BY DEB AND TIM SMITH
As the wheels of time churn on, it is inevitable that every year, one past class of Honeoye Falls-Lima graduates will experience the 50th anniversary of their high school graduation. As fate would have it, this year it was our turn. You cannot help but be struck by the concept of, “How did so much time slip away?” It happens, and for the people in our audience who have passed that milestone, you know what we mean. For the majority of you who haven’t, someday you will know.
In this piece we are going to share with you some of the history and humor related to the event and, no matter where or when you graduated from high school, please join us for this ride. Our festivities were spread out over a two-day event which began on Friday evening August 25 with an informal gathering at the Lima Country Club. Saturday was capped by a dinner at the Lima American Legion Hall which followed a tour of the current HF-L high school building that afternoon.
Our class comprised a unique niche in that regard inasmuch as we were the last graduating group to never attend a class in that building. It was completed the year after we left. More on that later.
At the culminating Saturday function, a program of speakers and performers addressed the gathering and we’ll share the highlights. Our class vice president, Elsa Sauer Steo emceed the proceedings, opening with some remembrances and reflections which she spun off the original speech she actually delivered at our graduation. As they did for decades, that ceremony took place on the lawn between the oldest part of the high school and East Street where “The Healing Place” memorial can now be found.
Elsa’s comments opened with, “We are so happy to have you all here! Thank you for making it happen and for some, travelling quite a distance to get here! Our class is scattered across 25 states and 3 different countries (Sweden, Serbia and Chile). Only 77 of our classmates still live in NY. Tonight we have 10 states represented including AL, CA, FL, GA, IL, MD, NY, OR, PA, VA, and Sweden!”
Elsa then went on to introduce her comments with some timely allusions to clothing choices back in our youth, with a focus on certain items of apparel many of us chose not to wear. So the following paragraphs are Elsa in 2023 quoting herself from 1973.
“We sit here before you the graduating Class of 1973. This is not only a proud day for us, but it is a proud day for you, too. We are very happy to be out and eager to start a new life of our own.
We all look alike with our caps and gowns on, sitting in uniform rows. We all look alike with our jeans, bra-less tops, bare feet and long hair. But we are all individuals, each of us offering something different. There are one hundred and fifty-four graduates and as many personalities and degrees of intelligence as you’ll find anywhere.
And, look at the number of Honeoye Falls-Lima students who were involved with the ‘Hike for Hope’ and the ‘Walk for Water.’ [charity fund raisers from that era] And what about the youth who volunteered their time and energy to sand bagging and what not during the Flood of 1972? All of these were constructive projects.
Hike for Hope? I don’t know about you all but now I wake up with the Hope to Hike! And the ‘Walk for Water’? I have to remind myself no water after 7:00 pm! Otherwise that’s called ‘Walk to Water’ in the middle of the night!”
Just to elaborate a bit on the “Hike for Hope,” the Hope was a hospital ship which sailed the globe bringing medical care to those in need. The 25-mile fund-raising walk took place in Rochester from 1970-1974 when the ship was retired.
Returning to Elsa’s speech, she added, “My guess is that we have all shared in some similar experiences that include:
- Successes and Failures
- Good Health and Illnesses
- Joys and Sadness
- Love and Loss
- And of course, a Honeoye Falls-Lima education!
No matter what life we’ve each led to date – it’s ours, we own it and hopefully have worked hard to make it a good one so far!
The fact that we chose to gather for this reunion must mean we still have a connection with those formative years, and each other – good, bad or indifferent! Either that or we were just curious to see how we’ve all changed!”
At this point Elsa turned the mic over to classmate Jeff Williams who was one of our most musically talented classmates, performing in the Burned Out Blues Band in the early 1970’s and the Earl Weems Revue from 1976-1978.
As Jeff explained, “We came up with that name by borrowing Earl from Earl Scruggs and Weems from the way my grandmother pronounced Williams—weeyums.”
That band played frequently at The Cottage Hotel of Mendon and Jeff is one of the featured artists in the upcoming book The Cottage Hotel: The History & Untold Tales of Mendon Hamlet’s Legendary Stagecoach Inn & Tavern written by former Mendon resident Karen Mireau. In a unique connecting of the dots in one historical timeline, Jeff actually played at Karen’s wedding back in the day.
Regarding that classic band, Jeff summed up the genre(s) as follows. “EWR in a nutshell—we played an eclectic mix of blues, R & B, country rock and western swing, mostly in and around Rochester, but all over NY from time to time.”
Jeff performed a song he wrote called “Good Old Days” which could not have been more apropos for a class reunion of our era. Here is the stanza that hits closest to home…
If I went back today it wouldn’t be the same,
But I got lots of friends who remember
That if you raise enough hell at the Cottage Hotel
You can keep the place warm in December.
Next, our class president and valedictorian Randy Roeser spoke, opening with, “Like Elsa, I gave a speech at our graduation. Unlike Elsa, I didn’t keep mine.” Randy went on to comically spoof his original speech from our graduation before summarizing with the sentiment that “My remarks tonight might soon be forgotten, but this weekend together will be unforgettable.
And so I’d like to recognize and give us all an opportunity to thank the good folks who made our 50th reunion possible: Dwight Knox; Mary Appleton Brownell; Karen Porrazzo Conway; Sandy Wagner; and fearless leader Elsa Sauer Steo.
Can you imagine the time and effort they put into tracking down almost 150 people after half a century plus organizing not one but two days of events? Thanks to them, we get to spend a magical weekend reconnecting with our first friends, a weekend that we will remember for as long as we have memory.
Here we are at our 50th reunion! So far, so good. I hope to see you at the 75th.”