Several class members recently talked about memories from a May 18, 1977, Led Zeppelin concert in Birmingham and wondered if they could make a "field trip" to an upcoming one-time comeback concert in London. "I think I paid $11.75 to see them in Birmingham. I went with Vic Camp and Scott Strider," wrote Greg Screws.
HIGH SCHOOL REUNION PREP
CLASS OF 1977
Morgan County High classmates get reaquainted in online group
By Patrice Stewart
firstname.lastname@example.org · 340-2446
They plan to get together in their old school building next month, but the real reunion for members of the Morgan County High School Class of 1977 began four years ago.
That's when they started sharing the joys and sorrows of middle age through an online Yahoo group.
Reading their messages to fellow class members is a look into the world of those 47 to 49 and facing 50. They share word of grandchildren's births and their own birthdays and anniversaries, along with new jobs, hometown ball game scores and family houses for sale.
Sharing good news, such as a husband back from Baghdad, is important to this group. One wrote that she had found herself a good man.
Then they tell each other of life's sad events: cancer and other illnesses striking classmates and relatives; the care of aging parents; deaths in their families; and struggles with wayward children.
And when disaster strikes, such as hurricanes and the bridge collapse in Minnesota, they check on each other and their family members in that area.
The result is closer relationships than they had in high school for many of them. Just over half of those who graduated with this 223-member class participate in the Yahoo group.
The school changed during the past 30 years, with some buildings torn down, new ones added, plenty of renovations and a name change. Morgan County High School was renamed Hartselle High School a year or two after this class graduated. Their 30-year reunion at 7 p.m. on Oct. 6 will be in the cafeteria they ate in, but those who have not seen the school in years were warned they might not recognize it.
Those who have participated in the Yahoo Group, however, should recognize their classmates, because the site, accessible by user name and password, includes photos and plenty of information.
Mark Hill, who was class president for 1976-77, lives in Hartselle and works as a pharmacist at Kroger in Decatur, recalled that he was surfing the Web one night four years ago when classmate George Carden instant-messaged him to ask for class members' e-mail addresses so he could set up a Yahoo Group.
"He lives in Minnesota, and now he is one of the top five people I talk to from my class, whether by phone, e-mail or instant message," said Hill, who bumps into others around the county.
Hill admitted that at first, he was a bit anxious about the idea because it can take time and because he doesn't like to put personal information on the Web. A password is required to get into this group, however, "and I like being able to contact old friends. I probably wouldn't write a letter, but I will drop an e-mail. I hear back almost instantly, and it doesn't cost postage."
A group message will go out to the entire class group, but you can also direct a private e-mail to one class member, Hill said.
"I think, since it's been 30 years since graduation, we are more sympathetic than we were at 18, and people talk about pretty private things — chemotherapy treatments, problems with children, sick parents," he said.
"At 18, you're just worried about your friends, whether people like you and what to wear. When you get close to 50, you realize all that doesn't matter — it's relationships that are important," Hill said.
He said everyone has their old memories of high school, but reading others' posts to this online group can help you realize that people change.
"They're not worried about how fast their car will go and who they saw at Dairy Queen and who didn't talk to them in the hall any more, but health and other concerns," he said.
The key to making such an online group work "is to have somebody like George Carden who can use a computer and track people down and has a fondness for the group," said Hill.
"He was a radio nerd and into music in high school and wasn't one of the in crowd, but as the years went by, he has turned into one of the leaders of the class."
Carden, now a reporter for a national Christian radio network, said he enjoys helping out by making sure e-mail addresses stay accurate, setting up annual birthday and anniversary notices, and adding old photos and new ones of class members and families. He posts articles from The Decatur Daily, too, whether it's a story on classmate Jeff Johnson growing 8-foot tomatoes or obituary notices or football scores.
While the class had 5-, 10- and 20-year reunions, he thinks having the class group online makes planning this reunion easier.
A few years ago he polled the class on favorite songs from 1977 and sent them out. They'll play that music at the reunion. The top 10 are "Sweet Home Alabama," "Tequila Sunrise," "Freebird," "Smoke on the Water," "That's the Way I Like It," "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," "Taking Care of Business," "Walk This Way," "Dream On" and "Time in a Bottle."
Carden also ran a poll on what classmates like and dislike about the group "and found we have a lot of lurkers — that's people who like to like to read what others write but don't like to post anything themselves." Only six or seven have left the group over the years.
His most embarrassing moment as group facilitator was when he forgot to take off the automatic "Happy anniversary" notice and one went out when it was no longer appropriate.
