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Report from Winnipeg (4), via Edmonton – Be True To Your School – Part 1

:: Back in Edmonton, after a 12-hour drive from Brandon yesterday, where I’d spent the night at a friend’s house. (Thanks, Cathy!). The last three days in Winnipeg were much fun, very memorable. I am exhausted on many fronts: emotionally, physically, mentally. I am “peopled” out. Here are the details from the open house on July 18th:

:: On Friday, at approximately 5:30, I picked up my pal Brenda Claggett (Mistress Brenda, I call her!) and we drove to Windsor Park Collegiate (a great high school with an incredibly lame web site!). The organizing committee was there, setting up the second gym for the open house. The school is undergoing massive renovations, so we couldn’t enter the first gym, where I played many a floor hockey game, and we attended many assemblies. In addition, the plumbing was nonfunctional except for one men’s washroom. This meant no running water, and it was hot, so I drove to Zeller’s to pick up three flats of bottled water.

The first thing I noticed was large, group photos of each graduating year on the walls past the west entrance, something that wasn’t in place when I was a student there. Our year was included, and I learned later that the school decide to begin this practice (retroactively) in the late 1970s.

Around 7:00 pm, people started arriving. By 7:30, the gym was beginning to fill up. Our nametags were copies of our Grade 12 yearbook entries. This way, people who didn’t recognize each other (many of us), could check the nametage, confirm the identity, and then (often) say, “Ohmigod, I can’t believe it’s you, how are you, etc etc etc !”

There was cake and coffee, and displays throughout the gym (a memoriam for those who passed away, old yearbooks, current biographies, scrapbooks). A number of door prizes had been donated, and raffle tickets were sold for a 19-inch television.

Because of great organization (this is a recurring theme), the evening went without incident. I saw so many old friends, good people I hadn’t seen since 1971. Some I recognized instantly, others I needed to check that name tag! (BTW, most people didn’t recognize me, so I guess I’ve changed a lot). In addition, a number of our teachers attended, and it was great to see them too.

I spent time talking with so many people. My Grade 11 crush, Penny Gregg, appeared, and I hugged her and told her I had a huge crush on her in high school!! Perhaps over 100 people were in the gym at any time, including spouses, parents, children, and friends. It’s hard not to want to go into more detail about so many interesting encounters, but I realize that “you had to be there”, and you had to be a part of that time to understand how special the evening was. A nice touch: the daughter of one of my best friends in high school, Pete Smalley, who died in May 1998, was there with her boyfriend, and we spent time visiting and catching up. It was so special for me to see here there and get to talk with her. At one point in the evening, the Grade 12s gathered together to allow for group pictures to be taken. I’m looking forward to seeing those prints.

Also of interest was the various career paths people chose: biomechanics researcher, bread and bakery supplier, physicist turned software outsourcer, legal assistant, cardiovascular surgeon, operating room nurse, graphics designer, chemist, quality advisor, European skin care and cosmetics marketing and sales exec-vp, high school social studies department head, credit manager, and too many others to mention or remember. A number of my classmates began work for Great West Life after high school, and some of them still work there.

Oddly enough, none of my closest high school pals were there. Who knows why (other than Pete)? But their absence didn’t detract from the joy of seeing so many others from my time at WPC (1969-1971). Many of my classmates had gone to school together since the early 60s. I was a late arrival to that part of St Boniface (in Winnipeg), but it didn’t matter. I felt very welcome at Windsor Park Collegiate, and Grades 11 and 12 easily became my two favorite years of school.

After the open house, we began packing up and prepared to drive to Oakbank to attend a bbq at Barb Zawada’s house. But it began raining so hard, that we decided not to run to our cars less we get drenched to the bone. When it finally let up, Brenda and I left, but didn’t get too far down Highway #1 East, as the torrential rains began again. I pulled over and waited another few minutes. The rain let up again, and by the time we made it to Barb’s place, it was dry – not a drop of rain had fallen! Barb’s husband Doug fired up the bbq and the bonfire, and we visited, ate, drank, and sang until 2:30 pm or so. More stories and confessions were shared. I finally hit the sack around 3:30, and was “about as sharp as a sack of wet mice” (F Leghorn) the next day. Speaking of which, I’ll write about the dinner and dance later, and post a few pix as well.

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