I've always been intrigued by school reunions. Whatever happened to ____? So I decided to return to North York for the Fiftieth Anniversary of my high school, W. L. Mackenzie. I started high school in 1961 at the age of thirteen and graduated from Grade Thirteen four years later. Although I had attended the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Reunion, I had maintained little contact with any of my high school friends, other than with one who currently lives in Phoenix. So I was keen to see how people had changed.
Since I was told that no food would be served, I passed by the Jewish Memorial Monuments Factory Outlet on Bathurst street and stopped by for a deli platter at the Pancers Delicatessen, where I had regularly hung out with friends during high school. There, I took my copy of The Advocate and looked at some old photos from my graduating year. Hopefully Honey Goldlist would show up, along with some of the other girls I had crushes on.
As soon as I arrived at the school, I was greeted by my old friend Howie. But I was somewhat taken aback when he took my face in his hand and looked closely at my beard. “You should have that looked at,” he said. I then realized that he was referring to a brown mark on my cheek. When I told him that I had seen my family doctor, he told me to ignore what a family doctor has to say and said, “See a specialist.” When I told another friend there about this incident, he told me that Howie was now one of Toronto's top dermatologists and that I should heed his advice. (Who knows, maybe attending a high school reunion will help prevent getting melanoma.)
One person I wanted to see was Greg Hershoff. He had always been a party guy with a fancy convertible, and I was keen to find out what had happened to him. I soon discovered that he was no longer Greg Hershoff. He was now Dr. Asa Hersh, DC, ND of California, a specialist focused on healing from the inside out. So I checked out his website... His full-spectrum approach includes Bioenergy Testing, Classical Homeopathy, herbal medicine, clinical nutrition, spinal manipulation, and subtle energy healing. He has been a spiritual seeker since his youth, and is a fully ordained lay Tibetan Lama or Ngakpa of the Nyingma tradition. (Well, people change when they move to California.)
I also met up with some other old friends, including Honey, who was still a very attractive lady. I learned that she, like many other women at the reunion, had married, but was no longer married. But what I really wanted to know was what had happened to all the guys who had belonged to the Radio Club. Sadly, I hadn't known them back then, and wouldn't know them now. (Someone should do a study to see whether the boys who belonged to clubs like the Radio Club followed different career paths than say those who belonged to the Dance Club.)
I also searched for Mayna Vellis, the girl I had been photographed dancing with in the yearbook. Sadly, neither she nor most of the other girls with whom I had spent time after class in the basement recreation rooms were there.
It was 45 years since I had seen many of my classmates, and while some had changed and were virtually unrecognizable, others hadn't changed at all. Everyone agreed that Stan Waese should have received a special award for being the person who had changed the least since 1965. And interestingly, except for Ted Wineck, who was one of the event's organizers and had been a tough guy and sports hero during high school, most of the guys who had hung around the local billiard halls still looked the same—like guys who hang around local billiard halls. Ted told me that after having gone through many different careers, he now taught chess to elementary school children as a means of imparting life skills.
It was interesting to see some of the teachers. I went up to one lady who I recognized as a former math teacher and told her that when I had been at the school, she had been Miss Bennie. She looked me in the eye and said, “I'm still Miss Bennie.”
A crowd favourite was Mr. Gregg, the latin teacher. A number of us agreed that he had instilled inside of us a love for language that had lasted to this day.
As I left the reunion, I was reminded of one of my favourite movies, The Up Series, by Michael Apted.
The students at Mackenzie had generally come from fairly affluent backgrounds. The majority had been Jewish and had parents who had survived the Holocaust. Nearly everyone in my class had went on to university, and there were lots of dentists, doctors, accountants, lawyers, and people “in business.” One exception, Dave “the voice” Lennick, who had been the DJ at the school dances, had followed a career in radio and theatre. Most of the women had also followed different career paths. They had become teachers and social workers, and many had simply stayed at home and brought up their children before getting divorced.
What I couldn't understand was why more classmates had not attended the reunion. I'd have thought that everyone would have been curious to see how one another had changed. I discussed this with a few people and they suggested that many may not have enjoyed their high school years and did not want to be reminded of a less happy period of their lives. Others may not have come because they hadn't been as “successful” as their classmates.
At any rate, if you have a high school reunion coming up, I urge you to attend. It can be a worthwhile experience, and there are always a few surprises. And yes, as a rule, the women look much better than the men.