After finding my 40th high school reunion a little traumatic, it was impossible not to wonder what it feels like to be at the 65th, with high school literally constituting about 5 percent of your life.
But how formative that 5 percent was! That was the big discovery at the reunion of the Durango High School Class of 1949, which was held Aug. 9 at Lonnie and Dena Malouff’s Little Fishes alongside the Animas River.
Of the original 109 graduates, 50 are still living. Twenty-one came or planned to join their classmates to catch up and share stories.
They scored the site for the reunion, a perfect place to spend a summer day, because Dena Malouff is the daughter of class member Bruce Fassett, who was happy to be there as a semi-host.
Frank Pinkerton remembered when Carol Moore moved to town from Montrose in the eighth grade,
“I had my eye on her right away,” he said. He still has his eye on her – they’ve been married for 62 years, spending 43 years of that time in Alaska, first in Anchorage, then 22 years in the bush, because he had a love for adventure.
“We had a great view of Mount McKinley out the north window,” she said. They now make their home in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
He wasn’t the only one. Jack Schoemaker ended up in the wilds of Bolivia for 28 years, working as a Bible translator, starting schools and teaching medical and agricultural methods.
He credits Boy Scouts for his camping skills – he had to hunt and gather his own food much of the time – and ability to handle whatever came his way, including being stalked by a jaguar.
He was a member of the Boy Scout troop that meets at First Presbyterian Church of Durango and just celebrated its 75th anniversary. He also had fond memories of skiing in the Molas Pass area, the go-to place before Purgatory Ski Area opened in 1965.
There was many a fond memory of going on a date to the movies at the Kiva Theater, although there was some debate as to whether the tickets were 25 or 50 cents. And they all remembered their teachers as encouraging them to pursue their dreams.
To a person, they said Durango was a great place to grow up, and they credit their active lifestyles for the fact that so many of them are not only still alive, they’re going strong.
Carol Pinkerton may live in Idaho, but she became by default the keeper of the class list, reeling off statistics such as of the 50 class members still living, 22 are in Colorado. The reunion attendees seemed split between those who made their lives here and those who went off into the world.
The Durango contingent, which was made up both of lifelong residents and those who have moved back, included Dorthy (Barker) Wilson, Charles Brennan, Roger Crossley, Willa (Dosher) Baker, V.J. Headrick, Berna Deane (Metz) Briggs, Rod Turner and Jack Winner. (Turner and Winner ended up, not only in Durango but living on the same street, and my parents’ house was exactly halfway between them.)
Those who traveled included Grace (Engler) Holcomb, from Palm Desert, California; Louis Lechner of Benton City, Washington, Jean (Meister) Vinyard from Wickenburg, Arizona; Margie (Smith) Carmean of Midland, Texas; Judy (Johnson) Rane from Taos, New Mexico; and Phil Harrison from Delta.
What was also fun for me was how many of the members of this class are the parents of people in my class. Jack Turner, Nila Briggs and Terri Headrick all came to mind as their parents introduced me not as a reporter, but as someone they’ve known since “she was only thiiiis high.”
Thanks for letting me share some of your time together.
Celebrating their birthdays as we cross from Leo into Virgo, which I believe is called cuspville, are Joanie Thomas, Jill Carlson, Joan Kuhn, Kirk Komick, Karen Preston, Sandy Jones, Eryn Orlowski, Julie Williams, Jenny Williams, Dan Osby, Kathy Pratt and Tom Kyser.
I usually write a post-Music in the Mountains piece the week after the festival ends every summer, taking a minute (or an hour) to reflect on the highs and lows of an intense three-week schedule of performances, lectures, parties and ... well, you get the picture.
I put it off a little bit this year, in part waiting for a larger column space and, in part, to be frank, because I wanted to savor it a little bit longer in my mind before sharing it with the world.
Having attended at least one performance in every one of the festival’s 28 seasons (hey, I started as a baby, OK? No age jokes allowed), I can truly claim to have a sense of perspective.
And while it’s easy to say every year, “Wow, this is the best season ever,” even Artistic Director Greg Hustis was saying he didn’t know what he can do next year to top this year. And talking about a sense of perspective, his 26 years with Music in the Mountains and 36-year career as principal horn with the Dallas Symphony mean he knows whereof he speaks.
While the guest artists were astonishingly good, everything begins with the Festival Orchestra. These musicians come from many countries, are graduates of some of the most prestigious music schools in the world and are principals or assistant principals with their day-job orchestras across the country, covering points, literally, from New York to Los Angeles. And playing together for only a rehearsal or two before each concert, they give one stunning performance after another after another:
Pieces from “Swan Lake” that literally made me weep with their beauty. A grand rendering of Dvorák’s “New World Symphony.” A trip to Broadway with sing-alongable numbers galore. Orloff’s “Carmina Burana” with the Durango Choral Society that still resonates in my very bones. A Beethoven’s 8th Symphony that had people saying, “What 5th Symphony? That is a jewel.” And the rousing close with Strauss and Brahms bringing energy at a time when the musicians could legitimately have claimed festival fatigue.
Not only was Maestro Guillermo Figueroa practically beside himself with excitement to conduct some of his favorite works, he brought the audience along with him, conducting with his typically elegant flair.
And oh, those guest artists. I already wrote the rave reviews for Vadim Gluzman and Philippe Quint’s performances – and a little bird whose initials are G.H. tells me they have both made verbal commitments to return. But Aviram Reichert even got a rave out of my colleague Judith Reynolds for his performance of Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto, where he was “in the zone,” and in front of his proud mother, to boot.
I announced that my new mantra is “I will trust Greg Hustis,” after a memorable fundraiser at the Glacier Club with the Mana Quartet, four young saxophonists who are as golden as their horns. That trust paid off in spades with flautist Carol Wincenc’ appearance.
The guest artists also include the musicians from the orchestra who soloed at chamber music concerts throughout the festival. For some reason, the Herald expects me to be in the newsroom weekday evenings – maybe because it’s my shift – so I only managed to make it to the magical evening at St. Columba Catholic Church.
The tailgate party in Viles Park in front of St. Columba made that a lovely evening (really, a chandelier on the swingset), and Sari Brown and her crew at The Yellow Carrot prepared elegant meals as beautifully presented as we’ve come to expect from her. (By the way, the mysterious orange concoction that everyone enjoyed so much was summer orange and avocado bisque, and the secret ingredient on the caramel corn is Madagascar vanilla bean paste.)
Celebrating their anniversaries as summer starts its final hurrah are Terry and Diane Sadler, Peter and Liza Tregillus and Bruce and Suzanne Rodman.