Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

Delays imposed by Covid-19 have meant that not one, not two, but three Yorktown High School 50th-year class reunions made it on our 2022 calendar.

The bunched-up make-up dates prompted broadcast queen Katie Couric (YHS ’75) to post a YouTube video wishing her best to the classes of 1970, 1971 and 1972.

Some alums call me a semi-professional reunion guest. So I hit the events this month for both the ’70 gang and my own ’71 charmers and lived to tell the tale.

A half-century out from teen-age locker land is a time when some folks who’d for decades been apathetic or cynical toward reunions rediscover a sentimental attachment.

The planning committees strive to advertise and track down elusive classmates. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink… with people just because they once walked the same school hallways.

Within reunion committees there often is tension between a desire to celebrate by going first-class and the inclination to minimize costs to boost turnout. Fees hover around $100, with a penalty for late registration (those who wait to pay at the door complicate the food order).

There’s also a frugality duel over spending on swag (napkins, coasters, or shot glasses bedecked with the school logo); some folks’ style is plainer. Nametags, however, displaying frozen-in-amber yearbook portraits are both fun and vital as memory jogs.

In the digital age, resurrecting the music from your teen years is a breeze for any pro deejay. He knows most guests want to talk, so his equipment is off to one side. But after a couple of hours and libations, the dance floor gets populated — once some brave souls set the pace. And the beauty of ‘60s dancing is you don’t need to pair off.

Our class of ’70 drew 120 to the Westin Hotel in Ballston, nearly all pre-registered. (During their Friday night bar gathering, the Yorktown class of 2022 was having their prom upstairs, so Principal Kevin Clark came down to greet the older alums.)

My ’71 gathering at Knights of Columbus drew 111 (a dozen showed up unannounced). And though some who had threatened to come were no-shows, lots of collateral reconnections got made offline.
Lots of interest in the Saturday morning tours of the modern opulent Yorktown building, of which not a single brick remains of the original built 1959 — 60. (It was torn down in stages from 2009 — 13.)

At the Saturday dinner-dance, guests brought yearbooks, personal snapshots and school newspapers. (I noted that sports headline lingo from high school papers doesn’t hold up: gridmen, cagers, grapplers, thinclads, netmen, hoopsters, batmen?)

Professional photographers at reunions can play director and pack 100-plus 70-year-olds into a panoramic shot.

The deceased were honored tastefully in an elegant list and video loop, surrounded by candles. A few guests wore masks, and by this stage in the pandemic, all understood that choice. (Only one case of Covid was later reported, with appropriate follow-up.)

Two retired teachers came to our events (for free). And each class welcomed a half-dozen brave spouses, who mingled without evident boredom.

Any fears of continued cliquishness or mockery of out-crowders proved unjustified. And the conventional wisdom that reunion-goers revert to their high school power roles isn’t ironclad. I encountered only mature inclusiveness.

Those in their seventh decade, it seems, are simply grateful to be anywhere.


For the first time since it opened in 2006, the Air Force Memorial will be closed to fireworks viewers this Fourth of July. That’s because it is now a construction site creating space for new graves.

Arlington National Cemetery, in collaboration with the Air Force District of Washington, announced the predictable decision last week, citing “a significant safety and security risk.”

The expansion of the cemetery’s southern flank — which will also end easy parking and quick pedestrian access to the memorial — means the thousands accustomed to gathering every year to admire the red-glare rockets with the soaring spires as a backdrop must take their tradition elsewhere.