Dear APHS Classmates of 1970,
As you gather tonight to commemorate the 45 years since we graduated from high school, for a variety of reasons, I will be at my current home, 500 miles away. However, my heart will be with you! Part of it misses the trials and tribulations of learning about life in our middle class community outside of Detroit, and the other part has moved on. I have reached that time we used to talk about, “when I grow up.”
Our parents survived the Great Depression (“We didn’t know we were poor,” my mother still says) and atrocities during World War II that we, their children, are only now learning about. They didn’t complain or whine. They took advantage of the GI Bill and got on with life, and they taught us to do the same.
Our homes were modest, with entire families sharing one bathroom and two and three kids to a bedroom. We rode our bikes all over town without parental supervision (or helmets), entertained ourselves with chalk on the sidewalks, played Four Square in the street, walked to the nearest playground to throw a ball or swing or play tag, and even danced in the street at block parties.
When we wanted to talk to a friend, we stood outside their doors and called their names through the screen, which is what your mother did when she wanted you to come home. Of course, when the street lights came on, you knew you’d better get home or be in trouble.
We sat on the porch and read books from the library or played board games or cards. I had a girlfriend whose mother didn’t want her to play cards, so my mother would look the other way when we sat for hours on my porch, playing Old Maid, Go Fish, Rummy, Hearts, Pinochle, Euchre (google it), and even Poker.
Most of us attended church regularly, primarily at St. Francis Cabrini or AP United Presbyterian. Some of us straddled both religious communities. I, for one, will never forget standing up to the bullying Sister Rose of Lima in CCD class. [Irony of ironies, we were taught the “Baltimore Catechism,” and I now live in Baltimore, where they look at me like I have two heads when I tell them that Bob Seger played at our high school dances.] I was married by the Rev. Dr. Wanzer Brunelle of APUPC, as were several of you.
Everything in Detroit revolved around the auto industry. Some of our dads worked for one of the Big Three automakers. Some worked at one of the steel plants. My dad worked as a civilian for the Department of the Army, negotiating contracts for parts and then vehicles for the military; cars, jeeps, trucks, tanks, and, eventually, even the Humvee. The Veterinarian’s family ran a freight airline that shipped automotive parts around the world.
Some moms worked in the offices at the nearby Ford Motor Company or as bookkeepers for small tool-and-die makers. Some were nurses; some were teachers. Some of them were the original Rosie-the-Riveters, building airplanes during the war. Most of them were room mothers or worked with the PTA.
When I sing “June is Bustin’ Out all Over” from “Carousel” with the Deer Creek Chorale, I remember 1969, when the Concert Choir presented it during our junior year. I wasn’t in it, because, in those days, I chose to work backstage, building sets and doing makeup, aspiring to be a thespian (and I still have the certificate from Mr. Helms to prove it). I couldn’t have gotten cast as myself in any high school production, although I did get cast one time as a Munchkin in “The Wizard of Oz,” because I was short and had that crazy short haircut. But who knew I’d grow up to sing multiple times at Carnegie Hall, act, dance, direct, and work in performing arts management for 35 years and now write this wacky blog, relating how my no-nonsense upbringing serves me well, 63 years later?
When the Class of 1970 last gathered in August, 2010, The Veterinarian had committed to give a lecture at a veterinary conference in San Diego before the reunion date was set. Ever annoyingly conscientious (to me, anyway), he fulfilled his commitment, and we missed the 40-year reunion. One year later, he died. If I could tell you how he spent the years 1970-2011, you wouldn’t be surprised. The nice boy with the snakes and lizards and mice became a veterinarian known internationally for his expertise in avian medicine. He was greatly respected by his colleagues and loved by his clients.
Dozens of you, from whom I hadn’t heard since high school and even some since elementary school, contacted me on Facebook. Many of you maintained that electronic friendship and unknowingly gave me the courage to keep going through some really challenging times. I am grateful for your support.
As I told The Daughter, when she lamented her wallflower status in high school, if you peak in high school, you’re screwed. The information you learn, the people you meet, and the experiences you have stay with you for the rest of your life and propel you to greater things. I am who I am today because of Allen Park, Michigan. I like to think that I still haven’t peaked.
Have a wonderful time tonight! Give out hugs from me, and remember, peace is still what you make it!
Suzanne (aka “Sue” — that’s another story)
P.S.: For my non-Spartan friends, this is the only day of the year that I’ll say “Go, Blue!”