Fifty years ago, it’s safe to say that life was very different than it is today. It might sound like a cliché, but it’s true, nonetheless. For example, typewriters, not iPhones, were the most modern tools available, while the Internet wasn’t even yet a twinkle in Al Gore’s eye. Today we worry about texting and driving. In 1968, though, even just wearing a seat belt in a car was a weird concept— like being a nonsmoker or a woman in charge of her own reproductive system.
Five decades ago, life here in Patterson was also different. First of all, there weren’t a gazillion different places to buy pizza. I’m sorry that my current tally isn’t more specific than that, but I lost count like 3 pizza places ago. Yet, while we did have a movie theatre and a hospital in 1968, we had zero stoplights and the closest thing to fast food was the old Tiger’s Den (now known as Ranch Burger) on Highway 33.
You might be wondering how I know all these things about the Patterson of Yore. Well, my mother, Yvette, graduated from PHS in 1968. (And her own father graduated in 1943!) So, I grew up hearing stories about those days and poring over her vintage pre-Instagram yearbooks.
My mom’s graduating class was the first PHS class to reach 100 students. Even though classes today are quadruple that size, it was a big deal at the time— just like Jello molds, A-line skirts, Aqua Net hairspray, and boys with shaggy haircuts.
Last week, roughly 30 members of this Class of 1968 gathered to celebrate their 50th Reunion at Apricot Wood. Sadly, my mom passed away over a dozen years ago, so she wasn’t able to take part in this special day. But, I was honored and proud to represent her at the event.
While meeting my mother’s classmates and having them share memories of her was a wonderful part of the evening for me, personally, I also very much enjoyed bearing witness to the gathering. The looks of joy and surprise in recognizing an old friend. The good-natured jokes about the graying of their hair. The obscenely long time that it took to corral them together into a group picture.
I learned several things at the reunion. First of all, I learned that the Tiger varsity football team had only three wins that season. Regretfully, this fact was still a source of great sadness fifty years later. I also learned that a band called the Golliwogs performed at their senior dance. This band would go on to become Creedence Clearwater Revival. Yes, the famous one from Woodstock. I’m happy to report that the coolness of this fact superseded the sadness briefly invoked by memories of the football season. So, yay for the Golliwogs!
But, for me, the thing that rang the most authentic about this event was the utter Patterson-ness of the evening. The small-town, everyone-knows-everyone kind of feeling. It felt so homey. Like being wrapped in a giant chocolate chip cookie straight out of the oven.
It reminded me of my mom.
So, I want to thank the Class of 1968 for welcoming me to their reunion so warmly. It meant a great deal to me. And it was nice to discover all of you— after all of these years.
Frankly, the Golliwogs have got nothin’ on you.