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article imagePortland, Oregon Celebrates Movie-Like, 50th High School Reunion Special

By Carol Forsloff     Sep 26, 2009 in Lifestyle
Fall news of most cities in the United States includes stories about going back to school. Newspapers also write about reunions, virtually institutionalized in America, with none more anticipated than those who are around for their 50th.
Portland’s September brought high school reunions across the city. One of them focused on an all-girls high school that no longer exists except in the memories of those who graduated years ago. This high school has gone through some changes, just like those who left its hallways for work , college and marriage. It is now a school for the performing arts, mostly for girls again; but the name is gone and only pops up at reunions or annual meetings.
Girls Polytechnic High School was at one time a technical school for girls who were trained to work in the demand occupations of the 1940’s and 50’s. These included dental assistant, food service, sewing, secretarial science, practical nursing and business distributor education. Those who didn’t plan to go onto college chose Girls Poly as it was affectionately abbreviated because there were few courses designed to prepare students for continuing on past high school. Those whose parents moved a lot also went to Girls Poly. Then there were those girls who for a host of other reasons chose to go to school with only girls.
This year a 50th reunion brought 37 girls to the Monarch Hotel in Clackamas County, Oregon, one of the three counties that encompass sections of the Portland area. They came from many places, although mostly from Oregon. Some arrived from as far away as Maryland and Louisiana. But they all came with the recognition that this was an important occasion, as everyone said who made the journey from home to the hotel in late September.
I went to that high school and remember it well. I was one of the graduates of 1959. As the writer of the class, I had chronicled class experiences for the yearbook and documented what the girls had done in school 50 years ago. At the reunion I saw them again, most after five decades since I have lived so far from Portland that it was difficult to attend before. I was there, however, at our 40th. I went this year with the same level of anticipation and joy my old friends acknowledged they had felt as they arrived to join former classmates for a very special time.
Reunions are times, experts say, that are filled with a variety of emotions. In fact one writer said they are more fun than the movies. The laughing, crying and high drama described as part of the process of reunion, especially after 50 years, were the emotions played out during a two-day marathon of activities where the girls of Girls Poly from 1959 told stories about long ago days, giggled over secrets as they reflected upon old friendships and reestablished new ones. They mourned the eight classmates who had died and the 24 who couldn’t be found. Out of a class of 76 who graduated in 1959, 37 attended, some with spouses and some without. After subtraction of those not found or deceased class members, 37 was a high attendance. That’s because, as some girls said, the school class had been small and intimate enough for girls to get to know each other well and now relish their memories.
The American Beauties stood together with the Tom Boy.
American Beauties and Tom Boys
Every class has some of both, American beauties and tom boys too. That was true at high school reunions in Portland this year.
Carol Forsloff
The Class President chaired the occasion.
Dellphine Renfro Taylor  Class President  1959
The Class President continues to be the central person in getting girls together for regular reunions, as often happens with graduating classes across the country.
Carol Forsloff
The Brain, Miss Congeniality, and Miss Popularity and others arrived to laugh, chide, and joke about the events they had shared growing up in adolescence. They took turns talking about how much they valued those high school year and how the years had fallen away as they looked at old friends even as time had made dramatic changes in their lives.
The highlight of the evening was a dramatization/monologue given by Alice Faye Warren, the class Drama Queen, a talented woman folks remembered because of her stunning singing voice.
The Drama Queen
Allice Faye Warren is a woman of great talent, now living in the State of Maryland where she uses her acting skills ministering to others. At a high school reunion in Portland, Oregon she played the role of Sojourner Truth in the monologue "Ain't I a Woman."
Carol Forsloff
This night she portrayed Sojourner Truth, complete with the trappings of the slave, in a performance that her classmates gave a standing ovation.
At this 50th reunion these girls and their other classmates had five decades to wonder and worry about this significant 50 year reunion. These were girls who had gone through the major shifts of the 1960’s, the sexual revolution of the 1970’s, the Me-First, Head-First Days of the decade of the 80’s and the winding down from the nineties in preparation for retirement. They came together in 2009 as the country had changed again, expressing to each other not the political issues but the deeply personal ones that had affected individual lives.
I was there celebrating with them and chronicling something in American tradition that happens annually each fall, that occurs over decades, at different schools everywhere. For many people, like the girls of Girls Poly expressed at their 50th reunion, the occasions of reunions are part of growing up and growing older, a time to look and reach back as the girls of Girls Poly had done. Those who were there at the reunion said it was more than just a personal event but a restatement for everyone about how special it can be to find once again what experts say really matters as we go through life, what everyone says makes the difference, especially as we age. And that’s relationships, never more fully realized than during school years remembered.
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