Sunday, September 30, 2018

We didn't look the same

Last weekend, I traveled to the Des Moines area to meet up with people I hadn't seen in forty years (and a few I hadn't hung out with since the mid-2010s).

The occasion: West Des Moines Dowling Catholic High School's Class of 1973 45th-year reunion. 

It was a tremendous success.

And it was fun, fun, fun! 

First event on the reunion agenda was a football pregame warmup at a West Des Moines restaurant, Fire Creek Grill (800 S. 50th St., 50265)...owned by a classmate named Meg Tibbetts Williams, who used to be one of Dowling's varsity cheerleaders. 

I didn't know what to expect once I walked inside Fire Creek's party room (once I found the restaurant) at 5:20 PM on 9-21-2018.

Within a minute or two, it felt like home again. 

Good thing they gave us name tags to fill out, because without the name tags, I couldn't recognize many of the classmates who came to the event.

I met back up with Bill Lawson...Ann Gladfelder (she married Bill)...Marty Ades...CeCe Lynch...Rick Benson...Cathy Vonderhaar...Mike Timmins...Don "Doc" Henry...Dwayne Carter...Chris Adams (he now sports a white beard!)...Rick Vasquez...Mark Cooper.

Yeah, I know.

We didn't look the same. 

But it didn't take us long at all to remember all the good times we had during the 1969-73 period...or to get up-to-date with each other.

Fire Creek Grill is several blocks away from Valley Stadium, a high-school football facility built in 2002 to replace the famous 1938 structure of the same name.

Well, at about 6:30 PM, the Two Ricks and I walked from Fire Creek to Valley Stadium to check out the 2018 version of DCHS football (the Maroons were set to play host that night to the Ankeny Hawks). When we took that walk, we met up with two other classmates: David Craven and Julie Russell (they're now husband and wife). 

Julie, David (he was a debater in high school), and I talked football. 

Once she found out I now live and work here in Omaha, the question came up: "Since you live in Nebraska now, are you a traitor?"


Sorry, but...I just don't get the same vibes about Husker football as I do about Iowa football and its Iowa State counterpart. (The nitpicking done by many of my fellow Omahans about everything UNL football was the clincher.)

Getting back to prep football, well...I hadn't attended a high-school football game in person since 1976.

Dowling (Iowa's five-time defending Class 4A football champ) had lost its last two games...and things weren't looking so good in Maroon Nation. 

However, on a cold, windy night, behind a spectacular performance by RB Jayson Murray,
the Maroons crushed the Hawks, 42-0. [By the way...Ankeny was the most recent team other than DCHS to rule Class 4A grid action in the Hawkeye State (the Hawks turned the trick in 2012). In all, Ankeny, Dowling, and other Central Iowa Metropolitan League teams have snared the last eight big-school (that's what Class 4A is in Iowa) football titles and nine of the last ten, with Iowa City High spoiling the party in 2009.]

Rick V., Rick B., and I left after the third quarter came to an end, and the three of us walked back to Fire Creek Grill.

And in the party room, a big-screen TV was playing the rest of the Ankeny-DCHS game.

All the while, I was able to hook back up (and reminisce) with some more fellow 1973 Dowling grads: Paul Duwelius...Dan Mueller...Steve Heithoff (by the way, Dan, Steve, and Paul were two of Bill's football teammates)...Jim Bugler (he played football, too)...Paul Koester. 

Well, the 45th reunion of the first coed class to graduate from DCHS (a previously all-boys school that, in 1972, merged with the all-girls St. Joseph Academy; the two newly-merged high schools left Des Moines and moved out to a new building in West Des Moines) was off to a rousing start.

Wait 'til I tell you how the Saturday leg of the get-together went. (That when I come back!)