Fall is the traditional season for high school reunions. Don't let doubt hold you back. You may find a lot of good friends you never knew you had.

After all, you're a survivor.

About Sally Denk Hoey

Sally Denk Hoey, is a Gemini - one part music and one part history. She holds a masters degree cum laude from the School of Music at West Chester University. She taught 14 years in both public and private school. Her CD "Bard of the Brandywine" was critically received during her almost 30 years as a folk singer. She currently cantors masses at St Agnes Church in West Chester where she also performs with the select Motet Choir. A recognized historian, Sally serves as a judge-captain for the south-east Pennsylvania regionals of the National History Day Competition. She has served as president of the Brandywine Battlefield Park Associates as well as the Sanderson Museum in Chadds Ford where she now curates the violin collection. Sally re-enacted with the 43rd Regiment of Foot and the 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment for 19 years where she interpreted the role of a campfollower at encampments in Valley Forge, Williamsburg, Va., Monmouth, N.J. and Lexington and Concord, Mass. Sally is married to her college classmate, Thomas Hoey, otherwise known as "Mr. Sousa.”



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