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  • March 15, 2023


    Getting old is not for sissies.

    I just received an invitation to my 65th Boca Ciega High School reunion, class of ’58. I am happy to report that Boca Ciega High School is still the home of the Pirates – apparently the bloodthirsty outlaws of the sea have not yet fallen victim to the politically correct hordes.

    The invitation was surprising to me in a couple of ways. First of all, I was surprised that it’s been 65 years since I graduated high school. That’s a really long time. And second, why me? I hated school – elementary school, junior high, high school, and college. My biggest goal when I graduated high school was to get as far away from all those people I had so little in common with, and to never see them again. I’d been pretty successful, up until last week. To tell you the truth, I don’t even remember anybody from my high school days who hasn’t already died. That said, I’m kind of curious about what those few survivors of the Class of ’58 are doing 65 years later.

    As I studied the invite, I found a few interesting things. I have been to a lot of celebratory receptions, dinner-dances, awards dinners and lunches, and even fancy breakfasts to honor this person or recognize that anniversary. But, I have to say, this 65th High School Reunion invite had some things I’d never seen before. The dinner is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. – just in time, I suspect, for the early-bird special. As far as I can ascertain, there is no dancing scheduled – so it’s a dinner, rather than a dinner-dance. That’s kind of a plus in my book, although my potential date voiced disappointment.

    The reunion info packet proudly highlights that the Holiday Inn is only 500 feet from the reunion restaurant, which made me speculate as to whether attendees walking over from the hotel would be required to check their walkers by the door or if guests would be able to bring their walkers on in and park them near their tables.

    Sixty-five years is a long time. As I mentioned, there aren’t a whole lot of us left, and I wondering what, exactly, we might have in common. What are we going to talk about, besides our health problems, their grandkids, and exchanging lies about how no one has “changed a bit,” since high school.

    It seems to me that the event would be a lot more interesting if there was some kind of “tontine” involved. A vintage 1958 Bogey sweatshirt with a pirate on the chest for the last surviving member of the class would be nice. Or perhaps something even more valuable that we could all stand around and admire and that might give one of us that added determination to stay alive just a little while longer, so we could be the one to collect the final payout.

    Tontines have fallen out of favor in the United States over the years, but they are actually quite special. After World War II, there was a brief resurgence, when guys who left their homes and risked their lives together created them as a way of somehow staying in touch with blood brothers who scattered far and wide after the war. They had some pretty cool tontines in those days. My favorite was the one that was for a very good and very old bottle of Scotch that was trotted out once a year to sit in the middle of the reunion lunch table and be admired before, finally, being left with the last man standing to sip and remember his old buddies. That’s if his doctors still allowed him the occasional swig of alcohol.

    Graduating high school together isn’t nearly as dramatic as going to war, but tontines would sure make 65th high school reunions a lot more interesting. We could all make side bets over who was going to die next and who was most likely to take the final prize.

    It was very nice to be invited to the 65th Boca Ciega High School Reunion. But with all due respect to my fellow Pirates, I’m not going.

    Even if I could be back in my room at the Holiday Inn by 6 p.m.

    – George Lee Cunningham

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