Class member Benita Cobbs said the online group "has been really fun, and I've made some new friends. You knew them in school, but some were shy, so you didn't really know them."
It's also helped to get fast information on deaths of classmates and family members, so she can go to the funeral home or send a card.
While she lives and works in Decatur for the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, she doesn't see many class members.
"That's what has amazed me about this Web group. I didn't realize so many were still around this area until George started this, because I rarely run into them," she said.
Carden said he also got reacquainted with classmates he didn't know in school.
"We have become like family through this group, and I think we feel like we really care about each other," said Carden.
"As we've torn down walls — perhaps because it's e-mail and not eye-to-eye and that loosens inhibitions — we've gotten rid of shyness and been able to open up and comfort each other."
About the reunion
The 30-year reunion for the Class of 1977 of the former Morgan County High School in Hartselle will be Oct. 6 in the Hartselle High School (former MCHS) cafeteria at 7 p.m. No fees will be charged to attend.
For details, go to the class Web site at www.MCHS1977.notlong.com. Contact class president Mark Hill of Hartselle by phone, 773-5915, or e-mail him at email@example.com or class Yahoo group moderator George Carden at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are some “lost” classmates from the Morgan County High Class of 1977 for whom reunion organizers need correct mail and e-mail addresses. Relatives or friends should contact one of those listed above if they have any information on these classmates: Diane Draper Nelson, Roger Hill, Anita Gulley Hill, Steve Howard, Billy Lawrence, Joe Lingle, Susan Lott Hilderbrand, Phillip Miller, Mary Ann Prater, Donna Risberg Johnson, Beth Sammons and Jeff Watts.
Keeping in touch online
Want your class or other group to keep in touch?
There are several ways to do this using computer technology.
Some classes have their own Web sites, especially when it’s reunion time. Go online and take a look at this sampling:
www. mchs1977. notlong. com for the Morgan County High Class of 1977
www. decaturhigh1987. classquest. com for the Decatur High School Class of 1987 reunion web site
www. 87ahsreunion. com for the Austin High School Class of 1987 reunion web site
Interactive Yahoo Groups to keep in touch are recommended by George Carden, who set up and moderate the one for the Morgan County High School Class of 1977.
He started by using www. classmates. com as a resource to help get the word out, but there is a fee involved with that site, while Yahoo Groups is free to use.
“It’s easy to set it up,” he said, but it takes time. “The hard part is rounding up the e-mail addresses of classmates to add.”
Carden, who lives in Minnesota and works from a home office, decided to try and find some old classmates online. He then involved about five in trying to find others’ e-mail addresses and find out if they wanted to join. They brought in others and the group grew as the word spread. It started in 2003 and now includes more than half the class.
“There are a lot of sites that do this, with various pros and cons, but I like Yahoo Groups (groups.yahoo.com) because they are easier to set up,” he said. “It takes time to build it up, but it’s been a lot of fun.”
It also makes reunion planning easier and cheaper, because many classmates can be reached by e-mail, saving the cost of postage and printing so many letters. The 1975 Class of Morgan County High also has a Yahoo Group, Carden said.
Thoughts through e-mail
Quotes from the Class of 1977 at Morgan County High School, shared via the Internet:
One class member wrote these lines of comfort to others going through difficult days:
“God’s power has been seen through the prayer request lists of our class. We’ve all had some sort of problem/situation where we needed the love and support of this group. This ‘1977 Tiger Team’ has a direct line to God, and I’m sure you’re in most of our prayers — I know you’re in mine.” Another wrote, “This is one thing that I especially like about our Web site — that we can post our prayer needs and have our classmates from all over the country pray for us.”
Another, on hearing that a classmate’s husband had arrived home safely from Iraq, wrote:
“We are thankful to him and all of the men and women who are serving in the military to give us the freedoms that so many take for granted.”
Even the weather is a class topic. However, George Carden, who lives in Minnesota and lounged in 80-degree August temperatures, refrained from boasting about them during Alabama’s series of 100-degree days. “I can’t imagine how awful the heat, humidity and drought are down there. Prayin’ for you folks,” he wrote.
Not everyone is enamored about staying in touch with high-school classmates. One who does not plan to attend the reunion wrote, “Have fun and catch up on old times. I know a lot of you have a great history and catching up will be a blast for you. Some of us didn’t have that, so being there would have been more awkward than enjoyable. I’m too old for little cliques, and being there and listening to the memories would probably hurt more now than when I was in school and not a part of it.”
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