Three weeks ago, I and 12 of my schoolmates from Napa (Union) High School reunited for a luncheon at the Napa Elks Lodge. We did the same thing last year and are planning on doing it again next year.
Attendance at this year’s luncheon was one less than last year because Lew Allen, one of our members, had passed on. Some of us were jokingly wondering how many of the group will be physically able to attend the get-together next year. (When you are of an advanced age, you can joke about things like that.)
When I was younger, I was amused at how senior citizens openly discussed their aches, pains, operations, etc., when they got together. It seemed that part of the advanced aging process was to compare physical and mental problems with each other. Now, I and my contemporaries are doing that very same thing and we did it at the luncheon.
Of the 13 present for lunch and camaraderie, one graduated from Napa High in 1945, one in 1947, seven in 1948 (my year) and four in 1949. All had participated in athletics as Napa High Indians.
The ages ranged from 84 to 88 and all were retired after successful and varied careers. The average education was around 16 years.
Three were widowers after lengthy marriages and the other 10 have been married for at least 55 years to the same spouse. One of them just celebrated 67 years of marriage. Several were great-grandparents.
Until a few years ago, most were golfers who gathered at Paul Cassayre’s cabin in Lake County for three days of golf every summer. Advancing age of the participants in that all-male golf outing caused that to come to an end three years ago. Of those present at this luncheon, only three still play golf.
Ten of us live in Napa and have kept in touch over the years while, of the three out-of-towners, one drove to our luncheon from Redding, one from Saratoga and the other from Reno.
Noted TV commentator Tom Brokaw authored a book titled “The Greatest Generation” in which he wrote of a generation of Americans who survived the Great Depression, came of age defending our country during World War II and worked hard to rebuild America after the war.
Only one of the lunch attendees was of military age at the end of the war, and he served post-hostilities, while the others were teenagers at the war’s end. However, while we did not serve in the military during the war, we all did our part in the war effort by picking up the slack in the labor market due to adult males away in the military forces, by buying war bonds, conserving precious resources and in many other patriotic ways.
Our age group was on the cusp of Brokaw’s Greatest Generation so, because of our wartime involvement, we informally decided at the luncheon that we were, in fact, part of that August group.
The majority of our group served in the military later.
All of us have retired from anything that earns a salary but are still active citizens in one way or another.
Those in attendance were, by Napa High graduation year:
1945: Harold Halterman, retired steel manufacturing executive.
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1947: Frank Burrell, retired steel fabrication superintendent.
1948: Don Brown, Redding, retired high school history teacher.
Charles Carlson, Reno, retired U.S. Air Force officer, attorney.
Paul Cassayre, semi-retired structural engineer.
Lee Chesnutt, retired real estate and insurance broker.
Darrell Dukes, Saratoga California, retired insurance broker.
Jim Ford, retired U.S. Army officer, business executive.
Paul Miller, retired Napa Fire Department battalion chief.
1949: Bob Burrell, retired U.S. Postal Service executive.
Bruce Cassayre, retired insurance broker.
Cliff Nelson, retired Mare Island Naval Shipyard supervisor.
Don Townsend, retired Napa County deputy sheriff and security officer.
Other than being long in the tooth, the one thing that the entire group has in common is graduation from Napa Union High School. When we get together, most of the conversation is about those years and the times we had together 70 or so years ago — and still have today.
I am proud of my old friends and their accomplishments.
Napa High, you did a good job.