Tom Kiske has written many wonderful items for your web site. Tom's latest effort is his reflective musings on our great Centennial celebration of last fall. This exciting celebration of our school's 100th anniversary brought together many former classmates and provided a grand reunion for everyone that ever attended the great school.
What do you remember
|October 16, 2004, a Saturday. It is the morning of the McKinley Centennial. Mike is already helping out at the school. The rest of the Wancho Gang – Bill, Warren, Bob and I – are gathered around a table in the lobby breakfast bar of the Sunset Hills Hampton Inn guzzling coffee and discussing our homework.|
Centennial coincides with the annual Wancho Reunion, the get-together
of some high school buddies we’ve been doing for the
past nine years. Most years we assign ourselves some type of “homework,” something
to lend a semblance of respectability to our more typically male beer drinking,
pool shooting and other testosterone-friendly activities. This year we
were to read “The Purpose-Driven Life,” a long time bestseller
by Rick Warren. We’ve had almost 12 months to finish this slim book.
Most of us get an Incomplete for the year, but in true Goldbug spirit,
lack of preparation does not preclude discussion.
What is the purpose and meaning of life?
When you reach 60, or so, it’s a subject of more than passing interest. Among the four of us, there are a variety of opinions, from catechismal to humanistic. It is an easygoing exchange of ideas. No one is here to argue or to proselytize. We’re old friends who’ve journeyed far from each other over the past 40 years or so and now we’re back together trying to cobble together some common sense teleology from the disparate lessons of those years. It is a time for listening as well as talking.
The conversation flows and ebbs and I think to myself: our table is not round nor will we be the stuff of legend, but in our way, we are Gawain and Tristan and Perceval and, yes, flawed Lancelot. We’re back from 40 years of adventures. Like all men in all places and times, each of us has faced rivals, wooed fair maidens, battled dragons, spent lonesome nights in dark forests and borne our wounds with silent valor. Our quest has been for no mystic grail, but perhaps by virtue of our years we’ve been permitted a small sip from the cup of wisdom – a taste that may provide some insight into the eternal question at the heart of our homework assignment.
jolted back to reality by the cleaning girl, who overheard
our discussion and offers her view. “I don’t believe in evolution,” she blurts.
“Well, it’s just all too complicated,” she continues, “God must have designed it all.”
Wancho’s, like all good Goldbugs, are polite. We smile and nod and murmur our “Uh-huh’s.” Some of us no doubt sympathize with her creationist views. Others wonder if she accepts the heliocentric model of the solar system.
the coffee pot has run dry and it’s time to head
down to our Russell Avenue castle. The Centennial takes precedence and
we must shelve our philosophic inquiry unresolved. It’s time for
We ride together in Warren’s SUV down I-44 into the city. The Centennial Committee has arranged offsite parking and bus transportation to the school, but we circle the block first and luck out: there’s a spot right at Missouri and Ann. We pile out and head for the side entrance. Immediately, something’s wrong.
| “Hey, didn’t
there used to be stairs here?”
“Uh, yeah. You had to run upstairs from the boys gym and then down the outside stairs before jogging over to the campus for PE.”
No matter, it’s different now – one of many differences, as we
will learn. We enter directly into the McKinley’s basement catacombs.
It seems a little strange doing it this way, but I haven’t been
inside this building since 1961, so probably any way I entered would
Yes, valuable life skills were learned at the old alma mater.
|We continue down the hallway, which has been converted for the day into a McKinley Hall of Fame. Photos of many of McKinley’s more notable graduates are posted along the lockers that line both sides of the hallway, along with a brief synopsis of their accomplishments. I’m truly amazed at how many Goldbugs have achieved great things, including several from our time – kids we went to school with. I’m looking for one in particular, though, and soon find it. Mitch Kordonowy has earned his place of honor because of his charitable activities.|
|There’s something heartwarming about this; not just because this guy was a close friend, but also because the committee responsible for this Hall of Fame, in true McKinley spirit, chose to recognize not only the more “worldly” signs of success, but also a graduate with an uncommonly generous heart.|
Walking further down the hall, I see others who’ve given back to their community and I mentally tip my hat to them and to those responsible for putting together this tribute. I’ve never been more proud to be a Goldbug. A great sense of dignity and honor pervades the length of this old hallway.
After a while we go up to the main level, give Will McKinley’s bust a commemorative nose rub, then find the registration tables and get our official name tags. At first, I thought nametags was kind of a silly idea. It turns out they’re essential. As we encounter other folks, everyone smiles and does The Nametag Double Take: glance at the face, down to the tag, back to the face. Do I know this person? It’s a far cry from the days of walking these halls and knowing by sight most of the kids you shared them with.
We wander around and check out those special places we recall warmly from the past and all the Goldbug memorabilia in the new gym, but what’s best is running into old friends. Faces may change over the years, but it seems personalities are much less susceptible to the effects of time. Judy H is perhaps a bit more outgoing than she used to be, less hesitant to laugh and display that charming smile.
same. Her hand is partially wrapped where her horse stepped on it.
We are in a place outside
time now, and time runs away with us. We’d
thought to spend perhaps an hour at the Centennial, but it’s after
three when we finally leave. As we drive off our bellies remind us we’ve
had no lunch today. The reunion dinner begins at 6:30, so where can we
get a snack to tide us over? Our faces light up as Bill announces the obvious
Concord Farmers Club is already packed by the time I arrive. I’m happy to see more of the old gang. Judy A and Judy E and Cleo are here, Gloria and Angelica, Charlie and Carol and others, a reunion of old friends that warms my heart. The bar lubricates camaraderie and loosens tongues.
“Tom, your hair
is so gray,” Gail
marvels. Why thank you,” I grin, saluting her observation with
a raised wine glass, choosing to interpret her remark as a compliment
than a comment
on my impending senility.
Gail seems puzzled
by my reply. “No,” she responds, “I
mean it’s really gray.”
-- Tom Kiske