A Case of the Human Condition: You Can’t Go Home Again . . . Oh, But You Can

The entrance to Birmingham High School, now Seaholm, looks pretty much as it always has. Photo by BF Newhall

The entrance to Birmingham High School, now Seaholm, looks pretty much as it always has. A nice example of mid-century modern architecture? Photos by B.F. Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

It turns out that, yes, you can go home again. If you’re me, that is. All I had to do was show up for my high school class reunion and there I was, back in Birmingham, Michigan, circa 1959.

Last weekend (after two weeks in Greece with Jon and the kids – more about that later) I flew to Birmingham and was transported through time – fifty years – to a place and an era and bunch of people that I thought had vanished.

Except they hadn’t. The community that has existed in my mind these past fifty years turned out to be a fact, not just a memory. Last weekend, 125 out of a class of 500 or so got together for two days. It had been five decades, but we still knew who we were and that we had shared some vital – if sometimes painful – years together.

Jan Heideman was still pretty. Jewel Ofenstein still smiled the same sweet, wry smile. Jim Griffin still had freckles. Bob Lovell was as affectionate and confident as ever. Linda Burkman still cared about everybody. Penny Ball still played the piano. Karel McCurry was still my friend.

My friend Karel McCurry Howse in front of her old house on Yarmouth in Birmingham. photo by BF Newhall

My friend Karel McCurry Howse lived in this elegant house on Yarmouth in Birmingham

On Saturday morning, our old school opened its doors to us for a tour. This gave dozens of the class of ’59 a chance to walk the halls — the same ones we used to walk a half century ago, saying “hi” to each other as we passed from algebra to chemistry to the cafeteria, hoping against hope that our classmates would say “hi” back.

Mary Lester, Bill Montgomery, Margo Mensing – names as familiar to me as those of my next door neighbors today. No. More familiar. (To tell the truth, I have to pause a moment to remember the names of the people who inhabit my life these days. But the class of ’59? Their names are imprinted deep in my gray matter.)

I can still remember the the faces, the voices, the personalities of most of my old Birmingham High School (since renamed Seaholm High School) classmates. Sue Little, who sang with me in the First Presbyterian Church girls choir. Pat Hovey, who beat me out for “Best Smile” in our senior year elections. Jan Cadwell, who talked me into skipping school with her one spring day – and made sure we got away with it. Ann Graham and Gordy Fox, who reconnected with each other at our tenth reunion, got married, and all these years later, went to a lot of trouble to organize our fiftieth reunion.

house on Jackson Park Drive on the outskirts of Birmingham. Photo by BF Newhall

This was my family's house on Jackson Park Drive on the outskirts of Birmingham. My dad planted a lot of trees, which makes for a lots of shade for the present owners.

Thanks Ann and Gordy and everyone else who put this weekend together. With any luck at all, we’ll see each other again in 2019.

More pictures of what’s now called Seaholm High School at “Birmingham High School and Then Some.” 



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