A story by Kathryn E Joy from 2020
The Presque Isle High School (PIHS) graduating class of 1957 has been having regular reunions for many years. The gatherings have always been well attended, encouraged by an ongoing, well organized and creative local committee. So it was that David Ballard* and his best friend John Hone** (both ’57 PIHS graduates) were disappointed this past winter to learn that the local Reunion Committee had disbanded. The committee had given years of yeomen’s service and its membership had dwindled. The question then came up: How was the class going to stay in touch if there would be no reunion planned?
Ballard and Hone were particularly concerned as there was a core group of good friends who had attended every gathering and a smaller group that attended intermittently … those friendship connections would be lost. This community of friends was important to nurture. The desire to belong and form social attachments is a basic human need. What a loss it would be for everyone to lose touch with one another. Something had to be done. After many discussions and emails an overall plan was developed.
The first task was to gather email addresses of as many classmates as possible. Friends were contacted and an email master list was created. As the number of addresses mounted, the idea of a newsletter blossomed. It was named, "The Wildcats’ Scat", and a logo was designed. A Board of Directors was named. Hone had experience with layout design and book publishing so he was given the responsibility of organizing and designing the newsletter. Ballard took on the job of gathering content for the newsletter. He would also be the publisher. The excitement mounted as decisions were made and the possibility of maintaining the network of old friends and acquaintances grew stronger.
During this time Ballard had been shopping for a new computer. One of the conversations he had with the salespeople was about the growing phenomenon of virtual meetings being held via the internet. He wondered if this idea could be adapted for a class reunion.
An old friend who knew of Ballard’s efforts to organize a way for the PIHS classmates to communicate with each other, called with a possible solution. He had experience with the internet application called Zoom. This program was originally developed for businesses and universities to conduct virtual meetings. It had recently become popular as a communication mechanism for far flung families and groups of friends. They discussed the advantages of using Zoom as a possible solution to the problem of no planned reunion for the ’57 classmates.
With great expectations, Ballard began to explore Zoom and learn its capabilities. Within hours, he became convinced that a virtual reunion using this program was possible. He contacted everyone on his master list of email addresses with information about Zoom, how easy it was to use and encouraged everyone to sign up with the goal of then conducting a virtual reunion.
The response was positive with a majority of the classmates becoming members of Zoom. What is unusual about this endeavor is that the average age of the ’57 group is 80 years old. Many elderly do not have the computer sophistication to be able to handle or understand a project this complex.
In May the first Wildcats' Scat was published. Hone had successfully designed a winning newsletter that received many compliments from the readers. Also that month the first virtual reunion took place with Ballard as the moderator. Thirteen members of the ’57 class participated. Everyone was delighted with the new reunion format and look forward to many more.
In conclusion Ballard’s and Hone’s efforts have enabled a loose knit group of friends, the 1957 PIHS graduating class, to maintain their sense of community and fellowship.
*Dave Ballard lives in Ellsworth, ME and The Villages, FL
**John Hone lives in Washington, DC