by George J Elbaum
Several years ago I received a phone call wherein the caller identified himself as Rodney Goff and said that he was looking for a Jerry Whiteman who had attended Forest Grove High School (FGHS) in Forest Grove, OR. I indeed attended FGHS 1951-1955 and my name then was Jerry Whiteman (which I changed legally in Boston while at MIT in early 1960’s), and I remember Rodney because of the conversations we had while walking together from school occasionally. “Rodney, how did you find me, and why?” I probably blurted with surprise. Rodney replied that he was organizing a reunion of our graduating class and took upon himself a personal mission to find me to invite me. After exhausting various computer searches he found a reference to me in Boston, then remembered that I had gone to MIT after FGHS graduation but nothing further. As the last resort, he checked the available Boston court records in case I had changed my name, and there he found that Jerry Whiteman changed his name to George Elbaum in 1963. Brilliant, yes?! We then launched into a long conversation about our histories since graduation, and he asked me to attend the reunion he was planning. I congratulated Rodney on his detective work and thanked him for the invitation, but could not accept it because I had a perfect record of zero reunion attendance: high school, MIT, organizations, etc, and I didn’t want to break it! He then asked my permission to write a short article about his successful search and my story in the reunion handout, and I agreed.
Fast forward to summer 2020, when I received an email from Josie Ward Heath, asking if I remember her as Josie Ward from FGHS (I did), describing an online reunion she was planning for our class’s 65th graduation anniversary, and after viewing my website she had an idea to discuss with me. She obviously got my contact info from Rodney, and while I had no interest in breaking my “perfect record” of not attending reunions, I was curious about her idea as I remembered her as someone who was always organizing something, so I phoned her. Her idea for the reunion was for me to give my talk via zoom, followed by Q&A, and then followed by reunion chatting via zoom…. which I wouldn’t have to attend if I felt it besmirched my “perfect record.”😊 After much friendly conversation we agreed that rather than giving my talk I would provide all attendees with a link to its video recording which each person could view independently prior to the reunion, and the reunion would start with introductions, followed by Q&A about my talk, and finally the reunion chatting. Re attendance, Josie thought it might be about 20 as over half of our small graduating class have passed away.
And so it happened! The screen print of attendees’ photos (below) shows a dozen who attended with zoom video, plus several more participated by audio only, and the Q&A and chatting were lively and brought many, many memories to each of us. In fact, Rodney was so committed to participating in the reunion that he can be seen in the Zoom photo in his hospital gown…but with a projected background of the Golden Gate bridge! 😊 The smiles on our faces on the photos show that we all enjoyed it. Thank you very much, Josie, for arranging it.