We were sitting in the lobby of the Clock Tower Inn this past weekend in Berne, Indiana, when we heard the famous whistling tune from the Andy Griffith Show playing. “Here comes Mayberry,” my wife Brenda said to me and my sister Rita. “Would you like to watch it?” she asked.
“Sure.” Rita and I chimed in. “Andy and Barney are always fun,” I replied.
I watched with amusement as Sheriff Andy Taylor and Deputy Barney Fife thumbed through their old high school yearbook. The two began to reminisce, talking about “the good old days”, soon laughing about their many experiences with high school classmates. Out of the blue, Andy suggested they organize a class reunion.
The scene then shifted to Mayberry Union High the night of their reunion. Andy and Barney walked among their former classmates chatting and catching up. Barney was even more nervous than usual. He was very anxious to see his high school girlfriend Thelma Lou, whom he hadn’t seen or heard from in several years, but secretly hoped to rekindle their relationship.
We watched intently as Barney’s face and spirit crumbled when he found out Thelma Lou was married. The news broke his heart. In the meantime, across the room, Andy’s effort to reconnect with his old girlfriend was sputtering as well.
As the episode came to a close, Barney lamented, “Seeing all those people you knew as kids, grown old, kinda makes you sad.”
Andy said softly, “Memories may fade over time, some connections are never completely broken, and some hearts never completely heal.”
Ironically, we had traveled with Rita to Berne, Indiana to attend the high school reunion of Jefferson Township High School where Rita’s late husband, Dick, had graduated in 1954. Although Brenda and I didn’t know a soul there, we were pleased to accompany Rita, who was honoring Dick’s memory, as people who love others do.
Rita had become familiar with many of Dick’s old classmates from attending his class reunions together over the years. It was a bittersweet time, particularly, knowing this would be Jefferson Township High School’s last high school reunion.
Summertime is a popular time for class reunions — where old friendships are renewed, memories rekindled, and heartfelt stories shared. Back in Ohio, some of the former high schools across Clinton County, including Martinsville, Port William, Sabina, and Kingman to name a few, have also been holding class reunions.
Rita, Brenda and I attended the Port William Alumni a couple weeks ago. It was good to see friends from Rita’s and my formative years growing up in Port. We heard stories about past class trips to Washington, D.C., shared warm memories about teachers, Mrs. Matthews, Mr. Manker, and Mrs. Telfair, and passed around old class photographs.
At the Martinsville Reunion, classmates Pam Woods Hatcher, JoAnn Hodson Quallen, Sharron Quigley Mallison, Shirley Vandervort Mitchell, and Peggy Kerr Bennett reaffirmed their friendships of old. Pam summed-up why they still attend class reunions saying happily, “We started first grade together and graduated high school together. Members of this class are more like family than classmates. I love these girls with all my heart!”
Last week, John Watson of Sabina told me Kingman High School alumni were having their class reunion this past weekend. “I love to sit with my former classmates, some I rarely see, and talk about our school days,” John said. “It makes us feel young again.”
Most of us attend our class reunions with our spouses, and although our wives or husbands know most of our inner secrets, former classmates know things about us know from an earlier time that no one else knows. Like Andy and Barney’s classmates, our classmates know about our first love, they know about crushes we had on someone, our hurts, our losses, and our successes in school.
Whether it is Port William, Martinsville, Kingman, Jefferson Township, or even Mayberry, everyone enjoys seeing their old classmates and, at least for an hour to two, is happy to relive the past. “It sure doesn’t seem like fifty years has passed, does it?” one person said.
High school reunions take us back to a time and place in our lives, when life was simpler. Perhaps that is why we continue to watch Andy and Barney in Mayberry. Nothing ever changes there. It is a constant. We don’t want our lives to change either. We wish we weren’t growing older. We’d like to remain young and carefree, like we were in high school.
A gentleman my age once said, “As a young man, I always wanted to visit Mayberry and the kind folks in that town. But later in life, I learned that Mayberry is more a place in the heart than it is on the map.”
After the laughter ends, the music stops, and the goodbyes are said, we go about our lives. But about once a year, we gather together to honor our high school days, sing our old school songs, and in the end, become kids again.
Pat Haley is a Clinton County Commissioner.