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Jack Zaleski, Published September 21 2013

Zaleski: 50th reunion already? It can’t be

It came as a surprise, but then I remembered: Next year will be 50 years since I graduated from Pulaski High School in New Britain, Conn. A half century. Really? Can’t be. There is going to be a class reunion.

How’s this for perspective? In 1964, the class celebrating its 50th reunion would have been the class of 1914! Some of those graduates would shortly be on their way to Europe to fight in World War I. And, of course, nearly all of those WWI-era graduates are, well, dead.

Time surely does scamper along.

Like so many of you out there, I’m of the first wave of baby boomers, born in 1946. Tens of thousands of us will be trekking to 50th high school reunions next year. The 50th is a milestone of sorts. Not to be morbid about it, but it’s probably the reunion where head-shaking about dead classmates will be more frequent than recitations of our joys and triumphs, foibles and failures in life.

The members of my class of just short of 300 graduates did not flock to previous reunions: 25th, 30th. I went to the 25th (or was it the 30th?) and was struck by how few of us showed up. That’s why announcement of the 50th was unexpected. I hadn’t heard any news of plans for a 50th, so I assumed it wasn’t going to happen. But it is, next June, and I hope to be there.

Several of us from the class have remained close despite being separated by geography. After college and graduate school, none of us settled in the old hometown. They achieved success elsewhere, from California to Vermont, from Alabama to North Dakota. Still the emotional connection to New Britain was never lost. That’s what will bring us back next year, many of us probably for the last time.

The city is not what it was when we were high school students. The former industrial center fell in on itself when American manufacturing in the Northeast collapsed and moved either to the South or overseas. The good-jobs, blue-collar economy changed, not for the better, and the “hardware city of the world” became a shell of its former self. The vibrant place we knew as kids seemed like a wasteland when I visited family and friends over the years.

So, probably the most important draw to the reunion for me and my close-knit group of friends will be a nostalgia tour of the city and what might be left of the places we frequented. Could be great fun or greatly depressing.

I’m told by people who are older than me that their biggest shock at their 50th reunion was that it was a gathering of a lot of old people. That’s a concern because my group’s nostalgia tour will be a walking tour – and I don’t how many of us will still be able to walk …

Contact Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at jzaleski@forumcomm.com or (701) 241-5521.