Monday, September 29, 2014

Reunion Recap Part III

We woke early on Sunday morning after working to clear everything out of the ballroom after midnight the night before. Too excited about the evening to get much sleep, and the bed and pillow were too soft.

We had said we’d try to get together in the lounge between 9:00 and 11:00 in the morning to say our final farewells.

We arrived to find some of the gals had stayed up all night talking. They said they were tired but happy. A few said they’d had a bit too much to drink the night before. (I heard a rumor that a diehard group closed the hotel bar earlier that morning.)

Most everyone was still on a high after all the fun and laughter from the big celebration. And it seemed as though none of us wanted to waste a minute of spending time together. Various groups connected one last time.
We still had one box of AHS t-shirts out of the original four left over, so we took them down and offered them to whoever wanted them. By the end of the morning, we only had a few left. (As of today, I have only one unspoken for and one spoken for out of the approximately 120 sent from the school. They were all XL or XXL, so we figured some would remain. But they were also very nice shirts, so people took advantage of the opportunity to have one.)

Once again, as happened all weekend, our friends took advantage of the opportunity to reconnect to others they might have missed the night before and to spend a bit more time with old friends.

I saw a few I had missed and enjoyed every minute with them. We ordered breakfast, but I ate very little of mine as I spotted additional folks I had to greet.

And still, I missed a few.

The time finally came to clean out the workroom, check out, load the van, and head home. Saying goodbye was bittersweet. We all agreed ten years was far too long to wait to get together again. Some of the grammar school groups and others were already planning for future meetings.

We arrived home exhausted and had hoped to get in a nap, but a couple of classmates who live nearby arrived in the afternoon. Our two out-of-town friends wanted to spend more time with us, and we felt the same way. So before they left, we made plans to tour Mission San Juan Capistrano the following day and have lunch together.

Larry and I always enjoy escorting people around ‘our’ mission. After doing all the research for our book, The Memory Keeper, we have a new appreciation for the history of San Juan Capistrano, and in particular, the mission. While showing the others around, we ran into another out-of-town couple who had decided to extend the reunion into a road trip. On their way south, they decided to stop by the mission.

The reunion continues. Quite a few friends have gotten together following the weekend. We’ve seen several ourselves and enjoyed dinner last Friday night with two of them.

The whole experience has made me ask myself why I let so many years pass without getting together with precious friends. Who do you miss today? Why not give them a call.

Next week: Final special memory snapshots.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Reunion Recap Part II

After over eighteen months of preparation, the evening finally arrived.

We entered the ballroom, and the overall effect was even better than we could have imagined. The school colors of blue and gold were prominent. In the center of each table sat an iconic centerpiece.

Months before, I had posted a photo on Facebook of the small ceramic figurine I had received at the senior luncheon. Some of the grads hadn’t attended and never got one. Most of us who received them still had ours.

Scarlett, the gal who had volunteered to coordinate the decorations, spent months and months sourcing, coordinating molds and samples, ordering, and then sweating over the final delivery of replicas. In addition, she had larger versions made as vases to center the arrangements and as gifts for the committee members. And she preordered color-coordinated flowers for the arrangements.

When it all came together, the completed centerpieces far exceeded our expectations.

As a bonus, the lady who had made the original figurines is still alive. A classmate volunteered to deliver one of the centerpieces and a thank you card, signed by many of the attendees, to her the day following the reunion. She reported the woman was very touched at how we still appreciated her gifts to us after all these years. She read every signature on the card and enjoyed the lovely arrangement.

The evening began with a touching invocation by one of our class members, a greeting by the chair, and introduction of the committee. Unfortunately, a snafu left us without adequate audio, so those at the back of the room were unable to hear.

I was introduced by the chair and presented her with an engraved photo frame as a gift from the committee. Then I was given an amazing bouquet of fifty pink roses. I felt like a pageant winner just holding it. In addition, I received a lovely engraved pendant based on the designs of the Alhambra in Spain, for which our town and school were named.

We enjoyed a fabulous dinner, prepared by Chef Pedro, accompanied by sixties music played by the band.

During the evening, a photographer took portraits, a videographer filmed special moments and interviewed many of us, and our classmates snapped candid shots. And everyone laughed and talked and shared memories. What a joy to see smiles and hugs in all directions. Grammar school friends reunited, and several groups posed for photos together.

Joy permeated the room and spilled out onto the terrace.

During the evening, quite a few of our classmates won terrific prizes, most donated by other class members and the school ASB. In addition, several valuable items were offered for silent auction, including some of the centerpieces.

Each alumni was given a nonwoven bag with the school logo, perfect for groceries, a pocket-sized logo notebook for collecting contact information, one of the little Moor figurines in a padded bag, and their nametag on a lanyard with the school name and logo. The school also gave us over one-hundred large t-shirts with the school name and mascot, so anyone who wanted one took one home.

