So, age is just a number, right?
That’s what the members of the Pascagoula High School Class of 1966 are telling ourselves, anyway. On the weekend of June 9-10, Panthers from far and wide gathered in their hometown to celebrate our collective 75th birthday party.
Yeah, do the math: we have a few outliers, but most of us are turning the “Big Seven-Five” during 2023. So, the way our class does things, it was time for a party.
The focal point was a really neat Saturday evening soiree’ at the home of 66er Hal Walker on the banks of the Pascagoula River south of the West River bridge. Boiled shrimp, pulled pork, liquid refreshment, and hours of visiting—not a bad night. Many thanks to Hal and his wife Mary for hosting. Plus, many, many thanks to our class godmother, Peggy Pittman Eley, for continuing her fifth decade as the lead organizer of these events.
The weekend, of course, started on Friday, with folks arriving from all over for small group parties and reconnections with old friends. I was struck by the pure love and affection we all seem to have for Pascagoula and each other.
Class member Dick Ingwersen and his wife Terry, as always during these functions, stayed with us at 2514 Washington Avenue, which is within a couple of blocks from where both Dick and I grew up. Dick, who lives in the Atlanta suburbs, never misses a PHS Class of ’66 event. He always has a big time, and this weekend was no exception.
“The economic development we have in Pascagoula is outstanding,” he said. “Downtown, and all around really, just looks great. It is so good to see everybody. We need to start doing this kind of thing more than every five or so years.”
Dick’s reference to Pascagoula’s renaissance, echoed by many, was seen up close and personal. We took a tour of several relatively new venues, including The City Centre, The Blind Butcher, and The Italian Bistro, plus incorporated several walks and rides around town. We’re looking good in Goula, folks.
I always also enjoy hearing the perspective of those not in our class during these occasions. Here are a couple of those observations.
“Every time I come, I’m just so impressed by how much people care about each other in this class,” said Terry Ingwersen (Class of ’66, Druid Hills High in Atlanta). “The happiness and joy we see is something to behold, and it is shared with the class members’ spouses. Everyone is so welcoming—I truly feel like a part of all this.”
My spouse, Mary Jon, too, has an interesting take: “Having moved to Biloxi the second semester of my senior year in high school, I don’t feel like I really have a graduating class,” she said. “So, looking at it that way, it’s quite meaningful to see how very fortunate this group truly is.”
Another class member, Liz Hogue McMahan, now lives in Gulf Breeze, Florida, and she, too, never misses a Class of ’66 event. “I love my classmates!” said Liz “This class is exceptional. These people, regardless of whether they were close when we were growing up or not, have a bond that is unbreakable. Let someone get sick or be in the hospital, and there is a classmate there to help. Our folks are always ready and willing to do what is needed—special indeed.
“On the other hand, sometimes I’m not sure we went to the same high school! Every time our group of friends gets together, I hear something new—I think we girls didn’t know what all the boys were up to. Y’all all have different, funnier stories every time we’re together. It’s a wonder y’all aren’t under the jail right now.
“Having said all that, I consider myself blessed to still have so many heart friends. Eventually, we can all sit on the front porch, share a glass of wine, and just smile at each other.”
Well said by Liz. We do seem to come up with new stories every time we get together, or, as Dick noted, “half of these stories we’ve told 50 times, but they just keep getting better”.
Therein, I believe, lies the truest value and charm of these gatherings. This past weekend, it was amazing to drink in all the laughing and talking. The decibel level at certain points was off the charts, and that’s a good thing.
So, the Pascagoula High Class of 1966 will soldier on. Hey, 75 is the new 65, right? We will continue to stay connected, gather, love each other, and tell stories deep into the night, even if that is 10:00 nowadays.