Three Days in October

 

 Once upon a time a certain Rick Elger had the idea of creating a website about Feller.  Time went by and slowly people discovered the site and began to talk of a reunion.  But like the weather, everybody was talking about a reunion but nobody was doing anything about it.  It seemed necessary for some individual to step forward and take the initiative, so fourteen months ago, I put together a meeting of Fellerites to talk about the possibility of organizing a reunion.  Two things were decided at that meeting.  One, that we should have a reunion and two, that we should make it a grand affair.

Much was unknown.  We had not much more than a handful of people located and no real way of knowing how many to plan for.  My father used to say, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”  We had the will and so there had to be a way.  My concept was simply that we could all pitch in to work together as a group and thereby organize ourselves a reunion.  In that we enjoyed the rare luxury of being able to fully trust the goodwill of all participants, I proposed that we give ourselves only as much structure as was necessary to avoid confusion and help us to most effectively accomplish our objective.  

Our first consideration was to find Fellerites; as many as we possibly could.  Secondly, we needed some cash in order to be able to operate without asking volunteers to also foot the bill.  I made a general appeal to the alumni we had found and were continuing to find.  The response was outstanding.  Clearly the support and goodwill was there and we simply had to make this happen.

So we tackled the questions.  Where should we hold it?  When should be hold it? How big a hall will we need?  How many rooms should we block off?  What type of souvenirs should we contract for?  How many should we contract for? Cash bar or open bar?  Buffet or plated dinner?   Etc, etc, etc…!  Mostly we had to “ballpark” our guesses and then as the deadline approached, try and pick the right answer with very little or no hard information to justify our choices.  We discussed long and often among ourselves.  Sometimes we outright argued.  But even when we argued, the goodwill remained ever present and friendships were enhanced rather than diminished.  (Okay, okay, so there were a couple of exceptions who couldn't handle a different point of view, but that was relatively early and we moved on.)

As we closed into the final weeks, most all of the major decisions were behind us.  We were committed now and there was no point worrying or second-guessing ourselves.  The first viewings of Rick’s Feller Remembered presentation were inspiring and I began to get a good feeling.  It was going to work and it was going to work well.  We were looking good.

Then came the final weeks.  I had been warning all along that the final weeks would somehow be hectic no matter how good a shape we thought we were in.  I still don’t really know how, but they were indeed more hectic than I had imagined.  Details starting coming out of the woodwork in all forms.  Not so much snags as fine-tuning and enhancement opportunities that just couldn’t be passed up.  The last ten days were pretty much a blur.  Carmen and I were reserved to book into the hotel on Thursday to give us a full day to set up at a relaxed pace.  On Friday morning at 4:30 am we were still at my place berating each other and tying up loose ends.  The final thing was the printing of the programs, which kept losing its turn in the queue of priorities.  The last of the programs were finished printing at 7:00 am on Friday morning.   At last we had every detail that we could hope to handle put to bed.  We could now get a little shuteye and as long as we got ourselves to the hotel before noon we could have the registration desk ready to open at 1:00 pm and we would then have until the Wine and Cheese at 7:30 pm to relax.  It didn’t quite work out that way. 

When we arrived at the hotel at noon there were already over a dozen people in the lobby.  The Wine and Cheese had already started.  The fact that there would be neither wine nor cheese for another eight hours seemed of no consequence to these Fellerites.  They were having a grand time right there in the lobby and as far as they were concerned, the long awaited “Reunion” was under way.  From that point, people just kept arriving until both the ground and second floors became nearly impassable.  On those two floors a Fellerite could not travel between any two points in less than twenty minutes.

I am not really the best person to describe the reunion itself.  I saw it from a somewhat unique perspective.  But I did observe the magic that has been remarked upon.  I also observed that people arrived looking for people they knew back then, classmates or roommates or even old lovers, to share memories with.  By the time the weekend was over, any and all Fellerites were “classmates” and the bond was a blanket affair with everybody sharing memories of the essence of Feller.  I observed a distinct lack of showmanship with everybody behaving as a member of some kind of humongous extended family.  I cannot say with certainty that it did not happen, but I neither observed nor heard of a single instance of unfriendly behaviour in any form throughout the whole weekend.  Not a single person seemed the least bit interested in any real or perceived past injustices.  Many amongst us have done very well in life, and from my perspective I know who many of them are.  On the other hand others have perhaps been less fortunate and again I know who many of them are.  It gave me pride in my high school heritage to observe that their individual behaviour gave no indication as to which group they belonged to.

