The class of 1958 graduated from Mepham HS and followed their individual pursuits. Years went by. The class had been made up of individuals who are rarely classified today as mainstream. We had sororities and fraternities (mainly guys who were sports participants). Maybe we were ahead of our time. Maybe we were copying college students. Some are now doctors, lawyers, professors – all walks of life are represented by members of our class.
We had three groups back then: collegiate (including jocks, cheerleaders, honor students, white bucks or saddle shoes, etc.), hoods (engineer boots, wallets on chains, Levi’s, garrison belts), and nerds (no description required). Contrary to “Happy Days,” hoods did not hang out with collegiates or nerds. We certainly knew one another and recognized each other, but invisible boundaries were drawn.
Along came Richard Wilgenkamp. He decided our class needed to hold a 40th reunion. Others had organized a 20th and 25th, as I recall, but the 40th reunion had 500 attendees, more than our graduating class – which included spouses, significant others and members of ’59 and ’57. One class member, Toby Goldfarb, together with Class of ’58 representative Annette Dutchen, produced a directory for all attendees – listing all names, addresses, phone, email which kept us in touch with one another. So if you were visiting a city in say – Colorado or Tennessee – you could email a classmate (not necessarily to bunk in but to get the low down on sights to see and what not to miss, maybe meet for dinner, etc.). I believe this was about the time Richard established an Alumni Association, which many, most high schools do not have, to this day. Ken Rutley was the principal then and he had been one of our teachers back in the ’50s.
However, all was not ‘peaches and cream’. Richard had a habit of calling classmates and cajoling, browbeating, coaxing, wheedling, maneuvering, beguiling them to attend. He had nearly photographic recall. He remembered who you hung out with in high school. If you turned him down, he’d call someone, preferably one who lived furthest away, and ask that person to call you. That usually did the trick. How could you tell an old HS friend calling from hundreds or thousands of miles away that you weren’t interested in attending? You could not. We dreaded his phone calls, We even got to dislike him.
But, in the long run, Richard was successful. He earned the title of “Mr. Mepham.” He brought his class together.
At the 40th – which began on Friday night with an assembly at which former members of the A Capella Choir performed, an abbreviated sports night in the gym complete with a hula hoop contest, followed by a mini sock hop in the cafeteria with poodle skirts, ballet shoes, white bucks or saddle shoes and ’50s music (still the best).
We just held our 60th reunion in April, 2018 in Florida, since so many classmates now live there or took time to vacation there and come to our 60th. Unfortunately, we have lost 100 classmates but those who are alive and kicking are doing just that.
A dozen or more of us are meeting for dinner this week since a classmate from San Francisco is in town.
So, contrary to Thomas Wolfe in his classic, You Can’t Go Home Again, you certainly can, thanks to Richard Wilgenkamp who has also since passed away.