MIRAMAR BEACH-- Forty years ago, the quiet man with the dark eyes was a teenage "bad boy," brought over from the wrong side of town to attend high school.

The animated man holding court next to him was class president, while the slender woman standing in the kitchen was Best Looking.

Four decades later, those distinctions have faded.

Graduates of the Surrattsville High School Class of 1965, "the mighty, mighty Hornets," have grown up to see the lines between high school cliques dissolved and fierce friendships formed in their place.

These classmates from Clinton, Md., reunited at 10 years and 20, then 25 and 30, before deciding they needed to see each other more often.

"Every five years wasn't enough," said Judy Gordon of New Jersey, who keeps a master list of contact information for classmates.

For the past seven years, they have met annually for weeklong reunions held across the country. This year, Mary Esther residents Patsy and Ross Williams planned and organized the reunion at Maravilla in South Walton County. Then Ivan arrived and it took a few days to figure out if the reunion could go on as planned. In the meantime, Patsy heard from plenty of people who said that they would be there, no matter what.

"I had friends calling and e-mailing me that it doesn't matter, we'll camp on the beach," Patsy said. "This bunch, they don't care. They're wild." Patsy is actually the Surrattsville graduate. Ross, like many of the spouses, has been made an honorary member but talks about the school as if it were his own.

"I've never attended one of mine in Pompano Beach," he said. "I'd rather go to this one."

About 50 graduates out of a class of 700 attend the yearly events, dubbed "birthday reunions" for the passing of another year.

This year, the class of '65 turns 57.

Most remember their 10-year reunion without much fondness, adding that they didn't start to feel a strong connection until passing the 20-year mark.

"Everyone after 10 years was bragging about what they had accomplished," recalled Dave Crawley, whose tenure as class president has been extended to a life term. "And it was like a competition."

At the time, he was driving a taxi in Boston and going to graduate school. What he brought, and took away from, that first reunion was a sense that he was a free spirit, and a failure.

"The twentieth was so different because everybody was real," said Crawley, who is from Pittsburgh.

Though some of the friendships that bring people from across the country started in high school, others were formed at the reunions.

Ron Clark, a tall, serious-looking retiree, was the guy nobody remembers.

"I was very quiet," said the North Carolina resident. "I wasn't particularly a good student. I went to high school and then I went off and did my own thing."

But he and his wife have attended almost every reunion.

Normal Carmichael was the guy everybody remembers.

At close to 7 feet, he played center on the basketball team that won the state championships the year they graduated.

The Texas man is hard to miss as he moves through the crowd talking and laughing. His classmates mention often that he wrote a book, though no one seems to have read it.

Carmichael hasn't missed a reunion, and he and his wife usually also bring his 96-year-old father.

Michael Carmichael, who graduated from a different high school in 1928, sits in the middle of Wednesday's "flamingo party" wearing a pink headband with bobbing, feathered birds.

That's the headpiece of the evening and nobody wears it particularly well. It's worse for partygoers with no hair.

When the elder Carmichael nods, the headband slides down his shiny ead, coming to rest on his glasses.

"I think I'll put some glue on," he joked.

The parties held during reunions are loud and punctuated by flash bulbs. On the counter, someone's laptop plays a slideshow of a past reunion.

The classmates are bonded by something that is difficult to explain.

They were in the same place when President John F. Kennedy was shot.

They cheered their basketball team on to a state victory.

They lost friends to the Vietnam War.

And, perhaps most importantly, they survived being thrown together when the school district drew new boundary lines.

They remember the tensions of coming together and the names of the different cliques, but 40 years later, none of it matters.

Michael Shema walked the halls of Surrattsville High School as Hillcrest Hood, for the part of town he was brought in from.

At this party, he's just another guy whose flamingo headband has slipped down around his neck.

"I'm proud of these guys," said Shema, who came all the way from Las Vegas. "We came together from such diversity and made it work."

* Staff Writer Wendy Victora can be reached at 863-1111, Ext. 478, or
wendyv(at)nwfdailynews.com

Bob was spotted at the Eglin Air Force Base museum and asked for is autograph.


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