It was a long drive from Toronto to Halifax, by way of Fenelon Falls, Kingston, Montreal, Rivière du Loup and Fredericton.  But there I was on Friday afternoon looking at the old school.  God-did it look old!  The invitation said to arrive after 4pm and enter by the Auditorium doors.  It was 2pm and I was heading straight for the main doors on Quinpool Road.  I never did what I was told to do around that that place from 1967 to 1971, so why start now.  Of course that may be the reason I was there so long; but as the song says,


Oh when I look back now
That summer seemed to last forever,
And if I had the choice
Ya - I'd always wanna be there,
Those were the best days of my life.             (Summer of ’69, Brian Adams)


With camera at the ready, I was determined to capture a piece of the past, find some mystical link to my youth.


The halls were strangely empty, not the way I remembered them at all.  As I walked the halls a sense of sadness came over me, that all of this would soon be gone.  It was like some old movie classic, full of nostalgic clichés; like the halls were whispering with the echoes of the past or the visions of spirits passing by, not noticing me.  At the registration desk, the people and the voices were real.  For the next two days it would all come alive as faces and voices from the past became part of the present.  A new reality, a familiar old feeling.


It would seem that everyone there came looking for something.  A piece of the past or to fill in some blanks…but the past wasn't really there, only the present. There in lay the single biggest conundrum of the whole affair.  Would we have anything in common anymore?  What do a policeman, an artist, a civil servant, a doctor and a university dean say when they haven't spoken in 34 years?  When we were 18, fifty-something was the year you were born, not your age, now spoken of in the past tense.  Reunions were something our parents talked about.  Just what the hell do you say to that girl...woman, who broke your heart all those years ago?  Would she even recognize you?!  Hell, would anyone recognize you?  Or you them?  Are you supposed to hug someone you always disliked, and who probably disliked you?  How was this all going to work?

In the end, none of the above mattered.  The simple truth is that we all had one very important thing in common - forced attendance at High School.  Luckily for us, it was St. Pats High.  So there we all were, hugging, kissing, laughing, time had stood still.  It seemed as if we had been sent out on a mission all those years ago - "Go forth and gather stories, to return at some future, distant time and tell all."   June 17-19, 2005 - One Brief Shining Moment.  Who would have guessed that we would search for each other via some medium that in 1971 existed only in Dick Tracy Comics?  Would we all still be friends if we hadn't gone such different ways?  Hardly seems to matter does it?  The foundation, the bonds that were laid all those many years ago seems stronger than ever. Which is why the policeman, the artist, the civil servant, the doctor and the university dean were not at a loss for words.  In fact, they didn't have enough time to say all that they wanted to.

And so the bonds are re-affirmed.  We go back to our lives secure in the knowledge that our past is safe and that some things never change.  Don't take my word for it...just look at the pictures.

Returning to the school on Monday, I finally found what I had spent all weekend searching for.  That elusive link to the past was not where I thought it would be.  There in the main lobby was a group of this year’s graduating class. They had just picked up their gowns and were talking about the future.  They were all of us.  They were the past….they were the present, dreaming of the future and what they would become.  I walked the halls once more, this time with a smile on my face and a melancholic song in my heart.

Some are like water, some are like the heat,
Some are a melody and some are the beat,
Sooner or later they all will be gone,
Why don’t they stay young.

It’s so hard to get old without a cause,
I don’t want to perish like a fading horse,
Youth is like diamonds in the sun,
And diamonds are forever.

So many adventures couldn’t happen today,
So many songs we forgot to play,
So many dreams are swinging out of the blue,
We let them come true.

Forever young, I want to be forever young.
Do you really want to live forever, forever and ever?    (Alphaville, “Forever Young”)

As I exited by the West doors, like a thousand times before, I turned to look back through the glass, just once more.  The words of a wise man whose name escapes me came to mind.

“All too soon it was over; all too soon it was done. There came a time of sadness in the setting of the sun.”  Good bye dear school, you will be missed.

Peace to all my friends; old, new and re-newed,   Ken Salah, 1967-1971.