Paul Rolly on Class of 66

Rolly: High School Reunion - A Story of Tragedy, Courage and Redemption


First Published September 4, 2016

There's something about your high school years that sinks deep and never leaves you, no matter how old you get.

You spent three or four years jammed in a building, shuffling from classroom to classroom with the same people, all of whom are trying, like you, to find their identity.

You develop social relationships that seem more important than anything else. You suffer torn friendships and broken hearts and form new relationships. You graduate and life starts over. But those old memories and kinships stay within you.

It is a time of insecurity, hopes and uncertainty. It is wrought with raging hormones, pimples and teenage angst.

But as you wander through life, you grow, you mellow and you wear the knowledge that life experiences give you. You look at your former classmates with more forgiveness, more understanding.

So it was with my Skyline High 50-year reunion as 200 to 300 fellow senior citizens relived their high school years and rekindled old friendships.

Leading up to the big event, the reunion committee established a website,, where classmates registered, shared their profiles and memories and detailed their lives after graduation. Some profiles were heart wrenching, weighted with heavy challenges brought on by circumstances beyond anyone's control.

One such story is worthy of retelling — for its tragedy, its heroism, its redemption. It recalls the anguish and pain brought to our generation by a cataclysmic event: the Vietnam War.

The classmate, whom I won't name, wrote about his experience in Vietnam shortly after we graduated.

Looking back at Skyline's 1966 yearbook, he was one of the best looking kids in our class. He joined the Marines with two buddies. One was killed soon after arriving in the war zone.

After exposure to Agent Orange, this classmate came home with a face scarred from what is commonly known as jungle rot.

That kept him from going on a date. He became hermitlike, toiling at night in low-paying jobs so he could avoid other people.

After a few years, he went on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When he returned, he met a woman and married.

After several happy years and two children, she died of breast cancer and he resumed his reclusive life.

His profile said he hasn't dated for two decades. He has retired from his night-security job. His two boys are doing fine, and he has three grandchildren. He is working on self-improvement and he apologized on the webpage to any classmates he might have offended through the years.

After his profile went up, a classmate contacted him before the reunion, which had events Aug. 18 and 20, a Thursday and Saturday.

They went on a date together that Friday night.


Rolly: My 50-year reunion: What a generation we’ve become


First Published Apr 12, 2016

Fifty years ago, I was fretting about whether I would graduate from Skyline High School.

My grades were barely passing and my attendance record was, well, bad.

I was told by the graduation committee chairman that if I didn't miss another class for the rest of the school year, he would let me graduate.

It was close.

I mention this because I now am on the Skyline Class of 1966 50-year reunion committee.

My committee colleagues include a football star, class officers and inductees to the National Honor Society.

Call me a late bloomer, but perhaps my best contribution is that I represent the losers of the class — Mitt Romney's 47 percent.

Trying to locate students from an 825-member class a half century after graduation — we've found 85 classmates who have died — has led to fascinating conversations with folks I barely knew in high school.

We reminisced about almost making it to the state championship football game, dragging State Street trying to pick up girls while dodging the greasers who wanted to beat us up, snacking at the Schorr's malt shop and making out in the back seat of Daddy's car at the Motor-Vu Drive-In.

One classmate designs race cars for NASCAR, another breeds thoroughbreds and was Boulder's mayor. Yet another became president of Dixie State University.

We have our share of doctors, dentists, lawyers, engineers and teachers. One classmate who was almost as obscure as me ran for Congress two years ago against Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.

He lost, but Brian Wonnacott will forever will be the answer to one of the great Utah political trivia questions.

This golden-anniversary reunion also brings reflections about our generation as a whole. We were baby boomers, born in droves to parents who looked optimistically to the future after living through the Great Depression and World War II.

Thanks to our sheer numbers, we have been the primary target of marketers our entire lives.

We were the Hula Hoop kids in elementary school and made the inventor of that fad a multimillionaire.

As teenagers, we were wooed by makers of hair gels, pushup bras and acne creams. Downtown clothing stores such as Bud's Duds and the Loft catered to our whims as we labored to fit in with the cool crowd.

We were conformists that way — until college, when we became agitators. The Vietnam War defined our generation.

Some of us enlisted or got drafted and went off to fight. One classmate didn't come home. Many of us protested and alienated our parents, or went to jail, or to Canada.

We graduated from college and got jobs, made money and became conservative.

The same group of classmates who voted for George McGovern as a liberal anti-war candidate in 1972 backed Ronald Reagan eight years later.

Now we are retiring. We're grandparents and our priorities have changed. The marketers have shifted from hot cars and cool vacations to retirement funds, reverse mortgages, Medicare supplement providers and erectile-dysfunction remedies.

I wrote a story after our 20-year reunion, which was a generation ago. I chronicled anecdotes not only from my Skyline classmates, but also from friends who had attended their reunions at other Utah schools.

Many of the stories were about rekindling old crushes from high school and, in some cases, finding love.

My favorite was about a woman who had been a skinny wallflower at Highland High. She never was asked to a dance and had been ridiculed by many of the boys — a sign of the cruelty that often comes with teenage angst.

At the reunion, she had transformed. She wore a revealing dress and passed out business cards that identified her as an exotic dancer in San Francisco.

More than a few of the men who had made fun of her in high school were fiercely admonished by their wives because they could not stop ogling her.

I'm pretty sure the 50-year reunion will be different. Instead of the sexual tension and flirtatious teasing that occurred at reunions past, we'll be talking about the exploits of our grandchildren, our latest physical maladies and taking French lessons at the senior center.

So, to my Skyline classmates, join us. The reunion is at the Cottonwood Club on Aug. 20 with a casual get-together at Skyline the evening of Aug. 18.

You can get all the information by logging on to our website, Click onto the first-time users icon, and it will tell you how to register.

Or you can contact me at my email address at the end of this column. It will be fun to chat.

You remember me. I'm the guy you never knew.