Let There Be Light

I've only attended one of my high school class reunions, and that was by accident.

Years ago, when I was editing my hometown newspaper, I was trying to learn why county government officials were being so secretive about a certain project, and decided to take one of the commissioners to dinner, admittedly an unusual step.

We had just gotten to a point in the evening when the moment seemed right to start asking the tougher questions when a woman came to our table and touched my shoulder.

I thought she was a waitress and went to move my cup to make her pouring the coffee easier when I looked up and saw someone who looked vaguely familiar.

“Aren't you …?” I asked.

Yes, she answered, and when I further asked what in the world she was doing in town and why was she here at the restaurant, she explained that our class was having its reunion in the banquet room next door and why wasn't I there?

My first Lincoln Homecoming I spent the evening at the Executive Inn trailing along behind one of our photographers, going from room to room and class to class, meeting alumni in their 80's and those who seemed to me to be too young to be pumping beer out of a keg.

Truth be told, it seemed to me the older folks were having the better time.

“Sit down, sit down, you need to hear THIS story,” someone with a huge smile on his face who looked familiar said to me.

It was Rex Early, Class of '52, a former state Republican Party chairman who had run for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 1996 and whom I had met years ago at the Statehouse.

“Say, I didn't know you went to Lincoln,” he said, giving me the impression were it indeed the case I had, and he'd known about it, we'd have gotten along better before.

The crush of the crowd in the hallway moved me beyond the doorway to his class reunion suite, so I never got to set the record straight. But it didn't matter; we'd gotten along well enough during our Statehouse days.

This year marks my 18th year of being around Lincoln Homecoming, and I have to say it never ceases to amaze me how many alumni return, again and again, for the festivities.

For a fair number, Homecoming (which I've conceded, after years of arguing to the contrary, is always to be capitalized when referring to Lincoln Homecoming), it's the only time they return — except perhaps for funerals, which for some classes have, unfortunately, become more frequent.

I've sometimes felt like an anthropologist studying a lost culture when it comes to Homecoming, trying to determine why, unlike any other place I know about, this weekend is so special here, why an event many would think to have sort of died out after 25 years or so has lasted now into its seventh decade.

And while it may be showing signs of weakening just a little, Homecoming certainly looks to still have enough gas in the tank to continue running another decade, perhaps even two.

There just has to be something special about the weekend that will lead people to start planning for their next Homecoming on Sunday — if not, in fact, this afternoon!

Not even my infrequent returns to campus at Bloomington for an Indiana University Homecoming have really measured up to what this weekend means for Lincoln alumni.

And it's not just that, more often than not, the football is better here.

Four years as a Hoosier can't replicate in the heart what 12 years of being an Alice breeds there — cream and crimson will never wash over Lincoln green.

Gayle R. Robbins is editor and publisher of The Sun-Commercial. He can be reached at grobbins@suncommercial.com.

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