hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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October 31, 2013

A class reunion hits the skids

(Continued)

On this weekend, as they’ve done in the past, Haverhill High joined forces with Haverhill Trade and St. James High. While St. James fielded its own football team, Haverhill Trade and HHS bolstered their ranks together.

Such a unified spirit continued for 55 years and wasn’t about to dissipate with age.

I should have heeded the warning signs at my 50th. Our reunion was joined with the previous class to boost attendance. The 45th was a disaster. Less than 70 showed up from a graduating class of 320.

It got so impersonal that some of my fellow officers went table to table reading name tags, trying to identify who was who. My wife and I sat at a table with some 1957 grads, who cliqued with their own.

I remember one day at the Gazette getting a telephone call from a 93-year-old, inviting me to lunch.

“And bring your camera,” he said. “We got a photo opportunity here.”

I didn’t know what to expect until I arrived. There, seated around a table, were eight folks. Six were women, two of them in wheelchairs. They represented all that remained of a St. James High class.

This would be their 75th reunion. They had been meeting annually for the past 25 years. There was no way the tradition was going to die, not with attrition or apathy.

As a final gesture, a hat was placed in the center of the table and each of the guests tossed in a $10 bill.

“It’s for the last person standing,” someone explained. “We started the collection a decade ago. Whoever outlives the rest gets to keep the money.”

In the end, it was Charlie Danielian, the guy who called me that day. Charlie ran a tailor shop on High Street for many years and lived to be nearly 100. Last I heard, he took the money and gave it over to some charity.

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