School reunion organisation

27 09 2021

I’ve been very lax in blogging for the past few months. I lost my quilting mojo about 12 months ago and it hasn’t come back—it will, but just not yet. My blogging mojo has disappeared too.

Meantime, I’ve been involved in organising a [very big scary number] reunion of those I graduated high school with. Since May, I’ve spent many hundreds of hours searching for and chasing down people (our only other previous reunion was before the internet!), setting up and managing a private Facebook group, sending out emails, etc. Neither the school nor the state education department nor the state library/archives seem to have any record of our class lists, and except for the previous reunion a long time ago, we had no idea of name changes for the females when they married, and just a few lists from that reunion, our old school magazines, and our memories to go on. Unlike some schools, we don’t have any sort of alumni association or central location where information is kept, so a lot of sleuthing has been happening.

We’re getting to the pointy end now, with the reunion scheduled to happen in just under 4 weeks’ time (COVID permitting).

I crunched some numbers today and this is what we have so far:

  • ~170 ex students on our lists, 10 of whom we know have died, so ~160 possible attendees at the reunion, of whom we have contact details for 83. We’ve ‘lost’ some 77 in the past [scary number] decades and have no contact details for them. We’ve reached out to some who we’ve found via internet searches using Facebook, LinkedIn, possible relatives, text messages, etc. but have received no reply – and that’s OK because school wasn’t a good place for many.
  • Of those 83 possible attendees, we know that 17 definitely can’t or won’t attend because they’re overseas, interstate, have other commitments, or don’t want to come, so that leaves us with 66 possibles.
  • Of those 66 possibles, 42 have indicated they will attend (+ 3 teachers); we haven’t received RSVPs from the other 24 as yet.
  • We’ve now received 30 brief bios for the yearbook from the 83 possibles (except for [name]’s bio, which is NOT brief đŸ™‚ but he’s had such a fascinating life we’ve included most of it). Each bio takes between 15 minutes and an hour to edit, add to the yearbook, crop and add photos, etc. 
  • We’ve added headshot photos to the yearbook for many — some have been sent to us by the owners of the photos, some of the older ones we’ve grabbed from the old school magazines where people didn’t have a photo of themselves from way back when, some we’ve found on Facebook, LinkedIn, or other public internet sites. Everyone looks fantastic! Some are really recognisable as just slightly older versions of their school selves, while others are ‘Wow! Is that really xxxx?’

Looking at those numbers, I’m impressed that of the 66 possibles, already 42 have replied that they’re attending. It will be a very informal event, just 2.5 hours in a bar/restaurant  that’s opening especially for us. We’ll have a couple of speeches from the head boy and head girl early on, and then it will be a gabfest đŸ™‚ I’ll be sending out the first edition of the yearbook the week prior so people can read up on others before the event, if they wish. Then, if we get further bios plus photos from the event, we’ll likely add those to a 2nd edition to be sent out a few weeks later.

It’s been fun and has drawn out a lot of my own memories—I’ve even created a playlist of well over 350 songs from my teen years!

(One other thing: Considering how many years have passed, our ‘death rate’ is very low—we know 10 of the 170 have died, though there may be more, which is just 6% of our cohort. I was checking on the whereabouts of an American exchange student we hosted that year who was from Seattle, and her high school’s reunion page for the same year lists some 150 students, of whom more than 50 (~35%) have died.)