In June of 1967, some 500 students graduated from Kent-Meridian High School in a packed-gym ceremony that featured the valedictorian lamenting what he called “the rape of the Green River Valley” by developers. Bold words for those days, but prescient as far as many of us were concerned.
I was one of the hundreds on the gym floor awaiting my turn to stride forward for a diploma. None of us knew our fate, but we were all ready to step off and go where the journey would take us. For some, it has been appreciably longer than others. Appreciate is the operative word.
In the 12 school years leading up to that day, we had lost a few of our fellow students along the way. We lost several more in the next few years; a couple of those were and remain especially painful to me. And of course we have seen many more departures in the five-plus decades since. The oldest of us in the class of ’67 is 74 now — not necessarily that old by life expectancy standards these days.
Which makes me grateful to not only still be around, but occasionally — certainly not often enough — make contact with some of my classmates, several of whom I have known since grade school.
Dave, one of those elementary school chums, has been particularly active over the years in keeping track of all several hundred of us — including those who have passed on — and organizing not only the traditional five-year interval reunions but also smaller interim gatherings for those who can make it.
I haven’t been able to get to many of those (the 45th reunion was my most recent), but last weekend Dave hosted a backyard gathering at his Seattle home. I was delighted to reconnect with another half-dozen people, most of whom I had not seen in longer than I can remember.
If you’ve been to similar gatherings, you’re familiar with the take-aways. People are generally as you remember them — study a face for a few seconds and you are likely to place it — but now with interesting experiences to share about families, careers and, inevitably for our age set, health challenges.
It was an accomplished little group — representing the legal, medical, educational and law enforcement fields among others — and I was fascinated to hear condensed versions of their life stories, or updates on what I already knew.
One of our group posed some “survey” questions — how many of us had owned a motorcycle (almost everyone but me), or had been a pilot (several, but not me either) or was still married. I asked how many had any living parents. None of us does. We even shared a few regrets, and caught up on the recent deaths of classmates who remained prominent in our memories.
Our Saturday gathering represented just a small sampling of the K-M cohort, not just our class but all those before and after. Most of had friends and family members on either side of 1967, and many of them also came up as conversation topics.
There are some serendipitous Kent-Meridian connections to the Methow Valley. Former Winthrop mayors Dave Acheson and Rick Northcott are K-M grads (both served on the Town Council while I was the News reporter covering that group). Northcott starred on the K-M Royals basketball team, then coached by Ed Smith — who years later would become coach of the Liberty Bell High School girls’ basketball team. Tom Venable, superintendent of the Methow Valley School District, is a product of the Kent School District but graduated from one of the newer high schools that proliferated after Kent-Meridian was no longer adequate to serve a growing community. I probably missed a local connection or two, if so please let me know.
Kent-Meridian has had a few notable alumni over the years, among whom I would include my Academy Award-nominated screenwriter brother. And former Congressman, now-Washington gubernatorial candidate Dave Reichert, was a few years behind me at K-M.
There’s another K-M get-together scheduled for September in the Seattle area, and I hope to attend — because I enjoyed the recent experience, and none of knows how long we have to savor the memories and calculate the value of those early years in forming our lives and personalities. If I’m around for the 60-year class reunion in 2027 and able to get there, I’ll certainly try. Maybe our stories will not have changed much by then, but that won’t matter. We’ll be there to keep the connections alive, and to remind each other how far we’ve come.