Attending Greta’s 50th high school reunion. Nostalgic and revisiting the music of the 50s and 60s.
By Tom P Blake - Finding Love after 50
I hadn't thought much about last week-end. It was my partner Greta's week-end, her 50th reunion of St. Anthony's High School in Long Beach, California.
She had been on the planning committee and had worked hard making the name tags with pictures on them and had helped with the organizing and decorating.
Her only request of me: show up wearing a nice suit. Of course, I wanted to be there for her, after all, over the 11 years we've been a couple, she has attended lots of my events, including my 50th reunion a couple of years ago. I didn't anticipate that the week-end would affect me.
But, I was wrong. The events took me by surprise. They made me appreciate the incredible era through which our generation has lived.
We arrived an hour before the start. Greta needed to set up the reception table so I strolled around the banquet room. The planning committee had prepared several posters that were mounted on easels. Looking at those posters is when revelations started to strike me.
One poster had pictures of the singers who put their stamp on our era. What a tragedy that we lost so many of them early.
There were Ricky Nelson, Bobby Darin and Sam Cook. And the one that had devastated me the most: Buddy Holly, along with fellow Crickets Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper who died with Buddy in the same plane crash. There were Patsy Cline, Mama Cass and Bobby Hatfield of the Righteous Brothers.
The poster also had a picture of Johnny Cash, in his early days, long before I had the pleasure of knowing him, when I worked with him for two years in 1976-77.
I checked on Greta a few times while people were signing in. It was fun to see people saying, "You haven't changed a bit," or, "I didn't recognize you," and for me not to be worried that I wouldn't recognize anybody because it wasn't my reunion.
One guy said to me, "Remember when we were sent to detention together?"
I said, "Yea, but it was your fault." Of course, I had never seen him before; I was in college in Indiana in 1959.
After dinner, the planning committee did a cute dance routine on stage to "Sh-Boom," known as the first popular Doo-Wop song. It was a huge hit in 1954 by the Crew Cuts.
Then, the music started. I drove Greta nuts by identifying song after song on the first or second note, belting out the words while dancing. I said, "I've always believed that Bill Haley and the Comets started rock and roll with 'Rock around the Clock,' from the movie Blackboard Jungle. The disc jockey played it a couple of minutes later.
And then he played "Heartbreak Hotel," the song that introduced us to Elvis.
We danced a lot, and really got to shaking during "At the Hop" (Danny and the Juniors) and "Come Go With Me" (the Dell Vikings). There were lots of single men dancing with single women. Reunions are a must for singles hoping to meet someone.
As we drove to our hotel, I told Greta how much I had enjoyed her reunion and how it had reminded me of how special our era was in which to grow up. But, we weren't done with the memory-filled week-end.
On Sunday, we went to the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles for the matinee of "Rain," a musical tribute to the Beatles. Rain is the name of a Los Angeles-based Beatles tribute band that has been performing since the 1970s. I wasn't prepared for the nostalgia that their performance triggered in me.
I loved the Beatles as we all did. But I didn't realize how much they had touched my life. And speaking of identifying songs on the first note, "A Hard Day's Night," begins with a powerful, distinctive, one-note twang.
The music was enhanced by videos on large screens of significant world events that occurred during the Beatles' reign. Music is the glue that keeps memories fresh in our minds.
During the Sgt. Pepper set, the group dressed in those colorful, psychedelic outfits (the Beatles never performed Sgt. Pepper before a live audience).
If you were even remotely a Beatles fan, you'll love "Rain." I enjoyed it as much as "Mama Mia," (Abba) "Jersey Boys," (Four Seasons) or "Movin' Out" (Billy Joel).
The show ended after two adrenalin-pumping hours. But the audience, of course, insisted on an encore. And wow, what a finish. The character of John Lennon sang "Imagine." And then, the quartet played "Give Peace a Chance." The grand finale: a ten-minute, on-your-feet, arms-swaying version of Paul McCartney's song, "Hey Jude." More than 8 million singles of "Hey Jude" have been sold.
On the way home, I said to Greta, "Thank you for being in my life, and for this week-end that made me appreciate how fortunate our generation has been to have lived through the 1950s and 1960s."