Despite my best efforts, I discovered I had missed seeing a couple of the people. With over 190 people in attendance, speaking to all of them proved a daunting task, but I did my best!

The measure of an event’s success is how long the attendees remain, and nearly everyone stayed until the band played “Save the Last Dance for Me” just before midnight.

Rumor has it that a group continued the party in the bar until it closed early the next morning.

I had a fabulous time, and the evening was far too short. I hope everyone else enjoyed it as much.

Next week I’ll tell you about the Sunday morning get-together.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Reunion Recap Part I

Last weekend, my high school class (Alhambra High School class of 1964) celebrated our 50th reunion. After working more-than-full-time for a year-and-a-half locating nearly all of the nearly 600 class members, and coordinating with the rest of the committee, all our hard work came to fruition.

After picking up a friend and classmate at the train station at 11:30 on Thursday night, we got to bed around midnight.

Friday morning began at 6:00 when Larry and I left to get the decorations chair for a trip to the wholesale flower mart to pick up our flowers and floral supplies. Before we left home, we loaded the van with about twenty boxes of material to deliver to the hotel along with our floral purchases. Even with the extra-long van, we barely had room for everything and three of us.

After reaching the hotel, we unloaded the van, dropped off the floral designer, and then returned home to shower and change.

We took time for lunch with my friend, who had arrived the night before, at our favorite Mexican restaurant, Olamendi’s in Capistrano Beach. The owners, our neighbor and friend, gave us our fabulous lunch as a birthday gift for me since the actual date had been the previous week. It pays to have wonderful friends!

We loaded the remaining twenty-plus cartons and boxes, plus our own suitcases, once again filling every corner of the van. Then we were on our way back to the hotel where we unloaded the boxes and checked in.

The ‘official’ event began on Friday night with an informal get-together. Estimates of the attendance that night were between 70 and 80. We filled the lounge and spilled over onto the terrace. We didn’t have nametags for this evening, but part of the fun was becoming re-acquainted with old friends. Thank goodness for Facebook! Those of us active on that site had seen current photos of each other making recognition much easier.

This was the time when we could have longer, more in-depth conversations which the big banquet event on Saturday would not allow.

Many hugs and kisses and warm reconnections happened throughout the room. Every face showed a smile. Some people who weren’t good friends in school discovered they now shared common interests. New friendships were born.
We left around ten o’clock to go to bed, but the party continued. I’m not sure exactly when the last of the celebrants finally gave up for the night.
We went to breakfast the next morning to find several of my friends already eating. Once again, we enjoyed conversations and reconnections.

We checked on the team putting together the centerpieces. They had done an amazing job!

We greeted arriving class members in the lobby for a while.Then we went to the banquet room to see to the setup. From that point on, most of the day was spent coordinating with the staff to make sure everything was where it belonged, placing the centerpieces, and other decorations on the tables, arranging the memorabilia and artwork we had brought with us. (Other committee members were in charge of receiving and arranging the material brought by others before and during the banquet.)

Next, we set up the table for registration.

The week before, several committee members had come to our house to assemble the packets and sort them alphabetically. The final count of classmates scheduled to attend was 127, and we prepared several extras for any who arrived the night of the reunion. The final count, with those who were unable to attend plus those who registered at the door, was 126 classmates, for a total of 193 including guests. We nearly packed the twenty tables of ten.

After showering and changing quickly, we returned for the social hour prior to the start of the banquet.

Next week, I’ll talk about all the events of the evening.

Have you ever attended a high school reunion? Did you enjoy it? I certainly enjoyed mine!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Today's Guest is Author Michael Matson

Lorna:  My guest today is Michael Matson, author of the mystery, The Dancing Boy. Michael, what inspired your book?

The book grew out of the scattering of multiple seeds. I wanted to write a mystery in which locations played a significant part. To me this meant British Columbia, Canada, and Western Washington, specifically the islands of the San Juans, areas where I’ve spent a great deal of time and for which I have an enduring fondness.

In addition, I wanted to base the mystery on a social issue that would resonate with the mystery-reading public. Human trafficking is a huge world-wide problem, involving the horrifying exploitation of women, children and males forced into slave-like situations. I decided to use that as the device to propel the story. But which segment of the trafficking would I use? That was decided by the decade-long war in Afghanistan and that country’s abominable practice of using young males for sex.

One aspect of this practice dates back to ancient Greece and perhaps even before that. Pre-pubescent boys were trained as dancers to entertain men and were valued as sexual objects. Although the practice has been reported on and condemned by western countries, it still continues as a cultural anomaly in Afghanistan.

A final inspiration grew from a conversation I once had with an old-time Washington resident about the whiskey smuggling that took place between Canada and the US during the prohibition years. As I said, multiple seeds.

