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Our Class

“Where were you in ’62?”

George Lucas, director, American Graffiti

Allen (Mike) McCorstin
Managing editor, Paschal Pantherette, 1961–62

Ten or so years ago, I borrowed the line above and wrote a piece for this website about what our class had lived through since graduating from Paschal High School in May 1962.

I wrote, in part, that we “were at Paschal … tossed together by the accidents of war, fate, and geography.” Our classmate Jan Keen Hull had suggested that perhaps we were destined to become a legendary class. I offered that Jan might be right, if based on nothing more than the amazing history that we have lived through.

Think of it.

“We were war babies, toddlers when World War II ended,” I noted. Even before our graduation from high school, we had lived through the dropping of an atomic bomb, the Red Scare, Davy Crockett and coonskin caps, Godzilla and Gunsmoke, the VW Beetle, two-tone shoes, McCarthyism, television (black-and-white followed by the marvel of color), Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando, Disneyland, Elvis, Sputnik, the Salk vaccine, The Catcher In the Rye, girls’ skirts with poodles on them, hula hoops, Huntley and Brinkley, the Edsel, phone-booth stuffing, Barbie, 3-D, McDonald’s, Playboy, the Polaroid Land Camera … “and a host of companies whose stocks our parents could buy, companies with unusual names like Xerox.”

And our journey continued.

Within just a few decades of leaving Paschal, we witnessed, took part in, or were swept up by the most breath-taking events of the 20th century – the Bay of Pigs, the Kennedy assassination, Vietnam, Woodstock, draft card-, flag-, and bra-burnings, the deaths of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, man on the moon, Women’s Liberation, the embroiling drama of the civil rights movement, Watergate and the resignation of a sitting president, the Pill, the Beatles and Bob Dylan, the personal computer and the Internet, never-ending conflict in the Middle East, AIDS, three major stock market crashes, 9–11, and the election of a black man as the 13th American president of our lifetimes. Then, as if history writ large were not enough, at the same time all of this was going on …

Along came … life!

College, a full-time job, or the military? Your parents dropping off you and your luggage on a sidewalk 200 miles from home, your mother dabbing at her eyes as your father pulled away from the curb. The loss of innocence. What to major in? Breakfast at Tiffany’s for a dollar at the TCU or the Hollywood or the Palace or the Seventh Street. Meeting Yankees from the Bronx, farm boys from Alabama, and surfers from Malibu, all of whom made fun of your accent. Discovering that you really like New York City and that little Italian place near the Park. Meeting the right person. Coming out. That 6 a.m. call: a buddy who survived Vietnam and jogged every day just died of a heart attack. “Will you marry me?” Joining the family business, starting your own practice, or moving cross-country to see if you’ve really got it. Defending your dissertation, passing the bar or CPA exam, being ordained priest, pastor, or rabbi. Buying your first house: never a reason not to be working on something. Knowing what love really is when you hold your first-born for the first time. Pediatricians and diaper bags, Indian Guides and Indian Princesses, soccer games, and parent conferences. Explaining to your four-year-old that Muffin has gone to a special Heaven. Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations made with coffee cans and Elmer’s and construction paper and Popsicle sticks. Recitals and rehearsals, so many you think they’ll never end. But they do. That lump in your breast. Sometimes, divorce. Sometimes, death: friends’ grandparents, then our grandparents. Now, us, as we are “at that age.” Adult children who make the most bizarre decisions and learning that there is not a thing you can do, not if you want them in your life. “You need to hurry if you want to say goodbye to your father.”

And now, here we are.

Some of us have known each other since the fall of 1950 – from ragdolls to brassieres, from flattops to basic training burrs. From popguns to M–16’s, from Studebakers to limousines, from Maypole dances to hip replacements. We’ve grown from social butterflies to Social Security. 

If the Class of ’62 is exceptional – “legendary,” as Jan offers – the reason can surely lie in the uncounted number of conscientious citizens we contributed to society – doctors and lawyers and teachers and preachers and coaches, cops and dentists and nurses and shop owners and those who had the courage to work with the needy and the damaged. People who quietly went about their work every day, whether it was baking bread or writing lesson plans, baptizing a newborn or drilling for oil. Perhaps what makes a class legendary lies less in fame and fortune and more in what each of us has accomplished, each in his or her own way, in the doing of a thousand and one ordinary things, acts of kindness or thoughtfulness that made things better for someone somehow, perhaps a moment known only to God and the person you hugged with your heart.

Like being people who mow their grass, look after their aging parents, teach on Indian reservations, pay their taxes, take communion to nursing homes, and pick up their neighbor’s mail. People who babysit grandchildren at a moment’s notice, fund foundations that will continue addressing the world’s problems long after we’re gone, and who can be counted on for a casserole at the church’s next covered dish supper. Who deliver Meals on Wheels, provide storefront legal services for the impoverished, spend weekends at Habitat for Humanity, give of their time to doctor the homeless and the suffering, who served their country in green or blue, in white or tan, who usher or teach Sunday School, who sweep up and carry out the trash and lock the door behind them.

