By Tony Hooker
By the time this goes to print, another Memorial Day weekend will have passed.
For native Villa Grovians, the solemnity of a day of remembrance for the 1.1 million men and women who have died in service to our country is somewhat offset by the exuberance of Alumni weekend.
Often, the mere mention of the word “Alumni” to a Villa Grove high school grad is met with a sly, knowing smile. For the past 75 years, at least, it has been without a doubt the funnest, liveliest weekend the river city has to offer.
There aren’t many high schools that I know of that have all of their reunions on the same day, which makes it pretty cool, to my way of thinking.
The day starts for many with a 7:00 a.m. call to the annual alumni golf scramble and ends at Midnight or later at the Alumni dance. A long, fun day to be sure. For many of us old timers, the dances held at the community building were “must attend” events. Even when I was in the Navy, I was sure to schedule my leave around Memorial Day weekend, when possible. Heck, it was at alumni that I got up the nerve to ask the cute brown-haired girl to dance for the first time. She said yes to the dance, but no to any further amorous advances at the time. No fool is she! Of course, catching her in a moment of weakness, I was able to cull her from the herd after crashing her friend Lori’s wedding reception on September 8, 1990, and she’s still dealing with my hijinks 30 plus years later. As I’ve said before in this column, alumni has deep meaning to me, and I’m sure there are hundreds of similar stories out there. It’s part of what makes us…us.
Unfortunately, time takes its toll on us, and on our buildings. The old Community Building fell to the ravages of time, and when it came down, it seems like it took the spirit of our community with it, in many ways. Alumni hasn’t been the same since the dances ceased to be held there, at least to me. This isn’t in any way meant to belittle the diligent efforts of Sandi Anderson Cruzan, Blake Swan and Pam Sigler. They’ve worked very hard to keep the weekend relevant, but that old building on the corner was the center of life for those of us of a certain age. That’s why I’m so excited about the new building which is set to be built. I truly believe that the new community building will serve as the heart of our community for generations, just as the old building did. Maybe, just maybe, those memories will be enticing enough for our young graduates to consider staying here in town as they begin their new, post-high school lives. Maybe, those memories will even encourage some to move back after college or other adventures that the young enjoy. Then they can add their own chapters to the story of our little railroad town along the Embarras.