Michael Matson was born in Helena, Montana, and was immediately issued a 10-gallon Stetson and a pair of snakeskin boots. After formative years spent in New Jersey, North Carolina, New York, California, Hawaii and Japan, Michael earned a journalism degree from the University of Washington in Seattle. Following a brief military stint in Oklahoma, where he first encountered red, sticky mud, heavy rain and tarantulas, he returned to Seattle and worked as an advertising agency copywriter, creative director, and video producer.

In 2007 he (regretfully) left Seattle for Mexico to have time to write and has since published The Diamond Tree, a fairytale for all ages; Bareback Rider, an inspirational adventure for children; and Takeshi’s Choice, a mystery novel. His short story, “Gato,” was selected for inclusion in Short Story America’s 2014 anthology. His second mystery novel: The Dancing Boy, was released by Dark Oak Mysteries, a division of Oak Tree Press in April 2014. All of Michael’s books are available at

He lives with his wife María Guadalupe (Tai), in Morelia, the colonial capital city of Michoacán, where, despite all the bad publicity give the area by U.S. news media, he has never seen a narcotraficante. His website is:

Monday, September 1, 2014

Finding Old Friends

A year ago in early March, I inquired on Facebook if anyone had heard about plans for my class’s fiftieth high school reunion this year. No one knew anything, but two days later, I received an email through announcing the date of the reunion: September 6, 2014.
I volunteered to try to account for all of our 600+ class members. This was a particularly challenging undertaking because I started from scratch.
The school was less than helpful. We gave the office the details, but when another classmate called to ask if they had any information about the reunion, she was told the school knew nothing.
Several months later, I talked to the gal who had kept the school’s alumni records for years. When she retired a few years ago, another person took over. When that person died, apparently all the data was lost.
Different people had organized the previous reunions, so we had no continuity within the class itself.
I began with the school’s 1995 directory of the alumni from all classes in the school’s history. They create a new one every ten years, but I didn’t get the 2005 one. In the back, I found a list of the graduates in our class. So I took the first half, Larry took the rest, and we created an Excel spreadsheet. (I couldn’t have done any of this without his support!)
Next, I went through the books we’d received from past reunions, starting with the most recent, and entered the information they contained working from the latest backward. (I had only attended the ten-year and the twenty-year ones, but I had purchased the books from the others.)
My brother had borrowed my annuals previously, so a few weeks later I got them back. In the front was pure gold: our graduation program. It contained everyone’s middle names. This allowed us to narrow down the possibilities.

By this time, several people had volunteered to make phone calls, and a couple of others said they’d help locate people. After I received new data, I entered it and sent out the updated spreadsheet.

As we contacted people, starting with those we knew. We asked for and received information on others, and they were added to the database.
But what about the rest? Fortunately, I already had an account with for my own family research. That helped a lot with the gals. I tracked some of them through four or more marriages, but I was usually able to find their current names and then look them up.

Where? was a good source. So was I paid to join the latter because their listings showed email addresses. (Many of them were wrong, including my own, but we contacted a few this way.) Another of our ‘sleuths’ used I finally subscribed to because it allowed me to search by age. It also showed the addresses from most recent to oldest. This and Ancestry were the best sources I found. (Keep in mind, we only used public records. We had no access to any hidden private information.)

I already had a paid account with I sent many, many requests through this site, and some were responded to.

A month or so into our search, the gal who had helped organize our last reunion contacted us. That one combined four classes. An outside company did the planning, and she still had their contact list for our class, which she provided to us. It contained some helpful data, but even by that time, we were aware they had many names, addresses, and other information completely wrong.

Unfortunately, we also discovered that many of our classmates had died in the intervening years. As of today, ninety-three of them. We created a website for our class ( including a page devoted to those who have passed.
Of course, the last ten percent of our peers required the greatest effort. We explored relatives (siblings, cousins, children, ex-spouses, etc.) as well as neighbors and others. We ‘googled’ them, and found them listed in various places, including in the obituaries of relatives. We looked on,,, etc. We created a class group on Facebook where we exchanged lots of information. Today, over 160 of the members of our class are on that site, and we’ll keep the group going long after next weekend.

Today, just a few days prior to the reunion, we have located all but thirteen people. (We even found our two foreign exchange students. Unfortunately, both of them have passed away, but at least we know what happened to them.) Of those last few, we have addresses for more than half. We’ve sent several letters. They were not returned, but we haven’t heard from them either. Nevertheless, we believe they’ve received word about the event. Only about one percent are truly ‘lost.’

At the beginning, we were told we’d be lucky to find twenty percent after fifty years. As of today, we’re down to just over two percent.

The private detective in the class keeps saying he’d like to hire me. While I’ve enjoyed the process, I think I’ll go back to writing and editing!