I got a call on Wednesday from an old-time friend, Ron Leganger, whom I hadn’t spoken with in years. When I answered the phone and he said “This is Ron Leganger” I immediately asked if the films were going to be shown at his house tonight. In high school, Ron was able to get “stag” (porn) films and about 100 of us would show up at his dwelling to watch……highly illegal then, no theaters, books, and certainly no television and……..computer?
Ron called me to let me know that on September 6th my high school graduating class was going to have our 62nd reunion…..I guess they didn’t want to wait till 65 cause god knows how many will be around.
I went to Niles Township High School in Skokie, Illinois, which served a bunch of communities in that suburban Chicago area. We lived in Glenview at that time and had our choice of Niles, New Trier (very prestigious), and Maine Township. My sister was going to Niles and my two best friends from grammar school (no middle school then), Fred Gatter and Al Haut were going to Niles, so it was easy for me. The high school was seven miles from our house, so we could take the bus or drive, and since in Illinois you could get a license at 15, I went with my older sister.
At Niles I hung with five people who became my best friends: Ed Archibald, Dean Whitton, Fred Gatter, Ralph Smith, Norrie Miller, and two other in our “gang” who I was not as close with, Bill Poehlmann and Grey Waters.
We became known as “The Gatter Gang” or the “Seltzer Syndicate”, but we were not an evil gang (of course there was one of those at Niles).
Friday night would be our night to hang out and cause a bit of trouble….no dates allowed. Innocent stuff, some of us on each side of a road pulling on an imaginary rope when cars would come so they would have to skid to a stop; drag racing, and raising havoc in quiet neighborhoods. We went to the Indianapolis 500 together, slept in a cornfield, and at 4 in the morning drove into the infield (I think it was $10 a car) to watch the powerful Novis and other sleek machines race; the cars did not all look like each other at that time.
And of course at least once a month we had to go to the Coliseum to see the Roller Derby, and we had a great time. We were all good students, in the top 10% of the class. After graduation, I headed out to Palo Alto to go to Stanford, Fred and Dean went to Northwestern Engineering, Ralph to the Coast Guard Academy, Ed went to the Illinois Institute of Technology, and I am not sure where the others went. After a year at Stanford I transferred to business school at Northwestern and graduated from there (after a two year stint in the army). I was close with Fred and Dean and actually roomed with the latter.
We all eventually got married, went into professions (I must confess I was the only one to go into Roller Derby) and stayed in touch. We were spread throughout the country from the East Coast to the Midwest to the South to the West, but starting with the tenth reunion I was at all of them up to 50. I think at the 25th I came with Marsha Jordan who was in her early twenties and gorgeous (she still is) and was able to make all the girls jealous who wouldn’t go out with me in high school because I was a year younger, 5′ 4″ (I grew until 21), 90 pounds, and with thick glasses, although always a charmer. Eventually Judi started going with me to the reunions and my friends and their wives became her friends. The last one we attended was in 1999
When Roller Derby was on tour in the sixties, I had the privilege of staging a benefit game at our high school gym (then known as the Performing Arts Center), raising money for the school, and they gave me a letter sweater. I had received a small letter for playing jayvee football, although I rarely got into a game.
The last graduating class was in 1980, and eventually the school was torn down. If you saw “Risky Business” with Tom Cruise, you saw my school. Today there is a community college on the site.
Over the years life transitioned. Dean, Fred, and Bill all lived in Hilton Head, SC. Ed stayed in the Chicago area, Ralph obtained a law degree and practiced in New Orleans, although he was flooded out by Katrina. He is rebuilding.
So the day after I spoke with Ron I called Ed who I hadn’t spoken with in way too long. It was like no time had been lost. His wife, Mary Helen, had died of cancer, and over the years he and a group of others met to plan the reunions, and some time after Dana’s husband had died, she and Ed had gotten married. Ed told me that Dana had died six months previously; they had a great eight years, and every month they celebrated their anniversary. “She died on our hundredth anniversary.” Both Dean and Fred’s wives had passed; Dean was now in Tennessee with his daughter, and Fred had just died.
So it was not a happy call, except for most importantly re-establishing with perhaps my closest friend. I don’t think any other time of my life I established friendships as I did in high school.
I don’t think I can attend the 62. It will be too sad for me. But I am not losing track of Ed again. There should be a regional tournament about that time.