Hands of friendship

“Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other’s gold” are the words of a song I learned in Girl Scouts. I’ve remembered those words these many years, just as I’ve kept in touch with friends.

Recently, my friend Kathie asked me if I thought friends were more inclined to stick closer together when they got older, even if they weren’t close when they were younger. What prompted the observation was a reunion. As we age, reunions–high school, college, family, business–seem to multiply and mean more to us.  Kathie was referring specifically to a reunion of mostly Air Force and Army dependents who’d lived and gone to school together in Tripoli, Libya, in the 1950s and 1960s.

As these once lively “kids” matured, they realized more and more what an unusual experience they’d shared in that exotic place so many years before. Their memories were unique and needed to be shared, especially with others who’d lived those  same experiences. They could all laugh and shake their heads at the oddities of living overseas in North Africa, of all places, and the times they’d enjoyed that brought them together. It’s probably been 20 years since they started holding these reunions. How many people do we know who’ve lived in the Middle East as youngsters?

The unusual thing was that many of them hadn’t known each other well or at all back then since the group was composed of a variety of class years, but the commonality of experience produced unexpected bonds. Even sight unseen, these now mature folks, including me, could forge friendships through Email, letters and phone calls. When they saw each other at reunions, it was even more special. Most were not as svelte as they once were; silver hair was more the norm and sometimes no hair. Not everyone was as rambunctious, but their spirits were still alive and raring to go. Deep inside there was a connection between them all.

Perhaps as we age, we forget about the superficial likes and dislikes of our younger years. Whether we have the same talents or make the same money, live in the same kind of houses, or like the same things doesn’t mean as much. We can see our common humanness and it’s enough that we shared a special time and place. Despite differing religions, philosophies, and lifestyles, aren’t we all one, as human beings?

The picture below is a sampling of the alumni attending the September reunion. We couldn’t all make it but I believe we were there in spirit.

Wheelus Air Force Base High School Alumni - Always young at heart.


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  3. Kathie says:

    It well may be that we never really understand the “why” of the Uaddan bond. During my total high school experience, we were stationed in London, Tripoli, and Madrid. In Tripoli it was so different from the other experiences. Geographically, Wheelus covered a large area. Once on base, you still experienced the influence from the Libyan culture. Arabic words found their way into our everyday vocabulary,jewelry/leather goods found a way into our wardrobe. While we made desperate attempts to remain “regular American teen agers” we morphed into Uaddans. Now I am eager to tell new friends about my Tripoli adventures and even more excited to relive them with Wheelus folks. Looking back, most of us went to school regularly, stayed out of major league trouble, enjoyed having friends with whom we could have fun. Aging perhaps has gentled any criticisms I might have had as a youngster. I realize what a unique experience I had and am fortunate enough to have common friends who shared the good ole’ days. Uaddans ROCK!

  4. Ernie says:

    We who shared a commonality in that our school mascot was once a rarely heard of North African animal called a “Uaddan” or Barbary Coast Sheep have learned friendship by association from an early age. I did not know Vicki, nor the referred Kathie in person. I attended that winsome high school in ’54 and ’55 for my freshman year. During the rest of my life, so far, I have easily formed new friendships, and have had associative friendships with other commonly experienced groups. Never have I seen a group as dedicated to each other as the “Uaddan.” Tripoli, Libya and Wheelus Air Force Base provided us that unique association during it’s existance in a brief comet like glow across history from 1953 to 1972. Wheelus Air Force Base High School has left a lasting group of marked people with wonderful memories. We mourn those who pass and celebrate the birthdays of those still with us. We reunite when possible every three years, and learn all over again how unique we all are. The celebration will continue until the last has passed.

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