Time, Relationships and 50th High School Reunion


Maybe one day I can have a reunion with myself.  ~Sebastian Bach

To be quite honest, I was a little apprehensive about attending my 50th high school reunion, and for a number of reasons.  First of all, 50 years is a heck of a long time, half a century to be exact, and the world has changed dramatically since that year in 1966 when 300 of us were seniors at Arroyo Grande High School in central California. And years change things, especially people and relationships.

Not to mention that I now live in London, England and that means a very long flight to Los Angeles and a 3 hour drive north up Hiway 101. Jet lag would only make the entire experience that much weirder. Plus the fact that while most of the kids grew up going to grammar school and high school together, I came from another school district a long way away and only spent one year, my senior year, with these people.

For the past few months during the run up to the reunion, I beganPete Segundo to recall events and people from that year. Some memories were sad.  Especially the one about a very unique boy I played football with, Pete Segundo, a US Marine who unfortunately was killed by friendly fire in Vietnam when he was only 23 years old. And
several others who passed away between graduation and now.  A very stark reminder of the reality of our short life on this earth.

But also many happy memories came flooding back as well.  The day a few of us “rowdies” put the desk of Mr. Gibbons, our math teacher, out in the hallway just before class.  He was livid, but we survived and had fun with that memory for the rest of the year. In fact our next prank was to turn the entire room around, with our desks facing away from the teacher’s.

And of course there were memories of my adventures, and misadventures as a member of the varsity football and baseball teams, the band, and especially the challenges of school dances and dating.  Being the new kid in school presented me with a choice, either hang back, do my school work and just get the year over with, or step up, make friends and get integrated.  I chose to step up and get involved, the first of many of life choices I was to face.

AG baseball

So my wife and I showed up at the 50th Reunion and thankfully my best friend in high school, Mark McNeil (I was best man at his wedding, but missed the ceremony – a long story for another time) and I had been communicating on Facebook and emails, so at least I had one anchor point for the weekend.

Would they remember me?  Would they remember me fondly?  Would they recognize me?  Would I recognize them?  How to avoid those awkward moments when they seem to remember you but you can’t place them?  And what to talk about?

The mind can certainly go off in some weird directions, but when we arrived at the first of three gatherings that weekend, a strange thing happened.  It was like 50 years of being apart melted away and we were laughing, hugging, introducing spouses, sharing stories. It was amazing to me how many old memories came flooding back; things I had totally “forgotten” and not talked about in decades. And surprisingly, the exchange student that attended our school from Switzerland that year showed up..  Guess we made an impression on him as well!

The nice part of the weekend was that my choice of stepping in proved to be the right one as many people commented on how I had influenced them during that senior year, whether on the sports fields or in the classroom.  (Not all my life choices have turned out so well).

One of the highlights of the weekend was the celebration during the gala evening of all those who served in the military from our class.  You have to remember that we graduated in 1966, the height of the build up of the Vietnam War. Not a popular war in the US by any means, and yet a large percentage of men and women from my graduating class signed up and served. And then we remembered the three who didn’t return.  Not a dry eye in the house as you can imagine.

I came away from that weekend with a great sense of gratitude (I am very grateful that my wife went with me as I’m not certain I could have faced it alone). Grateful for the many good memories and renewed friendships.  Grateful for the solid education I received that year.  Grateful for all the laughter; certainly more in that one weekend than I have had in a long time. Grateful for having grown up in a small and tight community where everyone knew and watched out for each other, something that is rapidly disappearing in this country.

So, to all my Arroyo Grande High School Class of 1966 classmates, thank you for a wonderful weekend and a confirmation that:

There is always time for old friends.

Oldies but goodies

Oldies but goodies

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at john@johnrchildress.com or john.childress@theprincipiagroup.com
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3 Responses to Time, Relationships and 50th High School Reunion

  1. Cullen-Cote, Kathy says:

    Best blog ever. Thank you for sharing. I cried… but that is easy for me… and I smiled and I felt happy for you.
    Enjoy reading your posts always, but this one was special.

    Kathy Cullen-Cote
    Corporate Vice President
    Human Resources

    T 781.370.6597



  2. Dr. Cornel J. Melia says:

    When someone transfers from another high school for their senior year, it is often traumatic and lonely. Thinking of the student who is not particularly attractive, social or academic. But when an attractive, bright, athlete, musician who is friendly, respectful and caring walks on campus, heads turn. John, you were that young man. Thank you for taking the initiative to contribute to the quality of our campus life. You made a positive impact 50 years ago and continue to demonstrate those God given gifts through the years. Your common sense laced with spiritual insight have encouraged many. Your fellow classmates . . . of ’66.


  3. Pingback: What Did You Learn at School Today? | John R Childress . . . Rethinking

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