Thursday, July 14, 2011

Vacations and the Germ of an Idea

Well, managed to get away for a week and resisted the temptation to do a blow by blow of our RV trip  from Southern Indiana to Destin, Florida and provide income for every house burglar in Evansville. We had to travel with Missy the Little Black Dog (who was feeling poorly but recuperating. We just couldn't kennel her, and I think it paid off. She's back to herself, for better or worse). But after a hot, steamy almost intolerable time in Florida with stops in Alabama to visit family and friends, we're back, hot on the trail. Never thought I'd be a Winnebago guy, but it's growing on me. I guess it's part of being a Hoosier. It's also got great A/C, a necessity this summer for both us and Missy.

Since we don't have a copy of the entire database, we're starting from scratch because we believe that the reason that reunion attendance is so low is because you only know what you know if you don't look. Every time someone moves or changes email or phone number and doesn't contact the committee, you know less, and so it goes for 44 years. If you look, you find. If you don't you don't. It's the law of diminishing returns. But as our experience in Evansville has shown, it doesn't have to be that way. It's entirely reasonable to get a 30 percent classmate turnout, plus guests. For Evansville, that was 180 people, 110 classmates out of a class of 360. For WVHS, if you used the same logic, and I'm not saying this is real, that would be 200 grads plus guests.

So we start from the yearbook as the ultimate authority, and of course, we take care to include those who were unable to get photos taken, and those who passed before they graduated. Ultimately, we may end up including travelers from classes immediately before and immediately after as they are suggested. We will start with an unbiased look, using all the means at our disposal. That includes Facebook, and all the other people based search engines that are now available.

So what do we do with the database? First we tell everyone to look at the class reunion website and encourage them to go as we're finding and confirming folks. Next, we make it available to the Reunion Committee so they have a better contact list. Next, we contact all these people and ask them if they'd be interested in a BIG directory showing high school pictures, current pictures, current contact information that they'd like to share (VOLUNTARY) so that people that want to can get in touch with them. Once the thing is constructed, we will find out if people want it on disk as a PDF file, as a download, online or what. The cost would be whatever it costs for the distribution media. This is part of my class contribution, and as I've mentioned before, my penance for not having been more involved over the years. Finally, we have great conversations about old times and possible leads for others not yet contacted.

I've run this idea past some of the people we've located and others I've contacted among my own modest circle of friends and it has received an enthusiastic response, so let me know what you think. I'll probably be contacting you to see if you'd like to be included.

I also want to make it clear that this effort does not detract from what has been done, what continues to be done and what will be done in the future. It is supplemental, so that the existing reunion website does not have to serve multiple masters.

In the meanwhile, I called Larry DeLuca, out by Lake Hopatcong (where my late first father-in-law used to live) and we had a great old time chatting. Larry and I spent many hours playing music together through all the all school productions, upper classmate graduations, GAA shows. It was a good conversation, like all those I've had with folks, some "lost", some not, and to me, the reconnection after a good long while is therapeutic, reaffirming, and spiritually fulfilling. I suppose part of it is the knowledge that your memories are not self delusional, that others confirm and share your memories. Part of it is knowing that for most people, those years were one great time.

So one of my first steps is to find everyone that I can on Facebook. We'll just move along from there. Thus far, the search has been disjointed, starting with the lost only, then discovering that some of the known wasn't (unfortunately passed on) and then working from the 30th reunion directory and then the 40th, and the overall view was disconnected. We needed a framework upon which to hang the details we were finding to see if it all made sense. I said "Start from the beginning. Start from the yearbook."

Remember, the goal is to speak with everyone who is still capable of speech. That is the true confirmation of identity and location. It is achievable, and if anyone knows anything about any of the people who are listed as lost, or who knows that someone is mislocated as to state of residence as listed on the reunion website, let us know. I'm not saying we'll be 100% successful. At least we can say we did everything in our power to try, and that no one can say we weren't trying to be inclusive in the attempt. And we can also say that we try to keep things up to date as well.

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