Ruminations From the Western Slope

Ruminations From the Western Slope
Colorado River near Moab, Utah

Monday, August 23, 2010

Class Reunion, Part 3

My little girl started high school today. And I left mine for the last time 45 years ago.

I once told somebody that going to a high school reunion was a little like being stoned on acid. The faces look sort of familiar but the reality when compared to memory is somewhat skewed. One is taken aback by the gray hair (or lack of it), the wrinkles, the extra pounds. But underneath it all are the kids we went to school with. Some of them were friends. And some of them wouldn’t give you the time of day. Nevertheless, we shared a common experience and a common community. And what a fine little community it was.

I rolled into Los Altos midday on Friday after a speedy, scenic drive over the Sierras and a long slog through the smoggy Sacramento Valley. I was way too early for that afternoon’s informal gathering at the Alpine Inn so I spent my time driving old familiar streets, visiting the house I grew up in, trying to remember the names of all my neighbors back then. I walked around Los Altos trying to get my bearings back but, like the old acid trips, everything was skewed. The Los Altos Theatre with its art deco facade was gone. So was the big oak tree at the head of Main Street. Gordon’s Market was being demolished but some of the store fronts at the east end of Main still retained that early 60s something out of Mad Men.

As the meeting time drew nearer I drove up into the foothills through forests of madrone and oak, past golden fields of dry grass and slopes of chaparral. Up Moody Road to Page Mill, past Joan Baez’s place. The summer heat was redolent of pine needles and eucalyptus. The poison oak was turning red. Eventually I turned on to Arastradero and followed it to the Alpine Inn, that rustic anachronism from the days when this part of the San Francisco peninsula was a bucolic eden, a mecca of apricot and walnut orchards, a hangout for Stanford professors, and a haven for the oddballs like Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters.

I was one of the first to arrive but in time others drifted in, bought beers, settled into an easy talk. Hawaiian shirts were predominant. Faces lit up in recognition. The guys who were not part of my high school crowd gave friendly hellos and handshakes but pretty much left it at that. Then there were the old reliables I knew I could talk and laugh with. And the crowd grew along with the conversation. And then some of the women began to show up. And the old voices mingled with the hum of cicadas in the hills around us. The timeless hum of summer.

The women who were not part of my high school crowd were much friendlier. Gracious. Open. Even effusive. As if time had leveled the playing field......had left us all with broken marriages, long gone parents, kids going through college, grand kids in many cases, and our own common infirmities. Arthritis. Hip replacements. Back surgery. The onset of age in an ageless setting.

I had been to other class reunions but this one felt good and right and affirmative. Here we were forty five years after the fact, made common by age and time. And through it all there was an acknowledgment of having grown up in a very special spot. A small town where we could take long walks along the railroad tracks, explore creeks that were not yet swathed in cement, ride our bicycles down Quinn Hill in a rush of youthful exhilaration. And enjoy the affluence and isolation of a community on the brink of great change.


  1. Now THAT'S what I'm talkin' about! Good, good stuff! Unpretentious, un-selfconscious, descriptive...I felt like I was there..

  2. Have you thought of writing novels Greg? I agree, this reunion felt good!

  3. As always, you never disappoint. Having just had my 40th LAHS reunion last year, your words rang honest and true. How odd that the bounds that didn't exist in high school have surfaced all these years later and that we embrace them today as we didn't all those years ago.

  4. Janet B...said
    A nice piece of writing, brings up memories and connections to the particular quality of that time, that place....a motivation to make the next reunion since i haven't been back for a long time.

  5. Thanks for the wonderfully written glimpse into our collective past, and reunion experience. I was sure that the Cookie Jar was the business right across the street from Frank's Chevron. Can't make out the sign, but it is something else....This will bother me. Can anyone help me out?
    Yes Janet, time to revisit LAHS, class of '65!

  6. It was a good time with a good feeling. If I'm not mistaken, I think there were about seven members of Mrs. Eckert's seventh grade home room at Covington in attendance.

  7. Greg,

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog on the '65 LAHS reunion.

    As someone who has made part of his living as a writer I appreciate your skill. Your use of iconic figures like Joan Baez and childhood memories of what Los Altos was when we were children were poignant reminders of where we once were. I thought your observation that time seems to humble us all and erase perceived differences hit the the nail on the head.

    Thanks for sharing your skill and heart. I'm sure your writing resonated with many attendees. I attended the reunion with my wife Sherry and was in the class of '64, not quite your target audience, but close enough to appreciate the memories you evoked.


    Eric Hoffman

  8. Andi Liddell (bedard)August 26, 2010 at 11:58 AM

    Greg, You have become a master of words. I feel as if the Los Altos of old lives on through your words and in our hearts. Thank you so much for this essay. It has been copied and put in a place among other memory reminders. Love to all LAHS 65'ers. Andi Liddell (Bedard)

  9. Greg--you really have captured in words the feeling of our past,and what it's like to attend a reunion. Even though I'm only an LAHS "wannabe", having moved away just as Freshman year started, I really missed being with my lifetime friends in such a special place and time. It was a dream come true to be invited by Carol to go to the reunion and see everyone I hadn't seen since 1962 !

    Sherry--regarding the picture of Frank's Chevron, etc. I was trying to figure out what the awning of the store across the street says, and I think it says "Meat Center"--I had to use a magnifying glass! Could it have been a butcher shop? Thanks for reminding me of The Cookie Jar!! I haven't heard that name for ages. I think it was further down Main Street. In fact, if you go to the Town Crier archives and search for The Cookie Jar, you'll find a couple of articles that say it was where the Los Altos Pharmacy is today. Not sure if that is correct, either.

  10. oops, I meant 1961. It was a great reunion.