Dan Straus said when he saw Carlo Perrotta, his former Grade 7 teacher, walking toward him at the Waterloo Rod and Gun Club in St. Jacobs last Saturday, he had a flashback of school days long past.
He and 21 of his classmates from St. Clement school gathered for a unique reunion at the club last weekend.
They originally planned to hold the reunion two years ago, but the pandemic put it on hold. The upside is that 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of their Grade 8 graduation. They even invited their former teacher to join them.
“We thought it was going to be kind of strange, hooking up with people that we haven’t talked to since Grade 8 – that’s 50 years for some of these people.
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“But it was like, how do I put it? Like we have never been apart. We picked up, had awesome conversation. A lot of comfort in getting together and enjoying the experiences that we had in those days. Lots of memories. We would start sharing stories and you go, ‘I don’t remember that,’ and as the story progresses, you go, ‘Oh, yeah, I remember that!’ Yeah, a lot of good laughs,” he said.
Straus said 22 of their 38 classmates were able to make it to the reunion. He says most of his former classmates still live relatively close by. The person who travelled farthest was Joe Bergman, who came from Alberta. Another of their classmates, Michael Grubb, had passed away from COVID in January.
Straus said he and the other organizers found most of their classmates using Facebook and word of mouth. They started a Facebook group for their 1972 graduating class.
Perrotta was excited to attend. “When I got that phone call from Jerome Voisin inviting me, I mean, I just sat here and for a minute I thought, is this for real?”
Then when he attended, they all had to take stock of their ages after 50 years apart.
“Well, they looked at me, the kids were like, ‘You’re what? 84! You’re kidding!’ I said, ‘Well, what did you expect?’”
That class was the only one Perrotta had taught at St. Clement. He was there for one year before moving on to another school, but he remembers his year with them fondly.
“As the months went by, I got to know pretty well all of them… I got to know the kids. They were not afraid to talk to me, they were not afraid to give me an awful lot of insight into their personalities.”
Perrotta remembers making a make-shift running track for the kids to practice on before attending a track and field meet at Seagrams Stadium in Waterloo.
“I never forgot those kids in St. Clements, because they tried so hard,” he said.
“The kids that came out for track and field. Not everybody came out, unfortunately, but that didn’t matter. The point is that the ones that did come out, you know, they really, really worked hard because we established goals for ourselves right from the beginning. You know, and by the time that we were ready to go to the big meet, they were ready, even though they were scared, but they were ready.”
He said he is thankful for the time they had together. “But it seems to me that by the way that things were going in our conversations, they are OK. They did well, and I’m pretty proud of them.”
“They taught me patience. There was just so much that I learned because I’d only been teaching five years at the time. And I was still sort of learning, you know, but I did learn. I learned from them. That’s because as I taught them, they taught me.”
Will there be another reunion? Straus said a lot of people who attended said they wanted to get together again soon. So, after the dust settles, he’ll ask the group on Facebook how long they want to wait until the next gathering.