A reunion best left for virtual realm in 2021

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Tom Kirvan
Legal News, Editor-in-Chief

Somewhat by chance last week, I was reminded of an impending reunion, the kind that makes one shudder at the thought.

The 50th!

As in the dreaded high school reunion, where the consequences of age are on full display for all intrepid classmates to see.

My fervent hope is that the planned get-together will be just one more event shelved by the pandemic. It would be the right thing to do – to spare we Ann Arbor Huron High grads the pain of having to explain what went wrong and occasionally right over the past 50 years.

It was 52 years ago, late summer 1969, when I caught my first up-close look of Huron High. The late August day, which was little more than a month after Neil Armstrong took a lunar leap for mankind, was a time when I joined several friends for a trek of our own, wandering wide-eyed through the yet-to-be opened high school. It was to be our educational home for the next two years.

We felt privileged to get a sneak preview of its environs before the rest of the huddled Huron masses set foot in the impressive edifice off Fuller Road. Such was the joy of knowing someone high up the educational food chain in the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

At the time, the new Huron was the crème de la crème of high schools in the state, offering eye-catching design and educational features that set it far apart from the buildings of the day.

We were singularly amazed at the “spare-no-expense” approach to the construction of the building, which arose out of the need to alleviate crowding at the then Ann Arbor High School.

We certainly could attest to the sardine-like conditions at Ann Arbor High after spending the previous year attending classes in split shift formation there. The “Pioneer” students had the joy of the six-hour morning shift, while we “Huron” wannabees trudged into school for the afternoon/evening hours of learning.

Our principal was Harvard-educated Paul Meyers, a former chemistry teacher who was instrumental in planning the layout of the new school. As principals go, he received generally high marks from the student populace, most of whom admired his keen intellect and obvious desire to promote the concept of lifelong learning in a diversified setting.

Of course, he had his student detractors as well, many of whom were upset at his insistence that the school’s mascot be labeled the “Huron” instead of the much more popular “River Rat.” Mr. Meyers, so the legend goes, had a special aversion to rats after too many close encounters with the rodents during his military service overseas.

The “River Rat” moniker was the mocking mascot label the “Pioneer” students foisted upon “Huron” students while they were splitting hairs at Ann Arbor High in that ghastly school year of 1968-69.

Back then, the new school’s site along the Huron River wasn’t the park-like gem that it is today. Gallup Park was but a pipedream after a dam burst a year earlier during a summer monsoon, leaving the Huron River to trickle through a rat-infested wayside that was once a medical waste site.

It would take several more years before school administrators would warm up to calling themselves true “River Rats,” but the mascot name finally stuck, much to the relief of students and alums who likened the “Huron Hurons” to an unkind form of athletic stuttering.

All this serves as nothing more than historical prelude to a planned reunion this summer for the Class of 1971. The class, like many other 50-year reunion celebrants before, undoubtedly sports its own share of school baggage, the kind best kept tightly packed in a pandemic-laced year like no other.



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