It was a typical high school reunion in a way, but for me it was a reunion of my present with my past. It was an eventful weekend for me spiritually.
I’m a proud graduate of Meadows Valley High School in New Meadows, Idaho. My class of 22 students in 1988 was the largest graduating class for years (my brother’s graduating class from that school was just 6 people). It is a tiny rural school district where Kindergarten through 12th grade is in one building. The teachers were outstanding and supportive, and I have to say that attending school there was one of the best experiences of my life. I could go on and on to list the unexpected opportunities the staff created for us there, and the unwavering support from the community, but that would take up too much space and I want to talk about my weekend.
An all-class reunion was planned. It’s a typical thing for small schools: invite everybody that ever graduated, in order to make it worth the effort. A few of the old classmates I messaged beforehand weren’t going to make it because they had just been there for the funeral of our former lunch lady. Yes, back then all our school lunches were homemade and served by women who loved us. We loved them back. Anyway, I worried that people I knew well might not show up.
As I was parking my car, the music teacher arrived, spotted me through the windshields, and waved enthusiastically. After we got out of our cars I called across the parking lot to him, “How did you know it was me?” He replied, “Because you look exactly the same!” was his complimentary answer.
Also at the same time, one of my class of ’88 classmates walked out to the lot to her car. We all hugged and said hello. Another woman parked and began talking to us. I could tell the visit was momentous for her, too. She was a graduate when this school was brand new, in the 1950s, and recalled attending school prior to that in the nearby town of Meadows. (New Meadows came into being when the railroad was built 2 1/2 miles to the west of the original town.)
Another classmate joined us. She is currently a teacher at the school. “Look at this,” she said, pointing out covered disks in the floor. She explained they were all the outlets for the typewriting classroom, that hadn’t been updated yet, though electric typewriters were a relic from the past. As you can guess, the teachers each took on multiple roles. The science teacher taught biology, chemistry, life science, physics, etc. The math teacher taught geometry, algebra I and II, trigonometry, etc. The German teacher, a lovely woman from Germany, also taught American History and Government. We had exchange students from Germany every other year, and I recall that when they attended our civics classes, they would often be the ones explaining things to us about our own government.
One of the people from my class had brought all her photo mementos from high school, and I happily took photos of the photos for myself. Those are the ones you see above, from my high school days.
Soon it was over and we dispersed. One of my old classmates invited some of us to come over and visit, which is kind. But I had not yet explored the town. It was my first time there in ever so long, and I needed to reminisce. My first stop was the old train depot – the one I mentioned above that caused the town to be reformed as New Meadows. It has been undergoing renovation, which is wonderful, because it’s one of only about four truly historic and remarkable buildings in the small town.
I left my car parked near the depot and walked on one side of the highway all the way to the end of the town. I crossed Highway 95 (the only north-south highway that stretches the length of Idaho) and walked all the way back to my car. I was walking very slowly and taking pictures. It took me about 30 minutes. The entire town is four blocks long.
What delighted me the most were the things I could remember, which means that the things I loved the best were derelict buildings that had been untouched for 30 years.
The photo above shows the post office on the right, absolutely unchanged since I was a kid. It also shows a guy who had just come down Highway 95 (that’s the paved road on the left) on his lawnmower, and turned onto a side street. At the same time, a guy came up the side street on his four-wheeler, and waited for traffic before pulling onto the highway. For some reason, while I explored the town, I passed four different quads and one John Deer tractor (pictured above), carrying local residents around town. Maybe those folks are maximizing fuel efficiency? Apparently in New Meadows, it’s a thing to ride your quad to the store.
Next I got into my Jeep and drove the dirt streets, up one and down the next. Crawling along, having waves of memories crash over me. Obviously I had to visit my old house first.
My boyfriend would throw tiny rocks at that window when he wanted me to come out. The exterior is much changed, due to the house being converted into a restaurant for a time. An enormous weeping birch tree used to be the crown jewel of the front yard, but it is gone and so is the largest juniper tree I ever saw, which grew beside the front door. Possibly tree removal was to make room for the deck you see, that did not exist when I lived there. The shop to the left I recall as being gigantic, but it looks small to me now. There was a little wood stove inside, and my Pa would get it cooking in there and even when it was 10 degrees below zero outside, it was T-shirt weather inside the shop while I watched my dad work.
