Cavorting with the Crew

Stage Crew Reunion, Coal Valley, Ill. Oct. 19, 2019

Over the weekend ten former members of our high school stage crew gathered for a reunion at a private home in Coal Valley, Ill.

I made apple crisp from backyard apples, picked up some sweet cider and a host gift of dessert apples at the orchard, and drove into the Mississippi valley.

It’s been decades since conversing with some of my friends. I didn’t know what to expect. The investment of time and energy yielded a positive return.

Spending time with a specific cohort is a little weird from the get-go. Most of my days are now spent either at home, or with a diverse group of peers whose ages range from teenager to octogenarian. All of us at the reunion had birth dates within a small range. I was the oldest.

In four cases attendees resembled other siblings closer to my age. Once I got through the kinship embarrassment we moved on to more positive topics. The afternoon into evening was a series of individual and group conversations set in different parts of the property, culminating in a potluck dinner and photo. There were a couple of takeaways.

As I drove through the Illinois side of the Mississippi toward the reunion I noticed high water from flooding. Some parts of Rock Island County have been flooded for more than 100 days according to one reunion attendee. On Sept. 27, Michelle O’Neil of National Public Radio reported the administration granted Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s request for a federal disaster declaration there. River flooding has been particularly bad in the county this year.

While our conversations were not “political” the way Facebook, Twitter and other social media are, we covered a number of politicians, including Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, and Governor Steve Bullock and Senator Jon Tester from Montana. I was pleased to hear Mike Matson won his Oct. 8 Davenport mayoral primary. The Elizabeth Warren bumper sticker on my vehicle went unmentioned and despite the fact most present live in Iowa, there was no discussion of the February 2020 Iowa caucuses.

A group gathered near the smoker where our host was preparing hot dogs and beans for the potluck. The conversation turned to answering the question “which types of medicine are you or have you taken?” It was a very long conversation, complicated by various maladies and medical conditions of group members. Taking only a lose-dose aspirin and a B-12 vitamin, by the end of the conversation I felt I had escaped something.

As we settled inside for dinner, the soundtrack was music that included drummer Ginger Baker who died Oct. 6. Four of us played together in a band during the early 1970s. Our set list included songs by Cream’s Eric Clapton.

The reunion was a reminder of the mostly male environment in which we attended high school. Only two female spouses were present, our host and another who came so the host wouldn’t be the only female in an otherwise male group. Until senior year our high school segregated men and women in different parts of the building. By being on stage crew and in my case, in chorus, we did see some of the women in our high school. As I went on to military service after college, the mostly male upbringing continued.

Our society doesn’t include many stage crew reunions. A lot of folks don’t attend more inclusive high school reunions. If our host Mike hadn’t been motivated to get the crew together this one wouldn’t have happened either. I’m glad it did.

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