Mark Lyon's Reunion Speech


Rochester High School Class of 1963 50th Reunion – August 24, 2013

Welcome all. Great to be here. At our age its “Great to be anywhere.” Thanks to all for coming!

A special thanks is due to our reunion committee who worked tirelessly to make this fine event possible, and I want to personally recognize the efforts of Alan Aemisegger, Ann Aldrich Patterson, Bill Billig, Bob Bommaritio, Sue Ludwig Eaton,Sandy Holman Meehan, Michael Noble. I would also like to recognize our special guests, Master Sargeant Ray Lawson, our class advisor and his daughter, Taryn.
I especially want to thank the spouses and dates of alumni. What sacrifice you are making by ruining a perfectly good evening having to listen to your partner share hilarities with a bunch of old friends you don’t know, as you wonder which ones they made out with back in the day. If you feel left out, I suggest you open the 63 yearbook and pick the name of oneof the people who didn’t show up, preferably of your same sex, and introduce yourself around as that person. Since none of us recognize each other, everyone will believe you. You can make up an entire fictional life. No one will know. “Yeah, Justin Bieber is my grandson.” Or “yeah, that was me with Kirstie Alley on Dancing with the Stars.”
Hats off to all of us who were born in the 1940's. We survived being born to mothers who may have smoked or drank while they were pregnant. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can and didn't get tested for diabetes. They put us to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-based paints. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, locks on doors or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes, we wore baseball caps, not helmets. We rode in the car with no car seats, no booster seats, no seat belts, and no air bags.
Riding in the back of a pick-up truck on a warm day was always a special treat. We drank water from the garden hose and weshared one soft drink with four friends, and no one actually died from this. We ate cupcakes, white bread that stuck to the roof of our mouths, real butter and bacon. We drank Kool-Aid made with white sugar.
We didn't have Play Stations, Nintendos and X-boxes, and there were no video games, no cable TV, no video movies or DVD's,no surround-sound or CD's, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet and no chat rooms....we had neighborhood buddies and we played outside all day, and sometimes we didn't come home until the sun went down and no one worried about where we were or what we were doing.
We were born before Xerox, contact lenses, Frisbees and the pill. There were no credit cards, laser beams or electric typewriters. Man had not invented pantyhose, air conditioners, dishwashers, clothes dryers, and the clothes were hung out todry in the fresh air and man hadn't yet walked on the moon. We never heard of FM radios, tape decks, yogurt or guys wearing earrings. Pizza Hut, McDonald's and instant coffee were unheard of. We had 5 & 10 cent stores, the D&C on Main Street, where you could actually buy things for 5 and 10 cents. Ice-cream cones, phone calls, and soda pop were all a nickel. Our generation produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever. We were so lucky to be raised in the 50's and 60’s. The most important things you might have looked forward to were the Friday afternoon pep rally, the game and the after game dance.
We didn't need limos, tuxedos, or expensive gowns to make those dances special. The guys spent hours washing and cleaning their cars, while the gals washed and set their own hair in brush rollers, and sat under a plastic bonnet connected to a portable hair dryer that had a hose connected to a little machine that put out enough heat to burn your neck. Our special dates included a corsage or boutonniere made of carnations, and most of us didn't even know how or where to pin them. Thank goodness your mom was home to help, and if you were lucky, the Brownie camera had ?lm and a ?ashbulb so she could take your picture which was the only picture you had of that special time.
Most of us didn't have our own car, but somehow we managed to make many trips cruising through the A&W and turning around at the Gas Station at the other end of Main Street. We got our learner's permit at age 15 1/2 and could hardly wait to ?nish driver's training so you could get your license at 16. I can't remember my folks talking about their insurance ratesgoing sky-high when I started driving. We were really lucky to live in or around Rochester.
Somehow we managed school, work, sports, and extra-curricular activities. Some of us still rode the school bus in high school. We saw nothing wrong with that form of transportation, unless your boyfriend had a car or could borrow one. We went to the library to study after school and researched special reports using the Encyclopedia Britannica. Life was simple.
How could you forget swimming in the park, burgers and shakes at Knapp’s, Vic racking the balls in the pool hall (if you ever snuck in there)…pin boys setting pins at the bowling alley…Hazel Pritzel’s typing class…Sugar Ray Lawson’s vocab flashcards…Jay Eldred, the enforcer…Mrs. Adams’ algebra…and the boss, Harlan Johnson and all the other true educators who did their best to send us all off prepared for what was ahead.
Now close your eyes: Its June, 1963, it was an early Michigan summer as our sweaty, little gown- clad bodies, filed into the gym bleachers for Commencement. Hormones churning and hearts thumping with anticipation, speaker after speaker attempted to inspire us to face the world with hope and enthusiasm. We proudly swaggered across the stage to the dissonant strains of Pomp and Circumstance, a smile of relief on our faces as we received our diplomas. With a figurative slap on the butt, we were sent off like a herd of black and white penguins about to be set free into the open Arctic Ocean. We faced our new adventure with a mi of fear and excitement over how we would meet our new challenges and how our lives would turnout. Some of us knowing just what we wanted and how to go about getting it-more of us entering the forest of life without a compass or binoculars but a strong urge to explore.
And off we went. We entered careers, raised families, fought wars in which some died, faced challenges of health, divorce,untimely deaths, and personal setbacks. Many of us accomplished great things… we were teachers, lawyers, engineers, architects, sales people, writers, lawyers, musicians, performers, did I mention lawyers.? Yes, the graduates of RHS, Class of 1963 made their mark. I think the world is indeed a better place because of us! I think most will agree that RHS prepared us well for the challenges before us in that summer of ‘63.
So here we are, 50 years later, and for many of us, at a new crossroad in our lives-once again faced with a mix of anxietyand excitement over how we will deal with what’s ahead. Semper Fi to our veterans and Godspeed and good health and fortune to all of you. Now go and have fun while we still can.
*This address is not original material, but adapted from some excellent speeches given at several reunions including much of the excellent work of Tana Bowen Roberts (Watsonville Union, 1961). By definition, the delivery of the message was original and from the heart. No names were changed to protect the innocent…these are all real people, and good people theywere. Back to the future.
Mark W. Lyon, President
RHS Class of 1963