Winfield High School, class of 1983. I lost touch with everyone after my sophomore year of college. My parents moved, the school didn’t have databases of information, and except for one classmate who lives in Martinsburg, I saw no one for many, many years. I called the school in 2003 to see if there would be a ten year reunion, and although there was a small gathering, the school had no info to give me, so I didn’t go. But now we have Facebook! Two or three years ago, I was able to reconnect with some of my classmates, and last month I drove down to Winfield for my 30-year class reunion.
I won’t bore everyone here with pictures of people they don’t know, but we had fun! One of the ladies opened her spacious backyard for a picnic bonfire on Friday night. It was funny as those of us who were gathered observed a newcomer walking across the yard, whispering to each to see if that was who we thought it was! Some people had changed a lot, while others hadn’t changed a bit. For the most part, we were all in good health, and not so bad-looking, if I do say so myself.
On Saturday night, we had tapas on the patio of a local restaurant. It was nice to be able to mill about, changing where we sat, who we talked to, etc. We passed around yearbooks and shared memories. I spent a good bit of time visiting with Dwayne, one of my dearest theater friends. Unfortunately, the others in my close pack of acting and singing friends were unable to make it for one reason or another, so we all agreed we need to get together before too much more time passes!
In my free time on Saturday, I drove around to some of the places where I had lived. When we first moved to West Virginia, we landed in Cross Lanes. I was in 5th and 6th grade. The house doesn’t really look much different at all, though the bushes in front are bigger.
For my 10-12th grade years, we lived in a neighborhood off the Teays Valley exit of I-64. WOW, has that area grown up. It was nothing much more than a small strip mall, a gas station or two, and a few office buildings, but now it’s full of offices, shopping, fast food, and more. It has really changed a lot! The skating rink where I spent TONS of time on the weekends is gone, as are many other places I remember. The house where we lived hasn’t changed much – still has a pool out back, although we had a much more open backyard that backs onto a small pond/lake, and a lot of that water bank is overgrown now.
The biggest change is the house where we lived while I was in 7-9th grade. We built the house (well, with contractors, but I remember living in the basement while the top floors were finished, helping to pick paint and carpet, planting trees and flowers, etc. I was shocked to drive there about ten years ago, and the house was gone. Completely vanished. Foundation shape there, driveway there, house missing. I had no idea what had happened, so I was curious about what I’d find on this trip. Surprisingly, there was a house there!
As I stopped to take a picture, a lady was pulling out of the driveway in a truck with a horse trailer behind it. She told us what happened: an older man and his wife were living there, and he was experiencing some early dementia. He took ashes from the fireplace in a plastic bucket and put them in the garage, where they ignited and caught the tractor’s fuel tank and extra gas cans on fire very quickly. They both were able to leave safely, but this mid-morning blaze took the house in no time at all, completely burning it to the ground. They relocated to Florida, and the lot sat empty under the ownership of a developer who wasn’t ready to build on it.
This couple purchased it, and they built the home that is there now. They’ve been there about six years, with a daughter in college and one still at home. This lovely woman was excited to meet me and hear stories of what we had done when we lived there. They raise horses, and I shared how we had owned a small horse and a pinto pony. Speaking with her was a wonderful bit of closure to the mystery.
After that, I spent some time driving along the Kanawha River through Poca, St. Albans, etc. It was a stunningly beautiful early summer day, and I was reminded of what a gem West Virginia is… almost heaven, indeed.