40-year reunion brings back memories of friendships

By Janet Hommel Mangas

To be quite honest, I was a little hesitant about attending my 40th high school reunion — the Greenwood High School Class of 1977. I hadn’t looked at a high school yearbook since 1983, when mine was destroyed after floating in a burst water heater accident. No one is identifiable on wet, moldy pages.

After arriving at the Hagner-Gregory Garage-Mahal, who were gracious hosts, the 40-year-old friendships — most of which I hadn’t seen in that long — were instantly reignited with bear hugs. The pretense that seems to hang in the air at 10-year reunions with 28-year-olds trying to impress each other is exchanged at the 40-year reunion for “life is good, it’s fantastic to see you — let’s celebrate one another!”

After lots of hugs, I set out to find out what my classmates had learned in the last 14,600-plus days since our high school graduation.

Author Carol Michel noted: “I learned that classmates will always share a common bond because of the shared experiences we had growing up. Even though it was 40 years ago, and some of us had not seen each other in all those years, it was easy to talk to everyone and strike up a conversation built around our shared memories. I would tell kids graduating today to enjoy the journey wherever it takes them but keep in touch with your classmates and don’t miss the reunions.”

Mary Isenthal Wilcox echoed the sentiment: “Friendship can last forever, even if you don’t keep in touch with each other. So many friendships were rekindled last Saturday night.”

When asked if she would share her wisdom for current high school students, Lisa Brack Bivens noted: “Always be involved in the school activities — whether it’s choir, sports or band.” Lisa was a choir member and something she called the “Super Supper Club.”

When asked, “What is one thing that stands out in your 479 months, 2 weeks, 5 days, 7 hours, 53 minutes and 20 seconds since graduation?” Laurel Rembold VanDornik laughingly answered: “That I can still wear skinny jeans!”

Laurel’s friend since grade school, Lisa Pettijohn Williams proudly chided: “And I can still wear my earrings!” A Franklin resident, Lisa suggested her words of wisdom for current high-schoolers would be: “Don’t worry about what others think of you — be involved.”

Lisa played volleyball and ran track, but she also referred to being a member of the elusive “Super Supper Club.”

Reflecting on the last 350,400 hours since high school graduation, Danny Bridges also shared some profound thoughts: “Men don’t age as well as ladies, hangovers hurt more than they used to, I’m now substituting fiber additives for marijuana, and l still wonder what happened to that really hot student teacher in French class.”

Via the reunion Facebook page, Ruth Anne Wright noted that her most profound discovery since high school has been “to go to Christ for guidance … from very small to large decisions. I fall short a lot, but Christ is there to guide us if we ask.”

Gayla Gunn, who taught for 32 years in the Center Grove School Corporation, explained the reunions connections poignantly: “The friends we grew up with are so special. We shared our innocence and so many firsts. We travel in many different circles throughout life, but nothing compares to lifelong friends.”

More than 1,261,440,000 seconds have passed since our high school graduation, but Pastor Danny Janes words made me tear up.

“My wife and I traveled from North Carolina to attend the reunion. I’ve been a pastor for over 36 years, since graduating from GCHS in 1977, and Marion College (now Indiana Wesleyan University), in Marion, Indiana, in 1981. I assumed I’d ‘fallen off the radar’ living out of state for the past 36 years,” he said.

“This was my first reunion since graduation. Someone on the planning committee tracked me down this year on Facebook and invited me to come. I was apprehensive about attending — but my wife told me we should do it. I was scared that I wouldn’t remember/recognize anyone — and that they wouldn’t remember me. My fears were relieved when I approached the reunion site and heard someone call out, ‘There’s Danny Janes!’ It was my classmate, Danny Bridges,” he said.

“As soon as I walked in the door, the first person to greet me was Kristin Wurz (Kris Jump) — my Senior prom date. Although I had to peek at a lot of name tags, it was a great experience, and I’m grateful for the chance to get reacquainted with so many old friends. The most sobering part of the evening was when Jeff Johnson read the list of at least 20 (known) classmates who had passed away. It was a reminder to all of us what a precious God-given gift life is,” he said.

“That list will probably be much longer at our 50th reunion. But I’m so grateful to be among those who could celebrate the last 40 years of life, love, family, and friendships. May God bless, protect, and prosper you, class of ’77. Till we meet again,” he said.

Note: After becoming curious and investigating the non-sanctioned Greenwood High School “Super Supper Club,” I found out that I wasn’t the only one who had never heard of this club, nor had been invited to join. It seems that some of my closest buddies on the volleyball team were Super Supper Clubbing without me.

The aforementioned Lisa, Laurel and Lisa were all SSCers that met at different homes, bringing home-cooked goods and enjoying dinner together. I am happy to announce the Super Supper Club has been reenacted and I was voted in — on two conditions: that I never, ever try to wear skinny jeans like Laurel, and we go out and eat at restaurants. You’re all invited!

Janet Hommel Mangas grew up on the east side of Greenwood. The Center Grove area resident and her husband are the parents of three daughters. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.