Time: October 1953
Place: East Ward Elementary School, Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Event: Appointment hall monitor
My sixth grade classmate Bonnie and I are appointed hall monitors. We are each given a white canvas belt to wear that indicates we are hall monitors. The white canvas belts are a status symbol because it indicates that, along with the other hall monitors, we are above average in our grades and attendance and thus given this honor. Both of us are thrilled to be honored in such a way. Coincidentally Bonnie is seated directly in front of me in our sixth grade class. Ironically, on the day this sixth grade class picture was taken I was absent (my classmate the little Bill B. sat in my seat instead.) Back in the “good old days”, the Fifties we were seated in class alphabetically and according to height. I understand this practice has been discontinued because it stigmatizes some of the kids.
Time: October 1957
Place: Downingtown High School, Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Event: Soph Hop Dance
I ask Bonnie to go to the Soph Hop with me. A popular song at the time was “A White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation” by Marty Robbins. It is my first formal date. I rented a white sport coat and bought a pink carnation ($5.00 at the local florist) and I am excited because I wanted to be one of the cool guys (adolescent peer pressure.) I expected to borrow my father’s car to pick up Bonnie and arrive at the Soph Hop the Cool Dude and impress my classmates. Alas, it was not to be. Even though I had just gotten my driver’s license he refused to loan be his car. Instead he drove us to the Soph Hop. I was mortified. That’s all I remember about the Soph Hop. I don’t even remember dancing. I’m glad Bonnie was my date though. I felt comfortable with Bonnie. No pressure from either one of us.
Time: November 1994
Place: Italian Social Club, West Chester, Pennsylvania
Event: 35th Class Reunion of DHS Class of 1959
I’m sitting at the reception desk passing out name tags with my classmate Patsisue when a buxom woman approaches me. I look at her trying to identify her. She says “Hi Ronnie!” Note: I am known as “Ronnie” by most people in my previous life. When I graduated from high school and joined the Army I identified myself as “Ron.” Now whenever anyone calls my name if it is “Ronnie”, it is from my Previous Life and “Ron” is from ATA (after the Army.)
I look at the woman, trying to identify her. She smiles and says “You don’t know who I am do you Ronnie?” I have to admit, no I don’t. I am embarrassed. Actually, I am mortified again. She says “I’m Bonnie!” I look, and look and yet I still don’t see the “Bonnie” that I knew that I took to the Soph Hop. By the way, that was the last date I took Bonnie on, not that I didn’t like Bonnie but we went our different ways during high school for reasons that will be explained later. Rather than prolong this embarrassment I concede and say “Ah yes, Bonnie!” and I give to her a name sticker. I still didn't recognize her but I'm taking her word for it.
Later on, as the reunion was winding down (I was busy taking videos), I took Bonnie aside and we talked. I told Bonnie I was gay and reminded her of our “date” for the Soph Hop. I thanked her for not “jumping me” on our date (joking of course.) She said that would not have happened because she is gay too! To be truthful wasn’t surprised with this news. During school Bonnie was the typical girl’s hockey player and she was always the tomboy. Bonnie did express surprise that I was gay. She said she would never have guessed. I told her I was gay back then during our Soph Hop days but I thought I was the only one in the world.
We ended the night after having a long and enjoyable and funny reminiscing about our lives since then. There were some surprising revelations (which teachers we had a crush on) from both of us that I will not talk about here because some of our former classmates will read this blog. Needless to say that if we knew then what we knew now, our high school lives would have been dramatically different. Maybe it is just as well we were all dumb and stupid back in the Fifties.
Time: October 2009
Place: Whitford County Club, Whitford, Pennsylvania
Event: 50th Class Reunion of DHS Class of 1959
I meet up with Bonnie again. She seemed tired. I was busy again recording the class reunion, this time by taking several hundred digital pictures. I didn’t have much of an opportunity to spend alone with Bonnie. We talked for a little while and Bonnie posed for a picture with me but time was flying by and I wanted to get as many pictures as possible before everyone left. Before I knew it the night had come to an end and Bonnie was gone. I made a mental note to call her when she got home to Michigan. A few weeks later I called but got the message her phone was disconnected. I tried to send an e-mail but received no response. I never followed up on trying to contact her.
Time: March 17, 2010
Place: Detroit, Michigan
Event: Bonnie passes away
I received an e-mail on this date from another classmate that Bonnie had died. I am shocked. Bonnie is one of those people who you think will always be around.
I always felt a special connection with Bonnie not only because of our shared sexual identity but because we were very compatible as friends.
Now she was gone. Just like that. I called her younger brother this morning to get the details. He told me that Bonnie died in her sleep at 3 am in the morning of March 17th from an apparent cardiac arrest.
I am very saddened by her death. I liked Bonnie a lot. Although we were not in touch that much over the years (we did have one two hour phone conversation after the 35th class reunion), I feel like another part of me has died.
In the past few years I have lost more friends, former co-workers and relatives that I have in all my previous years of my life. I feel like life is musical chairs. When the music stops, who is next?
I will always have fond memories of our special friendship and I will never forget those innocent times of the Fifties when life was so much simpler and a small event like being award hall monitor status was a huge thrill. I will also never forget that date to the Soph Hop with me in my rented white sport coat and pink carnation and you in your many layered white crinoline dress. I was so proud of you. We did make a stunning couple when we entered the high school gymnasium even though we were chauffeured by Pop. Looking back on it now I don’t think anyone even noticed.
You may be gone Bonnie but your memory will live on. Rest in peace my dear Bonnie.