Majorette missing, but 50th reunion still worth the trip

August 17, 2008|By C. Fraser Smith

It's been some months since my high school reunion. I don't know why I waited so long. The determination slipped away with almost the same momentum as the passing years.

Maybe my reluctance had something to do with the number. Even now, I'm gasping for breath when I say it was the 50th anniversary of my graduation from Claymont High School, just outside Wilmington, Del.

I had spent only two years there, but I remember it well: the sub shop next door to the school where I had lunch every day (a Philly cheesesteak and a chocolate Tastykake); the tempestuous basketball coach; the baton-twirling majorette.

In my mental photo album, I can see myself in French and English and chemistry. I had no scientific bent, but I remember the rotund physics and chemistry teacher - Mr. Obold - who liked sports (at which, as I look back, I was better and better) and decided to understand my failure to master the periodic tables.

We convened for the reunion in a motel not far from Claymont High, which, in the way of such things, no longer exists. This inevitable expression of change was illustrated also by a number of our classmates whose contact information was simply, "Deceased."

There we were, peering at name tags, offering brief autobiographies and showing off pictures of our grandchildren. For one of us, I think, it was an opportunity to say, "I had hopes and dreams, too."

I was happy to see my friend and after-church bull session partner, Mickey King - smartest kid in the class. He'd gone on to be a rocket scientist. I think we predicted that.

Even before we graduated, one of us had made history. Joan Anderson was one of the first black students at the high school. She had been involved in one of the cases wrapped into the famous Brown v. Board of Education decision engineered by Baltimore's Thurgood Marshall.

A few parents had objected at the time, but state officials went forward with their plan. By the time I got to Claymont, no one spoke of the change.

I ended up sitting next to Joan at dinner. She had prepared a short history of those days in case her classmates didn't remember. She handed it out as we headed for our tables. In part because I was working on a book about race relations in Maryland, I was embarrassed to learn that a high school classmate of mine had been in the vanguard of forces that integrated a school I attended. I tell myself I was preoccupied with football and basketball. And, of course, that majorette (who was, by the way, a no-show at the reunion).

I was happy to see Cecile Endicott Dinsmore, my date for the senior prom. I remembered her smile and her laugh. At an earlier reunion (30th, perhaps?), I told her I wanted to write a book. At the 50th, she asked me if I had actually done it. I said yes, two: a book about basketball and a political biography about former Gov. William Donald Schaefer. A month or so after our class get-together, she sent me a lovely letter commenting on the basketball book, which she had gotten from Amazon, I think.

My friend and football teammate John Boldovici didn't show either. He'd been under the weather and didn't feel up to a trip from Florida. I talked to him on the telephone later. He was eager to tell me about a spelling error he had found in one of the premier reference books on grammar. I don't remember being a stickler for grammatical purity, but he thought I would get a kick out of that. I do remember what a good writer he was.

I also remembered Martha McDowell. She came to the reunion with a manifesto of sorts.

In tidy script, she had written out her post-Claymont vita, the highlights of her life: two years of secretarial school, the marriage of her brothers, the birth of her nieces and nephews, her 42 years as a Sunday School teacher and the job she held for more than 46 years at a training center for the developmentally disabled.

I hope you didn't forget about me, she seemed to be saying. I've had a useful and fulfilling life, too.

C. Fraser Smith is senior news analyst for WYPR-FM. His column appears Sundays in The Sun. His e-mail is

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