There was a very small reunion Thursday afternoon at the Cracker Barrel at the Sevierville, TN exit off I-40. It was just three old high school chums that hadn’t seen each other since graduation in 1964!
Morgan Alred and I have been in touch over the years and have many a good adventure even after school. He and I met up in Lenoir City and drove the hour up to where we had coordinated with Barry Henderson to meet. As Morgan and I traveled we went back over the years and the fun we have had, and we talked about our favorite subject – cameras.
I’ve been into cameras since Vietnam and changed brands and styles several times. When I worked for the Roane County NEWS (1972-1976) I was into SLR work for advertising and football photography. I began to do weddings for friends and finally it grew into a small business. I ended up with a state-of-the-art Rapid Omega 200 (4X5) for great wedding shots.
Morgan is into cameras too, and has even owned and operated a camera store. Locally owned camera stores took a big hit with the digital era, so he’s doing other things now, but photography always comes up when we get together.
Anyway, that was the basic topic all the way to the Kodak exit.
Once there we sat nervously, anxiously awaiting our old friend, on a bench outside facing the Smoky Mountains, and continued to reminisce. We both halfway expected Barry to ride up on his Harley, which his is Facebook icon, but with the threat of rain in the area that didn’t happen. Had I not known what Barry looked like from the recent contact I made on Facebook I would have walked right past him.
Finally he rolled up in his car and I recognized him immediately. The three of us walked quickly toward one another and before I knew it we were in a “group hug”! It was a wonderful feeling to actually show our emotion and feeling for each other! In high school we would have never dared hug another boy! However, on Thursday, three men embraced each other like brothers. It was as if 46 years of pent up feelings had finally broken the dam of American social mores. We were men, but we were loving it up!
We stood outside a few more minutes and talked and let the nervousness of the meeting wear off. Finally, we were ready to go inside and begin catching up!
Catching up turned into picking up and we were off; telling the old stories and mixing in what, when, and where our lives had been over the past 46 years.
I’ve written several posts about the times Barry, Morgan, and I have had over the past few years, but hearing them confirm my memories was very satisfying somehow. However, there were details that I didn’t remember and some I can’t believe ever happened without me remembering! Some of those things will remain secrets just between us guys.
Barry was not that different in his emotions, because I knew him pretty well back in school days. We used to talk about things in private, mostly on our backyard campouts, that we would never have shared with any of our other friends. But that inner Barry was still there. What had changed about Barry was his attitude and outward persona.
Back in our junior and senior years, Barry was a mysterious fellow, especially to the younger boys in our neighborhood. Barry had that “Fonzie” persona. He was straight out of a 60’s teenage movie, with his black duck-tailed hair, pointed black loafers, tight jeans, and white t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and one sometimes held a package of Pall Mall cigarettes.
Like Fonzie, he looked like he had hit someone at some point in his life, and younger boys imaginations played with that scene as he walked by their house on the way to mine.
Barry did have a couple of fights during school, but to me he was just Barry a good friend. I mentioned how some of the neighborhood kids had felt about him and he seemed surprised and even a bit ashamed. He confessed that he had been a mean and troubled young man, but life has mellowed him and showed him what is important in life. One of those things is having good friends you can depend on.
I loved Barry back then...I just didn’t know it, would never have expressed it. To get to hug my “best” friend and tell him I loved him as he left, settled so much that had been unresolved inside. I’m whole again! Truthfully, there was just something missing by not knowing what happened to Barry and not being able to share my life stories with him. We’ve both seen and done so much...it will take a long, long time to really catch up.
I had thought of Barry many many times over the years, whenever I was in a strange, exciting, scary, or even erotic situation, and I always wished Barry had been there to see and feel it too. Like in the old days. Now, after our 46 year separation, we can resume being friends the way friends ought to be...honest, open, and caring.
What a difference 46 years make!