Last Saturday, I helped organize a 35-year reunion of colleagues from my first job out of college, a startup magazine focusing on adventure travel that had a short but vivid existence, as I noted in Seattle, 1977. About half of my former co-workers attended, from as far away as Germany and Canada, Connecticut and California. I was delighted at the proof that it was magical for all of us.
But it was more than magical. It was almost eerie, as if time had stood still for us. Some of the people actually looked like they’d arrived by time machine from 1977 – their features and figures amazingly similar to what they’d been when Jimmy Carter was president. Others had clearly aged (I no longer have nearly as much hair as I do in that picture), and yet even in their 50s and 60s, they were still as energetic and vivacious as I remembered. One of them developed Parkinson’s disease ten years ago, but he still had the same dry sense of humor as before.
After an hour of socializing in small groups, we clustered in the kitchen/dining area of our host’s home, overlooking Lake Washington, and one by one began telling stories of our days together – the trips we’d taken, the writers we’d worked with – and then updating the group on our lives since then.
The majority of us had stayed in publishing – in fact, there had been another start-up after that one devoted to the state of Washington where many of the same group had worked – and several people bought copies of books they’d written. One of the top editors who’d been instrumental in hiring most of us, myself included, has just finished a 50th anniversary history of the Space Needle, and the reunion was also a way to celebrate that.
Another of the top editors, brought in from New York midway through our start-up adventure at the insistence of our first investors, kept us in stitches. He had worked for Life magazine in its glory days – he told stories about meeting the Beatles and Che Guevara and others – and had fully intended to go back to New York after his Seattle adventure had ended. But he’s still there 30-plus years later, still professing to wonder with a sly grin how he ended up so happy in the hinterlands.
There was news of kids that had long ago stopped being kids, of marriages gone well and others not so well. We told stories about those days and these days and the days in between. We reminded each other of escapades and accolades, of days we caroused and days we groused (such as when there wasn’t enough money in the coffers for salaries).
We reminded each other about how for a few years when we were young, we got to work at a magazine we were really proud of, one that colored forever our idea of the kind of work we wanted to do, the kind of atmosphere we wanted to do it in, and the kind of people we wanted to do it with.
And it felt as if we had never been apart.