Written So Beautifully by Classmate
Gretchen Verboon Miertschin
Read at Reunion 2012 by Classmate
Lucille Miller Armintor
I’ve been asked to take us on a walk down memory lane tonight—back to 1962. Wow. No small feat to get back in that mindset considering all we’ve been through during the past half century. Fifty years is a lo-ong time.
look at what’s happened since the new millennium: 9/11, Afghanistan
and Iraq, the stock market crash. . . Katrina, Rita, Ike.
back to the 90’s. . . again, lots happened. Some of the big changes:
the internet, email, cell phones. Our world shrunk and our connections
grew in ways we never could have imagined back in high school.
back. . . the 1980s. We’d lived with the Cold War for our entire
lives. Then we turned on the news one night and saw kids having a rock
concert on the ruins of the Berlin Wall. No more Iron Curtain.
70s—Deep Throat, hippies, at long last, an end to the Viet Nam War.
the 1960s: freedom marches all across the South, that tragic November
day in Dallas, and Neil Armstrong’s giant step for mankind.
high school we’ve watched mini-skirts and platform shoes and bell
bottom jeans come and go several times over. We’ve seen women get
liberated and men get in touch with their feelings. We don’t even
blink any more when we see guys with earrings or girls with tattoos. We
saw Janis Joplin become an icon, Jimmy Johnson win back-to-back Super Bowls, and G.W. Bailey
morph from Captain Harris of the Police Academy into Lieutenant Provenzo
of the LAPD.
hostages, Darth Vader, AIDS, Yuppies, Mary Lou Retton and those great
big shoulder pads she inspired, the Gulf War, corporate buy-outs, O.J.
Simpson, Google, Monica Lewinsky, Facebook. Swamp People of Louisiana?
Fifty years is a lo-ong time.
course, in the midst of all this, each of us has traveled a personal
journey. There have been marriages, children, divorces, deaths, and that
best of all possible moments: the birth of a grandchild or grand niece
or nephew. By this point in our lives I suspect that there’s not a
single person in this whole room who hasn’t learned more than they
ever wanted to know about joint replacements or by-passes or
chemotherapy or. . . you fill-in-the-blank.
we finally get back to 1962 and it’s no wonder we have a rosy view of
that life. Compared to what we’ve seen and what we still see today,
life back then looks so simple. Yet we know that the same kind of
problems existed then as now. We certainly know there was corruption
then. We all watched the James Commission on Channel 4. We saw
Savannah and some of the other madams right up there on the stand.
Addiction, abuse, bullying, cheating—those were all around fifty years
ago. Teens got into trouble then too. I myself can personally attest to
incidents of underage drinking and teens driving under the influence.
So why does TJ in the 60s look so picture perfect? We
all know the answer: Those were the days of our youth. We were fresh.
Our minds were sharp. Our hormones raged. Achy joints and sciatic
nerves? What are those? At the bon fires we proudly chanted that
oh-so-original and hauntingly melodic refrain, (Come on, you remember
it.) “We are better, better than you! The Senior Class of ’62!”
And, because we said those words all together and we said them often and
we said them really, really loud, that made them true for us. We were
the best. We could do anything.
may have been clipping current events from the Port Arthur News every
week for Miss Vickers or Miss Goldman, but pretty much we were living in
our own universe. The most important decisions in our lives could be
settled by a Ouija board or a flip of the coin or a vote at the lunch
table. We could go anywhere—as long as we could scrape together a
couple of quarters from everyone in the car to pay for gas.
to what exotic destinations did we go—once we’d collected the
requisite number of quarters? Where else? Up and down the drag. You
remember the route. Proctor to Woodworth, up to Tex-Lou’s, loop around
and back down Woodworth to Proctor. Drive on Proctor till you pass the
Strand Theater, make the block, repeat—or not. You could go straight
on across the bridge to the Pier and watch the submarine races. Since we
all drove in tandem, everyone knew who went to the Pier and how long
they stayed before they
re-entered the mainstream. Small towns have few secrets. But
so what? Who cared?
to a lot of kids today, we were so unsophisticated. Take the prom
ritual. Who knew about limos in Port Arthur in 1962? Who’d ever even heard
of designer shoes? There was the occasional dance at the Country
Club, but we were just as happy dancing our hearts out in the school
cafeteria or Knights of Columbus Hall. We could always get live music.
We had amazingly talented bands—Jivin’ Gene, Glen Stillwell, Dale
Gothia. We heard lyrics like “Will you love me tomorrow?” “Only
the lonely know how I feel tonight,” “Oh, yes, I’m the great
pretender,” and we thought, “Omigosh! They’re talking about me!
That’s exactly how I feel.” And we promptly memorized the words and,
no matter how we laugh about our senior moments, we can probably still
repeat those words today.
could go out for a fancy evening in 1962. Port Arthur had some
good restaurants—Leo and Willie’s, Al’s Seafood. But why spend
$2.50 for dinner when you could get the best burger in town at Mr.
Smith’s Nu-Zest for twenty-five cents? Fried up just for you by chef
extraordinaire, Tim Clarkson. And, if you ate inside, you could
enjoy the fine art of Regan Gennusa and Ronnie Thompson hanging right up
there on the wall.
the summer some of us went to camps in the Hill Country; more of us went
for a $16 week at Camp Waluta or Camp Bill Stark. All of us came back scratching
chigger bites and singing the same dorky camp songs. We swam at the
Pleasure Pier and later at the new pool in Port Neches, ruthlessly
exposing our skin to the brutal Texan sun. We had picnics at Village
Creek and Honey Island and McFadden Beach. No school till after Labor
Day in our carefree 1960 times.
in the fall? Friday night lights. Oh, yeah. Big time. Even if you
weren’t on the team or in the band or Hussars or one of the
cheerleaders, chances are you were still in the stands most Friday
nights, screaming yourself hoarse along with just about everyone else in
town. Coach Underwood was king. Basketball season was just as bad. Coach
Pense was legendary.
Our grandkids’ eyes may glaze over in disbelief when we talk about the hallmark events of our high school years. Posture Queen. Really? Slide rule competition. What’s a slide rule? Pep rallies, Go Texan Day, Sadie Hawkins Week, Check Day. But for us, those were the framework of our world. And in that world we forged the friendships that have brought us back here today. It was a good time and a good place to grow up. And it’s a good place to come home to, home to see people who are still some of the best friends we’ll ever have.