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Don't wait for those milestone-year reunions — visit with old classmates now

J. H. Osborne • Dec 15, 2019 at 1:30 PM

I skipped my 10th high school reunion in 1991. Frankly, I didn’t see the point because I thought I pretty much still saw so many former classmates. Plus, I had to work weekends at that point in my career with the Times News.

But I went to my 20th, then my 30th. I had a great time at both. Or at least at the evening activities I attended for each. Our changing venues reflect the evolution of Kingsport. In 2001, the Saturday night dinner for our 20th was at the Ridgefields Country Club. By 2011, our 30th reunion’s Saturday night dinner was in the ballroom at MeadowView. I recently heard speculation among some classmates that our 40th might be at the Kingsport Farmers Market and the Carousel. But that’s just speculation at this point.

I heard it over dinner at Riverfront Seafood last week. It was my first time joining in with a growing group of the Class of ’81 who’ve been meeting every month or so for informal meals or activities. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to go. Like back in 1991, it seems like for past meetups I’d had a work conflict. I could tell from Facebook posts I was missing out. So when the Dec. 6 Riverfront dinner was announced, I especially wanted to go. But I was supposed to be out of town, or just getting back into town that evening.

Enter the “Ethel” to my “Lucy,” or vice versa: Vicki Cooper Trammell. Vicki called me (to make sure I made it past South of the Border and through Lumberton, N.C.) as I drove from Florida to Raleigh a couple of days before the dinner at Riverfront.

“Why don’t you ever go to any of the Class of ’81 things?” Vicki asked as soon as I said “Hello.”

Caught off guard and fearing a trap of some kind (an instinctive male response to seemingly innocuous questions from females, I guess), I at first said, “What?”

“I was talking to Debbie (Phillips Peters) and she said you never come to any of the group get-togethers they’ve been having,” Vicki said. “You mark you’re interested, but don’t ever go. And they have fun. She told me to get you out to Riverfront on Friday for dinner. A lot of people are coming.”

I explained I had wanted to go to multiple gatherings Debbie had planned for us, but I’d always had a conflict.

“Are you going to be home by Friday? If you want to go, I’ll buy your birthday dinner.”

That was good enough for me. I was going to be home. And love me some fresh seafood when Vicki is picking up the check.

Vicki is actually Class of ’80, but she knows everyone and blended right in. It worked out good for me because it was like having an extra set of ears and eyes — she worked the table in one direction, while I tried to cover the other. There were about three dozen of us for dinner, which didn’t really allow a lot of time for mingling other than talking to those directly beside or across from you. I saw some people I hadn’t seen in years. Most rewarding, though, I think, was getting to have actual conversations and interactions with the ones I’ve “kept up with” via social media. Nothing can replace one-on-one time, even in the middle of a large group.

I got to speak most with Cliff Pierce, Michael McConnell, Pam Hopkins, and Lisa McGuire Huffman. I’ve talked to Cliff in person recently, but we still had a great conversation about local news. I know that Mike’s daughter is an accomplished model who has appeared in major advertising campaigns for big-time brands, and worked the runways for top designers in shows in the fashion capitals of the world. I’ve seen photos he has posted on Facebook. But I still was mesmerized by every single pic he showed us on his phone of moments from her career and her current life in Japan. Talking with Pam, a teacher in Chattanooga, s always Catching up with Lisa and her husband Bill was wonderful. Again, I had missed a lot, even though we’re friends on Facebook. I thought they were still living in Georgia. They’re in Knoxville.

Some others who attended included: Myron Bristol, Carla Campbell ( husband Danny Karst) Tammie Babb (husband Randy Burrell), Cherie Necessary, Lisa Adams (husband Mike Bruner), Bob Tupper, John Gray (wife Wendy) Randy Kinsler (wife Donna), Tony England, Tammy Gregory, Tommy Snapp (wife Kathy), Martha Foster (husband Ed Hill), Ella Jane (Prillhart) Helton-Scissom ( usband Chris Scissom), Angie Shelton, and Tammy Courtney.

It might sound hectic. But it was actually a very relaxing evening. I was tired and mainly listened. I caught up with those I could and hopefully laid the groundwork to catch up with more of the others at upcoming events. We’re going for an art class next month and axe-throwing in a couple of months. I will let you know how those go.

As always, the food at Riverfront was excellent (I had my standard fried clam dinner), and the staff went out of their way to accommodate our large group. They did, in the end, have to pretty much tell us last six or eight stragglers that it was way past closing and we’d need to move along. I can’t wait for next time. 

J.H. Osborne covers Sullivan County government for the Times News. Email him at josborne@timesnews.net.