I had looked forward to my 50th high school reunion for months. Who would attend? What would I wear? What would they wear? Would what I wear look better than what they wore? Did I just say that out loud?

High school back in the ‘70s was groovy. We didn’t have cell phones, but we did have a senior lounge where you could smoke. I mean, you could smoke outdoors until you were a senior of course. You could also smoke on the school bus because the driver was exactly your age, and he did not give a …fig.

Growing up in a rural Southern county where tobacco was the leading crop may have had something to do with all that smoking. I remember a favorite teacher momentarily forgetting where she was, sashaying into class with a cigarette bobbing on her lower lip. I think she put it out on the floor.

More than once, another teacher recognized my senior status by tossing me the keys to her Oldsmobile and saying “pick me up some Benson & Hedges and a cheeseburger from the Dairi-O, keep the change. I’ll mark you present…”

Good times.

The reunion had me reminiscing about all sorts of things that would never happen in today’s high schools. There was, for instance, a high probability that if you drove a pickup to school, there was at least one gun in that unlocked vehicle during hunting season.

The school bus had a lawless vibe which may have been the result of a kid who could barely shave being in charge. “Jim Bob” had cleverly dismantled the governor that squalled if you went over 45 mph. Once that pestilence was out of the way, we could go as fast as we wanted, rounding curvy country roads and bouncing out of our seats like popped corn in between lessons on how to “French inhale.”

That would be as close to France as many would get, unfortunately.

By today’s standards it all sounds a bit wild and perhaps it was. At the reunion of the Wallace-Rose Hill High School Class of ’74, we “mighty, mighty Bulldogs” gathered in the same restaurant where we’d had our senior prom. I was senior class co-president, testing an early career in politics. My co-president, Bonnie, was the first classmate I saw when we arrived at the party room. She looked amazing. And, just as when we were in office together 50 years ago, she’d done most of the work. Some things never change. And others do.

This time, no one was sneaking outside to polish off a bottle of Boone’s Farm or, in the case of my big-spender date that night, Lancer’s Rose’. Which we pronounced “rose.” Well. It’s not like they taught I-talian on the bus.

The room, usually reserved for private parties, looked exactly the same 50 years later.  Happily falling into the arms of my high school besties Diane and Beth, we were 17 again. And it was wonderful. A DJ played ‘70s tunes but I never heard The O’Jay’s fabulous world peace anthem “Love Train,” our class song. In past reunions we wound our way like a train through a maze of tables, pulling shy classmates from their seats to join in.

Not this time. Hip and knee surgeries had taken their toll, preventing energetic gyrations of the past. Instead, pictures of grandchildren and tales of retirement travels were shared. Which was fine.

I looked around for an old boyfriend—any old boyfriend, actually—but there were none. I still treasure our 20th when the guy who dumped me for a classmate whose “daddy was fixin’ to put in an inground pool” said I “shore looked nice.” It’s the little things.

I’m “mighty mighty” glad I went.


Celia Rivenbark, a humor columnist and NYT-bestselling author, ranked an underwhelming 90th in her class of 180. Whatever.