My old friends -- and we are old, no longer middle-age -- will be getting together Friday and Saturday in Shreveport for the Woodlawn High School Class of 1965 50-year reunion.
I loved all those '60s classes at WHS, but this is my favorite class, of course. It's my class.
The past two years, as the classes of '63 and '64 held their 50-year reunions and invited members of other classes, I wrote blog pieces about those days at Woodlawn (see links below).
In short, we loved that place and those days -- it was a special time -- but Woodlawn isn't the same, hasn't been for decades, and neither are we.
Because I am cutting back on attending reunions -- I did not make the previous two -- and sports banquets, this is the last reunion piece I'm planning for a long while.
Unfortunately, there are more and more memorial services and funerals to attend these days. As my wife pointed out last week, what we have to look forward to is aging and dying.
Can't do much about the aging process, except handle it mentally and try to do the right things to stay well physically. But when people suggest that I haven't changed much in 50 years, here is my answer: bull (shortened version).
All I have to do is look in the mirror. As for attitude and approach to life, I've also changed quite a bit. It's not just only a sports-minded world anymore; my social and political views are expanded and probably not what the great majority of my classmates want to hear.
So it is a long way from Sunset Acres, Oak Terrace and the new school on Wyngate Drive in the Sherwood Park neighborhood ... and the Knights of old.
But it's sweet memories, and good friends -- some of them for 55-60 years, about 10 that I went to school with from fifth grade through college graduation -- and that's what the reunion is about.
The Class of '65 is -- for those of us whose '60s world revolved around athletics -- the class of Ken Liberto and Trey Prather. As long as I live, and my mind is well, I will think of those guys.
They left us too soon -- Trey, much too soon, less than three years after graduation -- but as we come to this reunion, from a class of 581, we look at the "in memoriam" list, and count at least 101 names, and there are 40-plus on the "missing" (no contact info) list.
And that's not even counting faculty members. When I think of Woodlawn reunions, the person I most remember is J.W. "Bubba" Cook, assistant principal in the '60s and then principal through the '70s and '80s. He made all the WHS reunions, although I'm not sure how it went when they conflicted with LSU football. Looking at the pictures of our 2010 reunion, there he was ... wearing a Woodlawn blue shirt.
Among those we lost -- and I don't mean to slight anyone -- in the past year and a half was Tommy Watson, a friendly, tall, lean guy who started at center for our (woeful) basketball team in our senior year, and just a few months ago Pamela Parker (I was her nemesis in our sixth-grade year). She became a college English professor (Dr. Parker), and I probably could have learned some Southern Literature from her.
We have too many graduates whose spouses have passed away. That's sorrowful, and a recent one really hurt. Billy Laird (Class of '62), WHS' first quarterback/hero and friend for many of us, died in June; just after the '65 graduation, he married our class' Brenda Boyette (Sunset Acres, cheerleader, homecoming queen, yearbook "beauty").
What's neat is that many of the all-Woodlawn marriages survived the long years; first true loves do last. Some didn't, but at least they gave it a shot.
I know how I feel; I think other do, too: grateful to still be here after 50 years. We know people with cancer, heart problems, strokes, Parkinson's ... and we are rooting and praying for healing and comfort.
I mention Watson because he laughingly reminded me at our 2010 reunion about something I wrote in a Shreveport Journal sports-page column before our 1985 (20-year) reunion: "We knew Terry Bradshaw when he was a second-string quarterback who sometimes struggled in B-team games."
Yes, we did. What happened to that Bradshaw kid anyway?
(In fact, one of the people in our class was Gary Bradshaw, Terry's older brother by a year, and -- like me -- a team manager in football. We also were at Louisiana Tech -- Gary as a trainer, me as a student sports information assistant.)
In that 1985 column, I named many of the senior athletes and "I'm proud to say they're my friends and my heroes." I still feel that way.
Beginning with my two years at Sunset Acres Elementary, we all picked up new friends with each step -- junior high, high school and college. I've said it several times, I thank those kids for accepting me and making me feel at home. We had been in the U.S. only 1 1/2 years when we moved to Sunset Acres.
When I think of the Woodlawn days, I mostly think of the fun we had, the pride we had in that school, strong administrators, teachers that we (mostly) respected and liked, a five-man coaching staff that was outstanding (and people I was honored to come to know as friends), intense and exciting football seasons. Loved the cheerleaders, the pep squad, the pep rallies, the band (I can sing the fight song and alma mater, and it'd be nice hear The Stripper again), and the colors scarlet and royal blue.
One lasting memory is how many truly smart people we had in our class, in our school. I was smart, if you wanted to know about World Series, NBA and NFL champions or Mickey Mantle's batting averages in 1956 and '57, and important stuff like that.
Another memory: Woodlawn is where my newspaper/writing career began, with the Herald (school paper) and Accolade (yearbook). Always thankful for that path.
The world isn't quite the same, as we're not. Much pride as I had in Woodlawn, it doesn't compare to the pride I have in Beatrice, our kids and our grandkids. My classmates must feel that way about their families.
But Woodlawn, yeah, those were beautiful days. It was the place of our dreams, soon to turn to life's realities. The seniors of '65 are now senior citizens of 68 -- and we've tried to be good citizens. We have that school and especially those people in our hearts forever and ever.
(Thanks to Beverly and Mike Harlan for providing the scanned photo of Ken and Trey.)