So many things are next for us … or can be.

Our friendships have endured. A group meets for dinner in Fort Worth once a month – it’s called First Monday, it’s open to everybody, and you’re invited: there’s an e-mail contact on this site. Others of us routinely meet for coffee, shop, or travel together. Nearly two dozen of us married each other. Imagine! Several hundred of us want to renew old friendships badly enough that we make the effort to attend class reunions every decade or so. 

Our classmate Charles Awalt has written that the Class of ’62 is “unusual in its accomplishments, its enthusiasms, and, most remarkable of all, in its cohesiveness.”

Charles writes that we “who go and do and create and venture, always come back – sometimes to reunions, sometimes to First Monday, sometimes through social media – to announce what we did and to ask, ‘What’s next for you?’”

Charles reminds us that although the world has changed “we still communicate the same things – just faster. Time has changed: remember when 10 years seemed like an interminable, incomprehensible eon? Some of our best and brightest are gone, but their lives and memories have deepened and enriched us, and we are still here to use and build on whom we knew and what we’ve learned. We have places to go and things to do and will come back with stories to tell.”

We have stories! One place to tell our stories is right here – this marvelous Class of ’62 website, a technological quilt waiting for each of us to add a square. Taking advantage of this modern marvel alone could help make us legendary.

This is a place to share, a place to find memories and old friends. We make this place ours by sending notes and pictures to Charles and Wayne Bigham (links elsewhere on this site). If you’ve not done so in a while update your profile and let your classmates know that you just got back from Paris – France or Texas, where you found either the finest art museum in the world or the best chicken-fried steak this side of the Massey’s of our youth.

Let’s tell each other what we’re doing. Some of us read to preschoolers, some of us ladle soup at homeless shelters, some of us have worked long hours on an Election Day, and some of us put away books at the local library. Or maybe you’re the oldest candy striper on your floor. That’s all newsworthy and that’s all interesting.

Charles and Wayne have posted photos taken at reunions, First Mondays, and holiday gatherings. Catch up on who’s passed away and then look at some fascinating videos. So much to see and to take part in – we can watch ourselves in action! – and it’s all right here on this marvelous website.

Last, in anticipation of our 2012 reunion, Janet Johns Weddell and I put together a booklet titled What We’ve Learned in 50 Years. We invited everybody to contribute. Janet, who has since passed away, and I received dozens of contributions. They were all fascinating. As she and I worked through the booklet, Janet remarked one day that four themes seemed to appear over and over, themes that seemed universal, themes mentioned by virtually all of us in some manner. They were:
[1] Thankfulness for family
[2] Appreciation of good health
[3] Recognition of the importance of faith, and
[4] The realization of how lucky we were to grow up in Fort Worth and to attend Paschal High School.

We WERE lucky, weren’t we? Lucky to have lived as long as we have and lucky to have known amazing little kids who grew up to do so many interesting things.

Like … Karen Crow Marshall (an “honorary” member of our class, roots back to elementary school, who moved out of state as we were about to enter Paschal) growing up to become my children’s second-grade teacher! Carl Armstrong, as unassuming a man as you will ever meet, flying attack jet aircraft off the USS Enterprise during two combat tours of Vietnam, a real Top Gun. Jimmy Marrs putting seven books on The New York Times best-seller list. Susan Burton Kneton becoming the first woman to have a voting membership at that good ol’ boys place called the Fort Worth Petroleum Club. Gary Brown – Doctor Gary Brown – devoting his academic life to helping children suffering from autism. Dennis Atherton commanding a troop of “Buffalo Soldiers” in Vietnam. Look that up if you are not sure who “Buffalo Soldiers” are and prepare to be amazed. Richard Rainwater, who came from modest circumstances, giving nearly $240 million to charity during his lifetime. The Rev. Dr. Gary Hellman, an Episcopal priest who has counseled those in pain since the mid ’70s at St. John’s, a parish with century-old roots in New York City’s Greenwich Village. And United States District Judge Sim Lake sentencing Enron president Jeffrey Skilling to prison for ruining the lives of innocent investors via fraud and insider trading.

And that’s just a few: we have dozens of fascinating people in our class.

Ten years ago, I closed by writing that time “is more precious now and we see it differently and use it more carefully – like oregano. The clichés are true, especially those about sunsets and red hats and the good china.”

This time, I will not end on such a syrupy note, but I WILL address Jan’s suggestion by offering these thoughts about that bunch of kids who graduated from Paschal High School in 1962.

Our staying in touch, our pleasure in each other’s company, our heartfelt concerns about each other, and our celebrations of each other’s good fortunes – all of this married to an extraordinary website that reflects our ongoing engagement with life – truly point to our being a group of remarkable people.

So, Jan might be right after all. Perhaps we are a legendary class.

October 1, 2018