You could see the stadium lights from the porch of the Avondale Clubhouse
where the Avondale class of 1965 held the first of three
thirty-fifth reunion parties last Friday. It is the stadium where the class of 1965 watched their football team, the Avondale High Blue
Devils, win the 1963 Georgia AAA title. The same team traveled to Brunswick a year later, where Glynn Academy challenged them for the title - and on a rainy November night, wrested it away when the place kicker, who had not missed an extra point all season, that night forfeited all three. Still, not many teams can claim a first and second place in the state two years running.
Technology has helped reacquaint them. "A-mail" is a daily email which class members send health updates, family news, and various mental meanderings to a central addressee who pastes it together and forwards it to class members. They know that Marc will be here with his new heart, after a successful transplant last month, and that Paul will be alone after the unexpected death of his wife last summer. They are anxious to see Harold, who signs his e-mails "Dances with Dogs" when he writes of his picturesque wanderings in the hills of northern Alabama.
The Devils are 0 and 4 so far this season so there is no move to attend the night's nearby game against Riverwood. The revelers choose instead to reminisce about the games long ago, thankful for the memories and the safe childhoods they shared, and believing with their collective heart that they were, indeed, the best class ever to graduate from this high school, maybe any high school.
They were not the children of wealth, like their Buckhead counterparts, but were, for the most part, sons and daughters of insurance salesmen and government workers, who wore coats and ties to work, went to church on Sunday, lived in 1500 square foot, two or three bedroom ranch style homes with one or one and a half baths, one car, and a mother who stayed home and kept house.
The class of 1965 spent their high school and college years in a period that later would be considered one of the most tumultuous decades in American history, yet, for the most part, they lived their Leave-it-to-Beaver lives, oblivious of that fact.
But they know they were lucky. A former coach, Tip Goza, told them so. They are, after all, the children of The Greatest Generation. Their parents lived through war and depression to give them security and a college education they themselves had not had. The streets were safe, underage drinking was infrequent, and dope dealers only existed in faraway places like New York City.
The shady streets of Avondale Estates have remained relatively unchanged since the classmates churned out of the potholed parking lot for the last time thirty-five years ago, but the neighborhoods around it clearly have not. The shopping mall next door, which once housed large Davison's and Sears stores, was erected during their high school days. It has gone through several resurrections and may be torn down soon if developers have their way. Black, Laotian, and Latino families have moved into the three bedroom, one and a half bathroom homes and now the "Blue" Devils are every color but.
The name is the same though, and for the Class of 65, the spirit is there. But the Greatest Generation is a tough act to follow, especially
when there is no Depression to survive or World War to fight. There is a plan to give a scholarship from The Class to a deserving Avondale senior, beginning next year. Otherwise the class of 65 will have to find a different way to leave its mark.
A respectable number are veterans of Vietnam. All of them made it home. Male graduates, and a few females, went on to careers in
medicine, law, and, since they had had the good luck to be living in this fertile crossroads at the foot of the Appalachians where there were
fortunes to be made in real estate and technology and service industry, fell into those fields as well.
If a future Tom Brokaw tells their story, he will tell how blessed they were, and maybe ask whether or not they lived up to their birthright.
And that is a question they try to answer as well.
Susan Brewer Elder