It came off very well and we the organizers came away with a great inner feeling of satisfaction.  The appreciation expressed by those in attendance was intoxicating and more than ample reward for the efforts put forth.   In short, like many have already observed, “It was a blast!”

For three days we celebrated our memories and now that too is a memory. But we did more than bask in our memories.  We also made new memories and in my opinion, laid a great potential for the future.

On November 11, 2001 we held what was intended to be the final meeting of the Feller Reunion 2001 Committee.  The final numbers from the reunion left us with a surplus of just a touch over $1,400.00.  The Committee’s original “raison d’ętre” is now in the past but none the less, we did not actually dissolve the Committee.  Instead we re-oriented the Committee into a caretaker status that will probably meet not more than once a year.  It seemed good to somehow keep something alive, but we did this for other reasons too.  We had long ago determined that we would need to retain any surplus and the attendant bank account for at least a few months to insure that we had not overlooked any outstanding matters.  We can also expect the possibility of more income from the left over souvenirs, which Brian and Jan Babb have agreed to continue selling.  For those of us within range of the Montreal area, a great excuse has been found for us to get together again next spring.  Namely we intend to put together a work bee to renew the roof on the Feller museum.  We have the resources and ample talents for such an undertaking and we are convinced that we will have a whole lot of fun doing it - not to mention allowing us to achieve much more with the surplus money.  A new sign on the lawn and maybe some display cases have already been suggested depending on how far we can make the money go.  So far the museum is pretty much the only target of common concern to all Fellerites, but should we find something else of comparable interest to all of us, then we can look at that too, as long as we still have leftover funds to work with. 

It was also suggested at this meeting that we could perhaps look to pick a spot where we could get as many as might be interested together for New Year’s celebrations.  For three days we really enjoyed each other’s company.  Maybe it’s possible to wear it out, but then again, maybe not.

"New friends can sometimes be difficult to make, but what’s even more difficult to make is old friends."

In my philosophy we stand at the threshold of a new kind of retirement.  Thanks to the Internet, our generation is offered the ability to rediscover old acquaintances.  Because we lived and shared and grew together at Feller, we are all of us unbelievably rich in old friends.  Old friendships that family and career somehow conspired to deprive us of for forty years.  Somehow there just wasn’t enough time.  But time is coming to us now, lots of it.  Why not put the two together?  Let’s not just talk of keeping in touch.  Let’s find excuses to actually do it.

My heartfelt thanks to all of you.  We set up the structure and got it organized but it was the terrific attitude of everyone there who turned it into such a success.  It was pure magic and an overwhelming thing to behold.  As I remarked above, many of us were looking forward to meeting those who we knew back then and by and large we got to do just that, but by the end it seemed not to matter whether we were there together or not.  It mattered only that we were all Fellerites and we shared a common heritage from our youth.

Like most Fellerites, I believe that we got something extra in the education we received at Feller and when you think about it, it wasn’t so much the staff or the building.  They did their part, but the hard to define “extra” that we got came from each other.  We arrived there from many different backgrounds and we learned to get along with different ways of looking at life.  We shared with each other and in so doing we taught each other about aspects of life that no ordinary school can teach.  The Feller building is gone - we all watched it burn, but during this reunion we made it all happen again.  We brought each other’s memories back to life.  We shared and compared memories, and once again we drew a special “extra” out of being together without really knowing quite how we did it.   We gave to each other and the whole was far greater than the sum of the parts and I believe every last person who was there will agree.  But it wasn’t just visiting memories, because we did more than just revisit Feller.  For three days in October we reconstituted Feller. 
 

Ian St James
Chairman 
Feller Reunion Committee 2001




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