From the miscellaneous drawer

by Anne Swenson

One of the things I enjoy about Ely is the ongoing connection people have to it. This is especially true of families whose children grew up here and attended schools here.<BR><BR>In the collective Elyite mind, even those who chose to live elsewhere in the world are still kept in Ely’s heart. Though physically removed, there’s enough DNA floating through Ely to recreate an image or untangle a memory bound into the location by its forests and lakes. <BR><BR>Those of us who attended schools elsewhere rarely have that generational glue that assists memory. We didn’t know who a casual friend’s grandfather was - his name or where he was employed. We probably didn’t know if the classmate had a baby sister or a mother who also worked. <BR><BR>Looking at connections in that way makes newcomers seem underprivileged. The rich tapestry of family - from the first stitch to the intricate weaving of descendants - is available to us only as part of the fabric of the community.<BR><BR>There were over 1,000 students in my high school freshman class. But similarly to most high schools, there operated a caste system of sorts. <BR><BR>Students were pushed, fell or were absorbed into several categories. Some were mechanical but not too brainy and excelled in shop class where they buddied up. Some were the artsy, intellectual types and they joined up with others like them. Some were practical for the era. If they were women knowing they would have to work they loaded up on secretarial courses or subjects they would need to become teachers. <BR><BR>There were rich kids and poor kids. There were jocks and klutzes. There were kids who would drop out before finishing high school and others who piled on degrees at universities later. <BR><BR>Teachers who remembered older brothers and sisters of students would admit they expected more or less of the freshmen because of the history.<BR><BR>This fall the Class of 1954 at Thornton Township High School held its 50 year reunion. I didn’t attend. <BR><BR>Over the years I’ve lost contact with most of the people I knew and the one friend who had convinced me to attend the 40th year event is now dead. She remembered names of people neither of us had seen in 30-40 years. Names, for me, are always a problem, even with people I see regularly.<BR><BR>It was with surprise, therefore, that I noted two cartoons being shared by old high school classmates in an email to me. <BR><BR>Curious as to what the cartoonist has been and is doing, I fired off a return email. He wrote back in detail. Married for 46 years, the couple has three adult children and four grandchildren. After a successful career as an industrial designer, professor and inventor, travelling and working throughout the Far East, he has settled in the artist community of Taos, New Mexico. <BR><BR>Amazing. Amazing that someone has a memory which included what work my dad did. <BR><BR>In the rarified atmosphere of Ely, I had overlooked the possibility that I, too, have a tapestry, fragmented though it may be by my own travelling and working as I progressed to this lovely place I have called home on the edge of the Boundary Waters.