Memories light the corners of our minds

Published 9:16 am Wednesday, September 1, 2010

by Patricia Gray Diamond

You know an event is going to be something special when a formed committee meets for over a year to prepare for it.

You know an event is going to be something unique when it includes a 10-year span of people to create it.

You know an event was a success when those same people talk about it for days afterward and will continue to talk about it for months to come — maybe even until the next such one occurs.

Ah… the Franklin/Haden High School Mega Reunion. We all imagined whom we might see and what changes that passing time might have brought to each and every one. We were not to be disappointed.

Franklin, like so many small American cities, is a close-knit community, even with all of its diversity. One thing that has always been in the center of most gatherings, both social and political, is the paper mill.

Union Bag Camp, or International Paper as it has been of late, offered the city not only jobs to keep prosperity in the area, but always had been one of, if not the biggest, contributor to any event. No one, and that means no one, ever lived in the Franklin/Southampton area without being affected in one way or another by the paper mill.

Most know the familiar saying, “What’s that awful smell? Why, it’s the smell of money!”

It was a profound moment I am sure for many returning Franklin and Hayden high school alumni to drive into the area and not see on the not-so-distant horizon the smoke coming from the towering stacks of the paper mill. That was not the only noticeable difference.

To me this was reflected the first evening of our reunion as we gathered at Fred’s restaurant to meet and greet in the clear, clean and odorless air all around.

As darkness settled over the gradually increasing crowd, one sound was heard throughout — on the patio, on Main Street and inside Fred’s. It became, to a lot of us, the mega sound of the Mega Reunion; the squealing laughter of one of our group catching that first glimpse of a friend not seen in, and this is no exaggeration, 40 years.

This sound was coming from the ladies, but there was a rising crescendo of voices, both male and female, as we happily went about the business of reacquainting with friends, classmates and teachers.

And, let us not forget the sounds coming from the band inside — Hogbear. Playing music that magically took all of us back to not only the 1970s, but to many other memorable parties and late nights packed like sardines into the very same place, Fred’s.

As the night moved along, we danced almost as one on the limited space of the dance floor, some taking their moves onto the patio and others all over the dining room as the band played on.

It seems with the passing of the years, that the more things change the more they stay the same. The Mega Reunion began like an opening night in Hollywood or New York City with the flashing of camera lights, lines of guests waiting to check in and a white limousine pulling up letting out a group of our very own FHS stars.

The crowd grew ever larger and ever louder as one by one we managed or tried to manage to see the friends of our past, looking through the crowd, not recognizing all the faces. When we did find that particular person that we remembered from biology or Spanish class, we realized that magically they had not gotten any older.

How many stories were told of school days, how many memories of dances, football games, baseball and basketball championships and classrooms filled with learning and laughter? We talked of families, past and present, children, and yes, grandchildren.

Shared dreams that had come true for some, and for many that had changed over the years, but nevertheless, we proudly proclaimed. Mainly this time for myself gave way to a reflection of the moving time that at once seemed so long ago yet so close.

Proudly for the class of 1975, they had the largest number in attendance. Just as when we attended school this class — my class — always seemed to come in first in whatever we did. Looking back we remember the Junior/Senior Girls Football game, which we won both years. The school spirit from this class could never be topped, and friendships never ended.

Sadly, this class of 1975 had the most deceased members. It was a poignant moment for many as we moved along the memorial in the hallway of the Workforce Center, where the senior portraits of those lost were displayed. Here, our voices took on a new note, a quiet and sad reverberation echoing the now silent voices. They are missed.

We may joke now as one of my own friends and I did, that we will come together again even if we have to hold onto our canes and walkers, but we are sincere in that belief. We will come together again.

I have a good feeling that when this happens, in the not so distant future, we will once more share the lovely memories that light the corners of our minds.

PATRICIA GRAY DIAMOND of Dublin published her first book last year. “If These Walls Could Talk” was  released through Publish America. She was born and raised in Southampton County. Her website is and e-mail is