2009.09.30 Who are all these people?

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

I spent Saturday evening in the company of hundreds of strangers. It seems as though I should have known them—they were all Morenci school graduates—but I couldn’t recognize the majority.

This is what happens when you attend a school reunion.

The organizers of the event—those hard-working volunteers who put in hours and hours of preparation—were kind enough to distribute the essential tags with name and year of graduation, but they really should have used a larger type size.

And they should have given instructions to place the tag firmly in the middle of the forehead. It’s so obvious when you approach someone and look down at their tag. With forehead placement, you can pretty much look someone in the eyes and realize it was the girl who used to sit beside you in second grade.

My class from 1968 had eight members in attendance. Not bad, but still pretty small. There were 64 of us and, as far as I know, six of the group are no longer living. That seems like a lot for a group of kids who haven’t yet reached the age of 60.

Several months ago I wrote that our class isn’t the cohesive type that regularly schedules reunions. I think we’ve had two and I missed one because of vacation.

I looked through the yearbook at the time and wondered where some of those people had gone off to. The “lost ones,” I called them, and I included Lila Jones in that group.

She re-introduced herself to me Saturday night and told me she was one of the lost ones. She also informed me that she lived in far-off Fayette.

I certainly didn’t take advantage of my time at the reunion. I wasn’t up on my feet working the crowd and reconnecting with old acquaintances like I should have. I pretty much stuck to my table at the back, although several “strangers” stopped by to say hello or to mention something about the newspaper or to ask about my sister, Diane.

I guess the line-up for dinner provided the best opportunity for visiting, or at least for glancing at the name tags and then quickly looking at the face with wonder. “So that’s who that is!?”

John Geisler’s talk brought back a lot of memories for most people there. He presented a Morenci quiz and my New York City wife was quite pleased that she was answering question after question, at least for a while.

When it got to the item about telling time by a loud whistle, I think the wrong answer was given. The loud blast from Parker Rust Proof was named as the noon whistle, but I turned to Curt Jones and said, “Didn’t that blow at 11:30?”

Curt thought so, too, and I got up to check with Jim Whitehouse—supreme purveyor of inconsequential Morenci trivia—and he, too, said 11:30 was when the whistle sounded.

I was reminded earlier in the day that far-away Fayette still has a whistle—a noon whistle—but it’s the fire whistle. Morenci’s was unique: the product of steam being released at the Parker plant.

But why a noon whistle? Is it a general signal to stop and have lunch? Is that what they do in Fayette? And why were we called to lunch a half hour ealier in Morenci?

Come to think it, I go home for lunch at 11:30. That now-silent whistle still governs my life. I guess I’m just continuing the pattern that my father established.

That was something John Geisler mentioned, also. Not the eating habits, but the fact that there have been three generations of Greens running the newspaper here. John had to embarrass me and make me raise my hand. He probably wanted me to stand, but I was really off duty that night. I should have at least been taking some notes from his talk.

I remember that he spoke of the general decline of U.S. newspapers and he mentioned how pleased he is that the Observer keeps plugging along. He says it’s what keeps him tied to the community where he spent many of his school years.

It’s true, the Observer is mailed every week to dozens and dozens of “strangers” who grew up in Morenci, many of whom were in the gymnasium Saturday.

Maybe five years from now, at the next reunion, they could all clip their Observer address labels and glue that to their foreheads.

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