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An Online Reunion with the Cranbrook Class of 1949


Bob Leister

About Us

We are Voyagers of the Class of '49, from Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. The photo is from a time when we were 'rough-housers' treating each other in a boisterous manner. Some might add that we're escaping the tedium of being teen-agers.

That phrase "from a time" is intended to emphasize the march of events and one time giving way to another. Thus, not long afterwards, Walt (now Jim) Truettner (upper left) for a time was to become an Ann Arbor neighbor of Mr. Coulter (background, upper right). Tom Tomlinson (bottom left) and Milt Matter (center right) were both to later lead troops in Vietnam.  Aside from one unidentified classmate (center left), there's Maynard Smith (top center) and Val Rabe (half in pajamas, holding the upside-down Bob Leister); 35 years on, medical doctor Maynard was to invite academic doctor Val to visit him in Phoenix. We lads from farming communities, small towns, and urban agglomerations had accompanied each other on a voyage from adolescence to near-adulthood.  We were growing up, and old..

We survivors of the Bloomfield experience still are evolving -- sometimes boldly, sometimes falteringly, always hopefully if not realistically -- more or less towards where no Class has quite moved before.
  We're bloody, but unbowed -- and in no hurry, thank you, to drop through a memory hole.

What we '49ers do is participatory: through our Class Secretary (Walt Denison in his invaluable alumni columns) and our webmasters here (Tom Clark and Dick Townsend), we exchange images and writings about ourselves, pulling together to capture bits of our post-Cranbrook years. We've seen no such long-term record anywhere of the good and so-so innings of any group of high-school classmates, and we feel good about seizing this chance.  "I can't believe your group has maintained its identity after all these years," writes a normally hard-boiled 78-year-old who graduated in the East.  According to Edward S. Hickcox, it's "pretty impressive. My prep school has nothing like it."
Pete Simpson & Jack Gordon

In August Wilson's play Joe Turner's Come and Gone, one character observes that everyone has a song, which they ignore at their peril. Here are some of the songs we '49ers never sang. That is, we never:
  skywrote a marriage proposal (like Haney Cochrane '48)

  wrote Parallel Block Tridiagonalization (like Bob Ward '50)

  studied the Decay of Transmitted Light (Stan Zemon '48)

  became an architect (Lou Deming '50)

  stopped a war (Dan Ellsberg '48)

  authored children's books (Cal Patterson '50)

  marketed for GM and wrote about Lust (Randy Garrison '48)

  pioneered software & computer systems (John Manley '50)

  headed urban design in Manhattan (Lauren Otis '48)

  sang opera professionally (Bob Kern '50)

  served as Attorney-General (Stubby Stabler '48)

  founded a winery (Jay Corley '50)

  chaired U.S. Bear Lake Commission (Ken Wright '48)

  litigated product liabilities (Gil Gove '50)

  taught music (Ken Denham ’48)

  built boats & lawn-mowers (Allen Cargile '50)

  wrote about business strategies (Malcolm Pennington '48)

  served as a philanthropist (John Hunting '50)

  ran a large grain farm (Chuck Stadler '48)

  patented a corrugating machine (Bob Sukenik ’50)

  worked as a psychiatrist (T. Dudley Fennell '48)

development-officered for large museum (Lorenzo Burrows '50)

  ...and a lot more. We enjoy the successes of these and other grads of different years, just as we regret disappointments they may have had. Ours is not a mindset of '49ers against the world.

Funny thing, though, about benefiting from the formative experience that is Cranbrook. We were exposed to the same superior education as the gentlemen cited above, but man, did we develop different identities (multiple identities too). And in our capstone years, we '48ers, '49ers, '50ers, and other long-in-the-tooth alumni are 'with it.' We may be into hard new externalities, more or less re-inventing ourselves.  All the while, we may also be at work internalizing much, reflecting hard on the meanings of our lives.