After staring at my old home, and taking as many photos as I thought was prudent before I would begin to raise the alarm of someone in the neighborhood (or even in the house), I decided that I had seen enough.
New Meadows is one of those rare instances where the town really hasn’t changed much in 30 years. The population was 576 when we moved there, it rose to 603 while I lived here, and the 2020 census counted 517 people. Those numbers don’t tell the story I felt in my heart though. It had changed so much to my eyes. I was feeling melancholy and decided to drive 9 miles up the winding canyon road to the “big city” of McCall, Idaho.
14 thoughts on “Reunion”
Wado for sharing your wonderful memories with us! – David
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Glad you enjoyed traveling to Idaho with me, David.
I’ve never even been to Idaho, but I often see beautiful photos of this part of the state because I follow a blog by a photographer and cyclist who lives (part of the year) in McCall. Do you know him or his blog, by any chance? https://davefaitlemonde.com/
I do not know that blog or the blogger, but I took a quick look and the titles of all his posts are very fun for me. I recognize the place names of every single one. I climbed all over those hills, took snowmobiles across those meadows buried in snow, fished in most of the mountain lakes and valley streams, skiied the hills, hiked the trails. I can tell you that if you have been reading those posts, you are now intimately familiar with where I grew up.
What a marvellous educational experience that was. Your teacher was right – you haven’t changed that mush
I feel so very lucky to have been a student there with the teachers that were there at that time and the community that was there at that time. They all coalesced, and I had a marvelous experience in that school.
How fun is that?! I *almost* went to my reunion this past year. It should have been in 2020 (our 40th) but Covid changed everything. I didn’t really like my classmates, or school, but curiosity *almost* got me there. Maybe 50! Thanks for sharing. You were adorable at 16!
That’s funny, Bonnie. Curiosity is a good reason to go to a reunion. I’ll guess it’s more fun when you liked some of your classmates though. I liked most of mine. I joked that we all kind of had to like each other because there weren’t enough of us to be choosy, haha.
I remember you talking about this but until I saw it here, it didn’t really register how small your school and class really were. Who these days has that kind of experience? Wow!! My graduating class had 1000 students and the only one I knew was my kids dad. I’ve never been to a reunion since no one would know who I was. Just a blip on the radar. I worked all the way through school so never had social times. You really were lucky in so many ways. I’m glad you went and you may have changed a tiny bit but that smile is still 100 watt and recognizable. 🙂
You are right, Marlene, it’s becoming more rare. My stepbrother Eli went to elementary in an even smaller school in a place called Colburn, Idaho. It was 1st through 3rd grades in one classroom, and 4th through 6th grades in another classroom. Today, there is no longer a town there, but the brick school still stands and is someone’s home. I am fortunate to have been able to have more of a childhood than you did. I worked all through high school, but I also had plenty of time to play and participate in sports and groups at school, and also to party and get in trouble, ha ha!
I love this post, Crystal. Perhaps as I also graduated as part of a class of 22 pupils, just in 1987. Like you we were also considered a rather large group.
That is so interesting, Jolandi. I rarely meet someone who had the same kind of experience. I am sure that not every small school is as rewarding and fulfilling as mine was at that time, but I remain grateful to this day that I had the experience. In 7th and 8th grades, I went to live with my mom instead of my dad, and the school there was bigger, nearly 500 7th graders and 500 8th graders. I was truly overwhelmed for the first few weeks. I found that I preferred the smaller school, and that’s what guidance I used in choosing a college, many years later, and I chose the smallest university that accepted me, ha ha. Also interesting that your class was considered a large group.
I love these coincidences, Crystal, because as you say, not many people have this experience. I always think the US is supersized in all aspects, so reading about your experience was an unexpected surprise. I cannot even imagine a school with 500 pupils in one grade. I taught at a government school in South Africa which was considered a big school, but there were still only about 250 pupils per grade.
Isn’t that funny; now I have always assumed schools in other countries would be larger than mine, certainly in South Africa. I’m glad you mentioned that, so I learned something.